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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
8.6
7.0
$20
Middle Eastern
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Sat 11:00am–9:00pm
Sun noon–9:00pm

Features Outdoor dining, veg-friendly
Bar None
Credit cards None
Reservations Not accepted

Website

Southeast Portland
318 SE Grand Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 235-5123
Nicholas Restaurant
A tiny, intensely popular spot serving intense flavors on the cheap

Call us persnickety, but we’re always encouraged when a Middle Eastern restaurant doesn’t refer to itself “Mediterranean,” which is a nebulous and often inaccurate cuisine type. It usually refers to the dishes of lands once covered by the southern penumbra of the Ottoman Empire, but it can technically include cuisines that are now totally distinct, like Moroccan, Italian, and Greek.

What these misleadingly named eateries are usually referring to is a menu much like the one at Nicholas, a mostly Lebanese spread that includes falafel, mezze platters, and the ubiquitous Greek gyro. In other words, foods that turn us on, even in their most Americanized renditions. But the ones here really turn us on.

Nicholas is a terrific place for families and groups, as servings are large and dishes are really designed to offset each other. But you won’t drop a huge amount of coin here, either: a mezze platter can fill up two people, not to mention the fact that it’s a much more delicious and complex vegetarian option than the tofurkey, fake-bacon, and barbecued-tempeh disasters vegetarians are sometimes forced to contend with elsewhere. You get refreshing, minty tabbouleh; creamy, slightly funky hummus; smoky baba ghanoush; and anything else you would want to try here, all on one spectacular plate.

There’s a generous and energetic vibe about this place, and people line up at peak hours to squeeze into the humble, tiny restaurant to eat flavorful, moist shawarma with a creamy tahini sauce; gyros that are properly lamby and bright with some of the best tzatziki in the city; and falafel that, while not quite as transcendent as some we’ve tasted from Basha’s (“Mediterranean”) food cart, is still superb in both flavor and texture. The pièce de résistance here is the pita bread, billowy and warm. It’s wrapped around everything, used as a utensil, and generally adored. Finish up with an intense Turkish coffee, just like the Ottomans did.

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