Nick's at the Pier opened about a week ago in the space formerly occupied by Qwigg's. That is to say, upstairs at the foot of Santa Monica and Newport Avenues, on Abbott, less than a football field length from the Pacific Ocean.
The space has been rennovated with light woods and complimentary colors to provide a bright, open and airy feel. Best of all, the windows are finally clean enough to actually see the ocean. For unobstructed ocean views and views of the ever-colorful citizenry of OB, this location is really hard to beat. But...does the food match the view? In a word? NO, and unfortunately, not even close.
I stopped in for an impromptu lunch yesterday with a friend. They had a soft opening last week and are probably (I hope) still working out a lot of bugs. I had the Crab Cake Torta and my friend had the Tombo Sandiwch. Both came with an amazingly minisucle - as in why bother to put it on the plate it's so small - side of Asian slaw that was top-heavy with sesame seed oil, and a big pile o' fries. And cheap fries at that, all end cuts (which are about $10/case less expensive than regular cut fries), I seriously doubt there were more than 2 or 3 fries in the entire pile that were over 2" in length. Sorry, but for me, with fries, size does, indeed, matter.
But no matter, in spite of 2 bites of slaw and mini-fries, they were infintely better than either of our sandwiches. The crab cakes were generous in size but incredibly mushy, loaded wtih extenders of some kind, and after 3 or 4 bites so intensely strong and fishy, I couldn't finish even half the sandwich. What a waste of a good telera roll. The tombo sandwich sounded really good on the menu, what showed up was your basic tuna salad sandwich. It looked like it had been made with albacore canned tuna. Other than the mayo and onion in the sandwich it had no flavor whatsoever. I know tuna can be mild, but this was ridiculous. The tuna sandwich was, however, heads and shoulders better than my crab cake torta, which I think I can honestly say is one of the worst things I've eaten - no make that, tried to eat - since my return to SD in 2001.
I had a nice glass of Spanish Sauvingon Blanc and my friend had a glass of the locally produced chardonnay labeled "Nick's Cuvee". My wine was okay, hers was virtually undrinkable to the point that I wondered why even put it on the menu. It made Two Buck Chuck seem like a wold class, top of the line selection by comparison
2 glasses of wine, 2 sandwiches, tax and tip came to $40. Far, far, far too much money for what we got in terms of both the wine and the food. Now, to be fair, they have only been open a week and the early throes of almost any new restaurant are almost always hard. I like the location, I love the view and I really want this place to succeed. The service was friendly and yesterday was better than the food. One can only hope that the food eventually evolves to the same level as the service or beyond. Perhaps we ordered the wrong thing, perhaps the kitchen is still figuring things out, but whatever the reason, lunch yesterday at Nick's at the Pier was really not very good. I could have gotten a better meal for less at either Shades or Tower Too, which are located directly underneath Nick's. Hopefully, they'll get better as time goes by...