Nicos is a large place that was fairly empty when we arrived for an early lunch but by 3:00 it was packed and hopping with live music and a very dynamic buzz. It has been a family run restaurant for 60 years that serves homestyle food at a good value. Not fancy but so very welcoming, we were fortunate to have the assistance of several very bilingual staff that helped us make our menu and wine selections from the large lists. They were also willing to let us split a number of the dishes and they plated it that way when possible. Tables are set with various bottles of water and wine, the former of which was useful but the latter an interesting decorative choice. However as the crowd grew I was surprised to see more wine than beer consumption, so maybe the choice was about their customer base which also didn’t seem to include many tourists.
Tables also are quickly furnished with crisp thick chips and 3 different sauces, which varied more in flavor than just levels of spiciness. While making choices they brought out a very tasty thick slice of cucumber that had been infused with lemon and spicy salt. It didn’t seem exciting but it really was.
Our first selection was the guacamole made tableside. The cart comes with tomatoes, onions, olive oil, salt, cilantro and peppers that can be added to your avocado as you desire. It was scrumptious and really didn’t need to be enhanced with any of the sauces but it was fun to play with the different options. They also brought a basket of bread but it paled in comparison to the warm, tender corn tortillas that were constantly being refreshed on the table.
The gorditas were 4 in an order and all different flavors. These did benefit from the addition of some of the sauces. They were all quite different but good. I was surprised to particularly like the brown puffy one that had no filling at all just the most delectable texture and flavor that it really stood alone with no problem.
We tried 2 of their soups, the fideo was studded with chunks of ham that was so long cooked it melted in your mouth. The noodles were cooked soft and were surrounded by a lovely broth. The flavor content here was mild but the overall effect was so nice that I would consider ordering it again.
The 3 bean soup was drizzled with a bit of olive oil at the table. The broth was poured over some crisp tortilla strips that gave a nice crunch and good corn taste to the dish. The beans were cooked perfectly here, melding into something you can imagine coming out of your grandmother’s kitchen pot. With the soups they brought a warm loaf of beer bread which was dense with a nice crisp crust. They catered to the Americans and brought us some butter to spread on it which was just too fun.
The first main dish was pork smothered with mole and beans. It was about the most tender and juicy pork I have ever put in my mouth. This mole sauce was mild and not as heavy as many mole sauces but was a perfect seasoning for the pork. It was dusted with ash that I could have lived without as it was almost gritty and basically added no taste. Nevertheless this plate was a complete winner.
The mole almendrado was next and wow make sure you save room for this. This is recipe of the owner, who happened to be sitting next to us having her own lunch with friends. I was glad to have the opportunity to tell her how delicious it was. The amazing flavor was a wonderful balance of sweet, smoke, and spicy. Better believe that this plate went back to the kitchen clean! Yumx3!
The waiter insisted we try their special Café de Olla that is prepared tableside, taking about 10 minutes for the complete process. It is thick coffee mixed with brown sugar and cinnamon to deliver a wealth of flavors.
For dessert we had buñuelos which were drizzled with a sweet sauce and sugar. They were simple, crispy and scrumptious. A traditional dessert done well.
The Dueto de capirotadas was bread that had been soaked in milk and mixed with raisins and then coated with a sugar glaze. It was a gooey wonderful sugar fix made even better with a grating of cheese over it. It was amazing how this took a straightforward sweet and turned it into something really special – a wonderful balance of flavors. Another winner!
Some last treats included a tray of coconut and sweet potato candies. We finished with a special glass of Mezcal with cedrone served on ice – to bring out the taste. It was a perfect finish for a wonderful dining experience. If you have the opportunity, go to this place and ask for Aaron to be your waiter.