I first read about the Nickel Diner through Potatomato (one of my trusty go-to guides) a few months back, specifically about their maple-bacon donut. While I filed it away in my mental food rolodex, I'll admit I forgot about its location till early this week, when I had to do some research on nearby restaurants near Club Nokia for dinner before the Royksopp(!) concert. Little did I know the Nickel Diner was mere blocks away from my work.
The reason I've never seen it during my commute is because the Diner is tucked away in between several sketch "hotels" and hidden by a strong stench of eau d'urine. Believe me that you don't want to walk around the area by yourself at night.
But once you bypass the shady looking characters en route to the diner and walk though the Nickel's welcoming glass doorway, you are instantly transported to the 50s, as the interiors are outfitted with rich burgundy leather booths, old counters and tile floors. Atop the metal counters are tiers of tantalizing desserts (the s'more cake looked extra fetching that night)--the only way you know you're in the present is the artsy-looking crowd dining in nearby tables.
The food the diner serves are old-timey classics, but with a modern twist. For my dinner, I ordered their Smac & Cheese, which may seem straightforward and even pedestrian to some, but it was surprising how amazing it was. They bathe large elbow macaronis in a creamy mixture of melted cheddar, fontina, mozzarella and a kicker, pepper jack. Then they top it with a big slice of roasted tomato, a sprinkling of paprika, buttered bread crumbs and bake it till it's a bubbling cheese party.
And what a party it was, you first get the gooey richness of the cheeses, then the slow heat from the pepper jack and paprika. Next is the random crunch from the baked bread crumbs and the freshness of the tomato and chopped parsley which did well to temper the heaviness of the dish. What a pleasant surprise to experience a diner that knows how to create balanced dishes.
My friend had their pulled pork sandwich with onion rings, both of which was aptly prepared as well. I tried a ring, which was perfectly fried with a shatteringly crunchy exterior.
Although it was a tough control my urge to finish my entire dinner, I forced myself to stop so I could make room for their famed donut. If you want to know my honest opinion about it, I say double yes! The maple donut was a dream, a fluffy, yet substantial donut in a thin vanilla glaze and a generous covering of crunchy maple bacon bits. It's a must-try for all first-timers. In fact, if I was the mayor of LA, I would enact a new public plan that would provide meat lovers with a maple-donut of their very own... weekly.
Until that dream comes true, I guess I'll be back in the near future to try their other offerings. Bet you a nickel that they'll be delicious as well.
524 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013