Sunday, May 6, 2012

Making It Just In the Nick of Time!

Nick''s Laguna Beach
440 S. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651

Laguna Beach is one of those cities we do not make it to nearly enough. There is literally a treasure trove of great restaurants in the city. We were going to be meeting our good friends Matt and Mary, but we arrived early for our dinner reservations. So we walked around looking at menus around the downtown area. Walked by Broadway, 230 Forest, and Brussels Bistro, making mental notes as to what I would order at each of these places, and adding them to our list of places we are eventually going to get to. This killed our thirty minutes in no time, so we headed back to where we would be dining this night, Nick's.

We had wanted to eat earlier, but there were no reservations for anything earlier than 7:30, on a Wednesday night. The other restaurants we had walked by looked half empty, so I had a good feeling about Nick's. The place was very loud, and busy as we were brought to our table.

Nick's is owned by the son of Claim Jumper Founder, Craig Nickoloff, hence the name of this restaurant. There are two other locations, (San Clemente and Belmont Shore), as well as a spin off restaurant, which has a south of the border inspired menu, also in San Clemente. The atmosphere at Nick's is sophisticated, but not stuffy. Waiters are all dressed in black, the restaurant is on the darker side, and wood dominates the hip looking dining area. At this point I was famished, but lucky for me the food was brought out soon enough. Let's take a look at it.

The first of our three appetizers was this Fire Roasted Artichoke, which is marinated, broiled, and served with lemon butter. This artichoke was very fresh, and we all detected a hint of peppercorn which helped punch up the flavor factor here. The lemon butter helped in this department as well. The portion size of this does not look too hefty, but we seemed to be going at this for awhile.

Next up was our order of Short Rib Sliders. These came with onions and a horseradish cream. The bun was very sturdy and held the meat well. Unfortunately, the short rib was not as memorable as the bread. I thought these were just okay. I did enjoy the horseradish sauce, but it also needed a little more oomph behind it.

The last of our trifecta of starters was the unique sounding Asparagus Fires. These stalks of asparagus are breaded with a crispy Parmesan crust, and served with a buttermilk ranch sauce. The breading was very easy here. Not too overpowering or greasy. As unusual as this appetizer sounds, it actually worked. The only drawback of this was the ranch dressing. It was a tad on the runny side.

The last time we went out with Matt he had ordered a salad with fruit in it, and I gave him a bunch of grief about it. Matt was not to be deterred, even with my scorn, when he ordered the Citrus Pecan Salad. This colorful salad contained chopped greens, mixed berries, avocado, pecans, mandarin slices, crumbled blue cheese, sliced apples, and raisins, with a citrus vinaigrette. This creation seemed like the cross breeding experiment of a garden salad and a fruit salad. Matt felt this had plenty of dressing, with a real prominent citrus taste. The produce was fresh here, and the portion size was pretty generous as well.

I have been flip flopping between Caesar salads and wedge salads recently, and at Nick's, the Baby Wedge won out. This wedge salad consisted of all the basics you would expect on this kind of salad. Bacon, tomatoes, buttermilk blue cheese dressing and red onion. This salad turned out great. I loved that there was more than enough dressing on this. The big time flavors here really complimented each other. The one drawback about this salad, and all wedge salads, is that they are all hard to cut. I am sure they would have chopped this for me, but I did not even think about it at the time of ordering. I would definitely get this on my next trip here.

On to the main entrees, and let's start with the ladies selections on this night. Katie had the wildly popular Blackened Halibut Sandwich. Included on this fish sandwich was a house made tarter sauce, cabbage, tomato, and fried onions all on a brioche bun. Katie really enjoyed this sandwich. The bun and fish were fresh, the cabbage gave this a good texture, and the tarter sauce was well made. With her sandwich she was given an option of one side item, so she selected the Mac and Cheese. She felt this big noodle mac and cheese was spot on, delicious.

Mary is a vegetarian, so the House Made Veggie Burger was right up her alley. This veggie burger was accompanied by avocado, Swiss cheese, fried onions, mixed greens, tomato, and herb mayo all on a wheat bun. Mary felt this burger was, "good sized and had a texture that was spot on". She was also a fan of the bun here. For her side item, she got the Burnt Brussels Sprouts without the crumbled bacon on top of them. She felt these were great as well.

Matt always enjoys a good steak, so it was no surprise that he went with the Center Cut Filet. This steak was topped with a blue cheese crust, which Matt wishes had been a little better. He did enjoy this steak though, calling it, "good". Matt was much more excited by the side items that came with this steak. Calling the seasonal roasted vegetables, "fantastic", and the brussels sprouts, "the best ones I have ever had". Glowing praise from our friend Matt.

I was not so sure what I would be getting when I got to Nick's, but as soon as I heard the special, I instantly knew that the Sea Bass would be my choice for this evening. This was a very good, and well seasoned piece of  blackened of sea bass. The fish was very flaky and had a nice mellow taste. Side items were fair here. The mashed potatoes were smooth, but did lack the butteriness I would have liked out of them. The creamed spinach was decent, but I would have liked more creaminess here. Still a decent entree though.

Recently we have been having great luck with desserts. This was definitely the case at Nick's as well, with the Warm Butter Cake. The picture above does not do this dessert justice. The cake was served warm, and had a great rich flavor. Very decadent. There was plenty of ice cream with this as well. This is the perfect way to end your meal at Nick's.

We left Nick's feeling completely satisfied with our meals. Everything was pretty good at Nick's. Prices were decent here. Almost all of the items were under the $20 mark. The menu is a little on the small size, but there is enough variety that there will be something for everyone here. Service was excellent on our visit. Everyone we encountered was very down to earth, and seemed to enjoy that we had come in. In a city with lots of great restaurants, Nick's is right up there with some of the best.

Out of five artists, (the old nickname of sports teams from Laguna Beach High School, which are now known as the Breakers), five being best to zero being worst, Nick's Laguna Beach gets 3.5 artists.

For more information on Nick's Laguna Beach, click here:

Nick's Laguna Beach on Urbanspoon


  1. Try the fried deviled eggs next time. They put breading on the eggs so it definitely gives what would be normal deviled eggs a nice crunch. I like Nick's. Good atmosphere and solid food.

  2. Anonymous - I saw those on the menu and they really intrigued me. They will have to wait for our next trip down there. Thanks for the tip and the comment!

  3. Seriously; I look forward to your blogs. I check your site everyday. Keep up the good eating!

  4. Cody - Thanks for the kind words. We will keep on going until we find the best of everything in OC. Keep on reading!


  6. Anonymous - Sorry you feel this way. I re-read the post and I only mentioned price once. Sorry if that is once too many, but most people want to know the price point of each restaurant. I am learning more about food as I go along writing this blog, but there is still so much to learn. I am only wowed by good, solid food, which is what you will get at Nick's. Thanks for sharing your comments.

  7. I'm going back and reading your older reviews like this one. I may have been the anonymous commenter at the top who mentioned the deviled eggs.

    Anyways, I come here a lot for date night with my wife. Great atmosphere and location. Dark lighting mixed with vibrant "goings on" makes for a great date night.

    All the fish dishes here are great along with that halibut sandwich. I don't even like fish and I eat it here. Also try the burger that uses english muffin as the bun. I think the muffin is house made and delicious.

    BTW, thanks for mentioning the prices. I don't know why that one commenter cried about it but it's always good to know. It gives me an idea of what type of place it is whether it be super casual (me in flip flops) or more upscale (me in flip flops with dress socks on)

    - TT (now go to Brea's Best)

  8. TT - Socks with flip-flops? Man, I know a lot of people that have a problem with that. Not me of course, I say go for it.

    Wish we had been back here since this visit. The food is really good, and I loved the butter cake so much. I'll try the fish when we finally make it back here.

    Thanks for reading the blog, and I'll definitely make it to Brea's Best. I promise. Before the end of the year. Thanks for commenting.