The new Nick’s may surprise you, if you’re accustomed to the famous eatery on Broadway. The restaurant, which opened last July, is inserted into the first floor of 100 Westminster Street. The walls are composed of smooth steel and plate glass. Like the original, the decor is mid-century chic: spherical lamps, glossy furniture, and an abstract mosaic of colored wood blocks; in a word, smashing.
It’s no surprise, given the banks and skyscrapers that surround Nick’s on Westminster, that many regular customers arrive in blazers and ties. These are the same kinds of serious professionals you find in hotel bars and Gold Member clubs. At the same time, Nick’s behaves like an old-fashioned bistro, with smiley servers, strong coffee, and a lunch counter lined with stools. In spirit, Nick’s remains the late-night breakfast joint that Nick Sammartino once ran on Federal Hill for 32 years. Most surprisingly, the prices are comparable to your local Gregg’s.
Nick’s serves every meal there is, plus a long list of wines and local beers. For bona fide foodies, Chef Derek Wagner, a semi-finalist for the Best Chef Northeast from the James Beard Foundation, will provide a four-course, prix-fixe tasting menu, or even a seven-course feast with wine pairings, pending a 48-hour reservation.
But Nick’s is most famous for brunch; indeed, many have argued that the first location offers the best brunch experience in Providence, and competition for a weekend table can be fierce. In this respect, Nick’s on Westminster is more easy going than the Broadway spot. Despite the suits and din of shop talk, few people will willingly park downtown if they don’t have to, so there’s almost always an open table. Brunch is served almost every morning, and options rotate regularly.
To me, brunch means eggs benedict – or, as they are playfully known at Nick’s, “Eggs Benny.” Served in a spotless white bowl, the eggs looked less like breakfast than a frameable work of art. Eating the entree is an action-packed experience, with detonating yolks and biscuits so moist and delicate that they practically tear themselves apart. I squirted green-chili hot sauce into the hollandaise, to vibrant effect.
To truly appreciate a kitchen as sophisticated as Nick’s, you have to embrace the surprises. Fish on Toast showcases Point Judith fish and chargrilled French bread; the polenta is made from cornmeal and Vermont cheddar. I was delighted to see a wine from South Africa, which I hadn’t tasted since I spent time in Stellenbosch, now 20 years ago. Once the new restaurant has cast its spell, you – like me – will want to try everything.
Nick’s on Westminster • 100 Westminster Street • 443-5100