|Nick's Roast Beef in the Old City area of Philadelphia, PA|
With this week's “Beer and Bacon Fest” in Old City Philadelphia, Nick’s Roast Beef comes into its own. Nick's is a neighborhood stalwart, a quintessential go-to-beef-n-beer joint since 1969. When its Philly-famous bartender Joe "Joey Dog" Schultice his partner Nicole Viechnicki bought Nick’s in May 2012, they knew they had to step up their culinary game to compete in Philly’s new restaurant economy. So, they reduced the size of Nick’s menu, and switched to all house-made offerings. For "Bacon and Beer Fest", Nick’s enhances their dishes with Lansdale, PA’s Bespoke Bacon, and makes burgers with a ground bacon-beef blend. Add in pairings with three local brewers – Yards, Prism and Philly Brewing Company – and Nick’s “Bacon and Beer Fest” output promises to be a heady experience.
Today, Glamorosi Magazine debuts a new permanent feature, "Mr. & Mrs. A" reviews, in which the husband and wife team of A.D. Amorosi and Glamorosi co-write "he said, she said" style write-ups on food, fashion, art and entertainment. Sometimes they'll agree, sometimes not, but all coverage will be rated on a scale of 1-10. For their first outing, Mr. & Mrs. A reviewed items from Nick's Roast Beef's "Bacon and Beer Fest" menu, and gave it an overall score of 9.5...
|Nick's Bacon Nachos|
Mr. A: To tell you the truth, I’m not a fan of the nacho. Begrudgingly, I’ve eaten my way through nachos in places ranging from down-n-dirty taquerias to tony Mexican hot spots, but the results always the same: soppy with too much cheese that wasn’t rich with flavor OR with not enough toppings to match the taste of the chip. Nick’s is by no means a Mexican restaurant, yet they managed to make perfect nachos by heightening the simplest ingredients a la Cheese Whiz. Don’t laugh - the whiz was zestfully tasty. The addition of crumbled Classic Bespoke Bacon gave a subtly meaty and chewy kick to the proceedings. The house-made salsa made every bite cool and sweet.
Mrs. A: I, on the other hand, am a nacho eating fool, and I loved Nick's Bacon Nachos. The Bespoke Bacon was outstanding: delicious, mahogany-colored crumbles of heaven. The chips themselves were super crispy; there were no mushy ones, even at the bottom. The guacamole was tasty and very fresh, and while I like salsa, I'm always reluctant my first time eating it at any given restaurant, because I don’t care for 5-alarm, spicy-hot food. I'm happy to report that Nick's salsa had just the right amount of fire; it had a kick, but it didn’t burn out my taste buds for the rest of the meal. I'm not a Cheese Whiz fan (except for occasionally on Philly cheesesteaks), but it worked extremely well on this dish – unlike nacho or cheddar cheese, it didn't get gummy when the nachos cooled.
|Nick's Cajun Chicken Sandwich|
Mr. A: Grilled chicken sandwiches rarely make certain that it's perfectly singed without turning its meat dry or slightly rubbery. This chicken was moist inside and had an exquisite grill to it, which is why every bite of the sandwich, from the first to the last, was tender and crunchy. The slightly sweet Jamaican jerk bacon – thick cut, and fried with a great balance of crisped meat and fat – gave the big brioche-engulfed sandwich its oomph by matching its chewy fried edges to the chicken’s grilled top handsomely.
Mrs. A: The chicken had a delicious char broiled taste on the outside, was moist and juicy inside, and it had a generous helping of tasty bacon. It would have been good with any bread, but Nick's choice of a fresh brioche roll truly elevated the taste. You know how when you have a barbecue at home and the food is amazing and the sun is shining and the music is awesome and everyone is having a blast? That's what this sandwich tastes like.
|Nick's Bespoke Bacon Burger|
fried pickles, salsa, pepper jack and jalapeño
lettuce, tomato and pickle chips
With More Bacon...add $2.
your choice of Bespoke Bacon strips
Mr. A: I can see why Nicole dreamed of this sandwich. It’s a decadent taste sensation, mainly, because of the ground-up bacon and beef blend of burger meat that “Joey Dog” created with the Bespoke Bacon folks (65% beef, 35% bacon). From there, they added fried pickles for a tart, brine-y sensation, house-made salsa for subtle heat, jalapeño for an even greater kick, and some pepper jack cheese to cool things down a bit. I love a good burger, and this one was exceptional, so much so that I ate half of my wife’s sandwich, and I was pretty well stuffed by that point.
Mrs. A: I did ultimately eat (half of) this burger as it was served, but first I dissembled it for two reasons: one, I can't eat jalapeño peppers – that was easy enough to remedy – and two, I wanted to taste each component individually. The burger itself, a blend of ground Bespoke bacon and ground beef – was smoky, meaty and juicy. This was my first time tasting fried pickles – yum! When we go back to Nick's, I'll be ordering these from their appetizer menu; they sell them by the basket with a side of spicy remoulade for $6.
|Nick's Bespoke Bacon Cheesecake|
Mr. A: If I’ve sounded as If I’ve heaped nothing but praise on Nick’s bacon menu, prepare yourself. I’m not a sugar fan, I'm more of a cheese plate guy (my wife jokes that "A.D. stands for Atkins Diet"). Their bacon cheesecake is my perfect ending to this meal. It’s slightly savory and slightly sweet with roasted garlic, gently caramelized apples and rosemary part of the moist cake. Add to this a crust that’s ground with Graham crackers and bacon (Mrs. A suggested I start from the back where a bulk of that crust resided – that’s one of the reasons I love her) and the bacon cheesecake is reminiscent of the Italian Easter Pies made with ricotta, ham, egg and pepperoni that my wife and I grew up on. Yeah, I loved this.
Mrs. A: I'm more of a cheese plate gal myself, so I'm very picky about desserts. Not only is Nick's Bespoke Bacon Cheesecake the best cheesecake I have ever had, it's the best dessert I've had this year; it is sweet and savory perfection. The bacon and graham cracker crust was divine; the cheesecake was creamy and dense but not heavy; the bacon on top was crispy but not hard; the caramelized apples were tart but not sour; the fresh rosemary and roasted garlic was genius. If this doesn't make it to Nick's permanent menu, or at least make regular appearances as a special, I'm going to be very sad.
Mr. & Mrs. A - Overall impression of Nick's Roast Beef: Score: 9.5
Mr. A: Joe Schultice is a neighborhood guy, born and raised in Philly's Kensington area. Nicole Viechnicki has a Sicilian background and comes from PA's Lehigh Valley. Together, they’ve turned Nick’s into their perfect vision of a neighborhood joint with a good, low-lit vibe in the dining room where 60’s favorites play as you dine and drink (anywhere that I can hear the Nazz’s “Open My Eyes” while I eat is OK by me). Their “Bacon and Beer Fest” fare was exceptionally tasty and, yes, original, from top to bottom. There wasn’t one bite of chef Rick Wilson’s food that I didn’t savor while I was there, and I craved it when I got home.
On a scale of 1 to 10, Mr. A gives Nick's Roast Beef a 9.
Mrs. A: Up until this review, I hadn't been in Nick's since the 90s; I'm now going to make it a regular stop. It's perfect for a quick, affordable, tasty meal, and a cool place to meet up with friends, talk business, or just unwind. "Joey Dog" and Nicole have a welcoming vibe that makes you instantly feel like you've known them forever, and that you're in their home. They're both restaurant biz lifers, so they know what works, and their expertise, as well as that of head chef Rick Wilson, has resulted in dishes that are entirely memorable. Like my husband, I am craving every bite of our meal again. From talking to Joe and Nicole, we learned they both believe in working hard to execute their ideas and fulfill their dream for Nick's. In a world of instant-everything, their old-school work ethic stands out, and is reflected in the food, service and overall feel of Nick's.
On a scale of 1-10, Mrs. A gives Nick's Roast Beef a 10.
Nick's Roast Beef celebrates "Bacon and Beer Fest" on Saturday, September 28, from 5-8 PM. In addition to the dishes we reviewed, the menu for this event features three additional items we didn't sample: a Beer and Bacon Flight ($13) featuring four season brews paired with Bespoke Bacon's most popular flavors; a Tomato and Crimini Mushroom Salad with Bespoke Pancetta Tesa (a Tuscan-style bacon cured with red wine and garlic); Bespoke Szechuan Bacon-wrapped shrimp with house-made Asian barbecue sauce.
UPDATE: Good news! Nick's will be keeping their Bespoke Bacon Cheesecake on the menu through November 2013. Also, during Philly's October 4 "First Friday" (an open-house gallery art walk that takes place the first Friday of every month), Nick's will repeat their entire "Bacon Fest" menu. The evening will also feature live music from Mike Brill starting at 9 PM, and there will be classic cars parked out front and photo ops with the "Nick's Girl", a retro-style pin-up.
Nick’s Roast Beef
16 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Hours: 11 AM - 2 AM daily, Food served until 1 AM
|Joe "Joey Dog" Schultice and Nicole Viechnicki of Nick's Roast Beef|
Except Nick's façade photo, courtesy of Nick's Roast Beef
Posted on Saturday, September 28, 2013