You’ve dreamt of this place. The local eatery. Patrons at a U-shaped formica counter. Hustling waitresses call you “baby” and ask how you’re doing. They have no need to ask what you’re ordering because they know your name and “the usual.” You see other regulars there: the Police Chief; the Young Hipster Couple; The Guy Off the Night Shift on His Way Home. They might know your name. You might know theirs. But to all of you, this diner, this restaurant, is home.
Your dream is real. Nick’s Café has been serving up yummy grub just north of Chinatown in Elysian Park since 1948. The kind of place that takes diner staples – ham & eggs, corned beef hash, chilaquiles, burgers – and ups the elbow grease. Nick’s makes everything, homemade. Particularly the ham. Let that settle in for a moment.
They make. Their own. Ham.
Ham is the signature item at Nick’s. The breakfast ham steak is succulent, sweet, and doesn’t taste like it’s been pumped full of chemicals to keep it dangling in the cooler at Ralph’s for months.
Another specialty is the corned beef hash. Again, homemade. Dotted with anis seeds, it’s the kind of corned beef hash your grandma would have made. Which isn’t to say it’s made with love. But it sure tastes like maybe they sprinkled some on top.
Of course, both the ham and the corned beef hash are best served over toasted, buttered English muffins, topped with perfectly poached and fresh hollandaise sauce with a side of cottage fries or hashbrowns. The “regular” eggs benedict and the M.C. benedict, respectively, are must-tries. The waitress will pull a bottle of homemade salsa out of the Coke cooler under the counter and suggest you try it with your meal. You will. And your mouth will burn a little bit (all those pepper seeds will do that), but you’ll remark to the couple sitting next to you how fresh it tastes. Did they make this here? Of course they did. They make everything here!
Make sure to get to Nick’s early; Sad is the occasion when you sit and prepare to order only to hear that “Benedicts are 86ed.” The ham steak and eggs, chilaquiles, and biscuits & gravy are all great. For the ambitious there’s always the Pan San: three pancakes stuff with two eggs, and bacon, sausage, or ham. Oh, and free coffee on the weekends.
When you dream of that place your town never had, the place with the sassy waitresses busting the busboys’ balls, and you want something that tasted like humans made it from scratch and with love, Nick’s is your place.
- WHAT: Delicious Old-School Diner (Breakfast & Lunch)
- WHERE: 1300 North Spring Street, Downtown
- WHEN: Monday-Friday 5:30am-3pm, Saturday & Sunday 6:30am-4pm
- $$$: Approx. $15 per person (with tip)