Nickel Diner is one of those hidden gems in Downtown L.A. This is a small diner located in the heart of Downtown on 5th and Main. It’s a walk away from Pershing Square.
The venue itself is rather small. I feel that it’s not as well known as it should be, so I don’t usually have to wait too long to be seated. I’ve hardly ever had to wait during weekday lunch hours. This past Sunday we waited 25 minutes for a table for 4. The one complaint that I could see anyone having is that it is a rather small space; however it’s not stuffy. I did notice that every time I go in there I feel as if I’m yelling at the person next to me or sitting across from me. It’s either the size of the space or something in the acoustics of the building that causes the volume to escalate.
Parking: Typical downtown situation, you will have to circle around and around for street parking or you can pay a flat rate at any one of the parking structures in the surrounding area. I’d say the best thing to do is to take the metro in from Pershing Square or the Civic Center if you can.
Venue: You walk in and there is an open kitchen to the right. I love open kitchens. Not only is it entertaining to watch how the food is being made, but it also provides me with a sense of security. They must be doing something right if they don’t mind you seeing what it is that they’re doing. There are tables, booths, and counter style tables available. The walls are overly decorated (in a lovely way) with vintage signage and other vintage memorabilia.
Staff: Just as there is a small space, there is a small staff. This makes it a more intimate experience. There’s something soothing about dining at a place where you see the same server/hostess every single time. Kristen is my favorite. I feel that she’s there no matter what time of day – she is one of the geniuses behind their famous maple bacon donuts. Everyone is always attentive and friendly. I have NEVER had a bad dining experience here.
Food: Now let’s talk about the real reason you want to come here. FOOD !!! I usually drag my co-workers in here because I’m craving their quinoa stuffed avocado. We are spoiled in California and always have avocados available. This dish gives you a whole avocado cut in half and over stuffed with quinoa salad (black beans, peppers, squash, corn, and cilantro). It’s pretty much two hefty servings of delicous veganess. So, I usually take half of it home and get to enjoy Nickel Diner again for dinner. One of my co-workers had the non-vegetarian version which includes chicken salad (candied pecans and pickled cabbage). She said it was very good as well.
Their lunch menu also includes vegan choices such as vegan chili, a grilled veggie sandwich, fruit and nut salad. They are very open to making substitutions or removing ingredients to make something diet acceptable. There are also daily specials. I’ve been wanting to try the Vegan Sloppy Jo. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?
Non-vegans: you need to check out the smac n’ cheese. SOOOOOO cheesy and good.
Yesterday, however, I went in for breakfast/brunch. They have seasonal fruit mimosas -> I mean, this is absolutely the best thing and that’s probably why it’s the first thing on the menu. They have eggs, pancakes dutch babies, french toast all the breakfast foods you would want. For you my little vegan foodies they have “For Animal Lovers” and “Vegan Ranchero”
For Animal Lovers: Tofu scramble with spinach, roasted garlic, sweet peppers, beans and goat cheese (optional)
Vegan Ranchero: Grilled tofu on tortillas with Polenta with maple syrup beans, soy cheese, avocado and salsa
I had For Animal Lovers yesterday without the goat cheese. It was a hefty portion. I also added a side of avocado. It might have been 2, but I was hungry so I scarfed most of it down and simply took some of the beans home. I loved that it was loaded with spinach. It was a wonderful combination of veggies and the way that they cook their tofu adds a lovely crispiness to the dish. My cousin had, and loved, the huevos rancheros, while my mother had the chilaquiles (WARNING: it is a bit spicy)
I have to mention their Bakery. They have cake, donuts, pies, muffins, fritters, pudding, POP TARTS, cupcakes, DING DONGS, brownies. Some times you might get lucky enough to sample something, while you’re waiting to be seated.
Unfortunately they are closed on Monday.