Alibi V.26 No.37 • Sept 14-20, 2017 

Restaurant Review

The Idiot

Nick and Jimmy’s proves that Joshua Lee is dumb

Nick and Jimmy’s
The word “eclectic” makes me nervous when it's used to describe a menu. The problem with “eclectic” (and it's big sister, “fusion”) is that it brings together opposing viewpoints that could potentially clash like talking heads on a political opinion show. Both sides might sound reasonable enough on their own, but put them in the same room, and things can get ugly.

Sitting in the dimly lit dining room of Nick and Jimmy's and scanning the menu, I started to get nervous. There was pasta, and enchiladas, and moussaka. I nervously glanced around the room at the other diners. Everyone was relaxed and enjoying dinner—laughing softly and tinkling glasses.

The server appeared from over my shoulder and passed me a drink menu. “Oh yes, please,” I said. I ordered the old standby: a Grey Goose Cape Codder ($5.95), and my wife ordered a strange house drink called the “Ginger Sin” ($9). When our server left, I looked away from the menu and returned to scanning the quiet room. A strange frosted glass partition on one wall allowed diners to see the hands of the kitchen crew working fervently in preparation of dinner, but obstructed any view of their faces.

I was starting to feel much better about everything once our drinks had arrived, and decided to look at the menu again. On the table, a basket appeared with fresh bread and some sort of cracker-crisp flat bread topped with cheese and green chile. I offhandedly picked one up while I was blankly staring at menu pages and took a bite. That little bastard got me in the side of the face. It was beautiful. I stared at it for a moment and looked at my wife. “What is this?” I asked. She didn't seem to hear me. I popped the rest in my mouth. “Holy hell! Have you ...?”

I must have spoken too loud, because she looked startled. She reached into the basket and drew one of the chips out. As the server returned, my wife bit down and her eyes went wide. While we ordered, I couldn't even pretend to be a decent human being with manners—just kept nibbling on the little hard triangles while I was supposed to be engaging with the server. I wasn't even especially hungry, I was just riding a wave of dopamine provided by bread, cheese and salt. Very classy.

My wife opened her mouth to order the vegetarian Greek platter ($17.50), and I realized I'd never made a concerted effort to pick something. Over and over, though, as my eyes glazed over the menu without understanding the meaning of any of the words, I found myself staring at an entry in the corner. I went ahead and ordered it, sounding out the words as if I'd never seen them before, “green chile chicken lasagna?” ($13.95).

Waiting for such a mixed-up sounding dish was made less stressful by the arrival of the Caesar salad. It was fresh and crispy, with healthy doses of Parmesan and a distinctive dressing. It was actually really good, and I had to stop myself from overeating. For God's sake, I wasn't here for salad.

The arrival of the lasagna was accompanied by celestial trumpets and a humming sound that might have only been in my head. Perfectly centered in a large white bowl, a mysterious block sat drenched in a creamy Romano sauce. I approached gently, piercing it with my fork at a corner. Beneath the sauce, layers of cheese, mushroom, pasta and chile gave way and a rich aroma escaped into the air. I brought the fork to my mouth and my brain lit up in response to the decadent flavors mingling there. It was complicated and delicious, but not overly powerful. It was dense and intense, and I was swooning like a southern belle in a romance novel.

Eric Williams Photography

My wife was too engrossed in her own beast of a plate to even notice mine, though. It was wide and unwieldy, stacked with staple vegetarian Greek fare like a tartly citric tabouli salad and mixed grilled vegetables. Along for the ride were some delicacies that were perfectly crafted. The spanakopita—a pastry made of phyllo, spinach and feta—was crispy and light, and the filling was compellingly bold. The dolmades (which I've always seen called “dolmas”) were absolutely spot on. These little guys are grape leaves stuffed with a rice mixture that are often tough or tasteless. Nick and Jimmy's were tender and flavorful—perfect in their simplicity.

But the real winner of the evening was the moussaka—layers of eggplant, zucchini, marinara and cheeses, topped with béchamel sauce. It was thick and velvety and had a subtle flavor. Throughout the meal, I continuously stole bites from the plate while my wife wasn't looking.

On my fourth trip, she caught me. “I thought you said fusion food was for wimps and post-postmodernists.”

I shrugged. “I'm an idiot. You know that.”

5021 Pan American Fwy NE
Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-9:30pm, Fri and Sat 11am-10:30pm, Sun 11am-9pm
Vibe: Nice and easy
Alibi recommends: Vegetarian moussaka, green chile chicken lasagna and blueberry bread pudding.