From March 2012: Lauren picked out this nifty little place in downtown LA. Goodbye South Beach, hello Carb Valley! We’ll be back!
Lady ThickLeg’s Review: For the second outing of the notorious Ladies Who Dine Club, Lauren Lourenco chose a little place called Nickel Diner. The location of Nickel Diner leaves a lot to be desired. Actually, one may even say that it is located in a scary place. Hidden amongst run down old buildings, this restaurant is located right in the heart of LA (that is, if that heart is inside a drunken, homeless person). So after being asked for $ for weed by one of the locals, I knew it would be best to hold on tight to my purse. In my mind I thought “Damn, the food better be good here”. And it was. The interior of the restaurant had an industrial feel and the staff all looked like students from Parson’s School of Design. I liked that.
I was initially surprised at how simplistic the menu was. There was not an abundance of choices but they were varied and could satisfy just about any craving. Keeping my borderline anemia status in mind, I chose the steak plate. Although I asked for it “medium well” it was more like “medium rare”. I didn’t really mind because I figured I can always use the extra blood. Otherwise, my plate was perfect. I really loved the arugula salad and I have even vowed to try making it at home sometime. I also shared a plate of mac n’ cheese which was very yummy. The extra spice in the mac n’ cheese made an old favorite taste new again.
Prior to our entrees, I shared an appetizer that consisted of something like pancakes that were super delicious. All in all, I loved my dinner. Now for the dessert. I split some pie with the gang, but quite honestly I was not impressed. Lauren had informed us that this restaurant was known for their custom bacon and maple syrup donuts. I bought one to take home and try. Sorry… hated it! Not sure why people are impressed with the donuts. I also tried the red velvet donut and although it was better than the bacon donut, I think I will stick to red velvet in cake form. So my final analysis of the Nickel Diner is… go for the dinner and don’t feel bad about skipping dessert.
Lady Papa’s Review: I couldn’t help but have a good time at the Nickel Diner. With good friends there, the food was just the layer of wax on my car when it’s washed; the extra 15% off on an already good clearance rack item. But we’re hear to talk food so, doggonit, that’s what I’m going to do. Here’s what I thought of The Nickel Diner…
Will pass next time on the…
- Corn cakes with sour cream – I’ll eat almost anything if it has sour cream on top. I ate these because they had sour cream on top. But I wouldn’t eat these again, particularly if they did not have sour cream on top.
- Homemade ding-dong – Wasn’t my favorite pick. But that’s not really much of a diss to the Nickel Diner because I never cared for the Hostess Ding Dong (or its cousin, the Chocodile).
Was cool with the…
- S’mores cake – Mostly, I liked the mini blow torch that scorched the fluffy white layer of marshmallow frosting to a frothy brown. Upped the cool factor by about 190%. But it wasn’t as pleasant, as ooey-gooey delicious as its namesake. Not terrible. Not bad. Just not off the hook.
- Simply salmon – I admit, I ate most of this the next day for lunch. Nuked. Quite delicious (something about chillin’ in a cardboard take-out box in the fridge overnight wakes up restaurant food sometimes). But the night of our outing … I don’t know. I thought the flavor of the mashed potatoes was a bit washed out, and the salmon, while cooked perfectly, lacked any energy, not even from the red pepper sauce – while lovely on the plate, it simply underperformed. My first choice had been the catfish (which I will order next time), but they were out.
Quite enjoyed the…
- Nutella donuts – I’m not the biggest chocolate fan, but I quite enjoyed this donut, grisly bits of (what I think might be) hazelnut crunch coating the chocolate covered cake. Not bad.
- Service – Our waitress: calm, cool, knowledgeable, while quite indifferent. It worked for me. That uncharming kind of charm.
- Scene – My dinner companions gawked, even shuddered at the landscape just outside the Nickel Diner. Far from Beverly Hills and much grittier than Hollywood. But that’s appealing to me – please get me away from the chiseled glitz and glam of L.A.; away from the facades and fountains and singing birds of suburban retail madness. This tarnished hood was a nice getaway from the typical places we go. And then again, not all that tough. I mean, I don’t think I’ll need an Uzi submachine gun the next time I go. Hope not.
- Peanut butter potato chip cake – What more could you ask for? Cake, chips, sweet, salty, nutty, luscious, crunchy, smooth. Done very well. The only thing I hated was sharing.
- Retro soda pop bottles – So cute. I loved the whole throwback yet modern persona of the place. Muy chic.
I’ll surely be back for the…
- Red velvet cake – I’m a total red velvet girl. I’ve tried many a recipe. But I’ve gotta say, the Nickel Diner red velvet cake quite turned me on! Fi-yer! Off de hook. Okay, I’ll stop with the slangy aphorisms. But really I can’t because it was bangin’! Not only was the cake sweet, just spongy enough, and well balanced, but the frosting was amazing. Not as cloying as cream cheese but just as rich. But what sent me into outer space, what exploded my taste buds like fireworks were these little balls of chocolate baked into the cake and whipped into the frosting. The website calls them Valrhona balls (a high-grade luxury chocolate from France) but I consider them tiny bulbs of delight sent from above to make me smile. They do. Hands down, the best red velvet cake I’ve ever spent money on. It’s worth suffering the drive up the 110 freeway and the entreaty from the homeless man outside, needing money to buy some weed (at least he was an honest homeless man).
- Smac & cheese – I know I said above that I’m a total red velvet girl. But I’m a total mac & cheese girl. So really I’m a red velvet mac & cheese girl. Total. With the self description out of the way, the rest of this post can be dedicated to the smac & cheese. At it’s heart, a fine example of the way mac & cheese should be done. Homey. A nice, stretchy cheese, and the macaroni a smidge harder than al dente before baking. Already good. But layered in there, somewhere, a zest. A kick. A spark. Not sure what it was, but I liked it. On top, the dish sealed with a toasted layer of bread crumbs and parmesan; bits of tomato hidden deep among the pasta layers. Oh, so very dreamy. Made me cheat on my main dish, this dish. I might have filed for divorce from my main dish and moved in with the smac & cheese if I hadn’t agreed to split it with Lauren from the get-go. But now I know better. My heart is with the smac. And the cheese. All so very gooey, savory. Beautiful.
524 S. Main Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012