Nick's is part of the local flavor
SEAL BEACH – Every little beach town has certain places that define its essence, that would be mourned if they ever disappeared. For Seal Beach, Nick's Deli is one of those places.
Every weekend, people stand beneath the black canvas awning and line up out the door to get their hands on one of Nick's signature breakfast burritos. It's a tradition for regulars, some of whom have never ordered anything else at this tiny cafÃ©, which has served Seal Beach for decades.
Located next to the post office, this place even has free street parking, though watch the time limits so you don't get a ticket.
Main Street has plenty of pricier dining establishments. And you can walk out onto the pier to grab a burger at one of the Ruby's Diner chain restaurants. But if you want a casual, no-fuss meal at a joint with some history behind it, you can't do better than this local favorite.
The famous breakfast burritos come with two eggs, chorizo, chopped bacon, diced and fried homemade potatoes, cheese and sauce, wrapped in a large flour tortilla. They can be eaten on the go, if you're on your way down to the beach, or there's a tiny eating area in the main cafÃ© or in an annex next to a garden nursery. At $4.99, they're not cheap, but they are filling and tasty. There's also a vegetarian version.
But this eatery is more than burritos: The sandwiches also arrive hot and toasty; there's homemade chili and soup, too. While breakfast is the biggest draw here, Nick's is open until 7 p.m. for late diners.
This is simplicity itself: You stand in front of the counter to order. Homemade signs overhead advertise the menu offerings, which range in price from $4.99 to $6.95.
Everything here is a la carte: You want a drink or chips, order them separately, and help yourself to a drink from the cooler. There's a table of self-service carafes with coffee, water and hot chocolate as well — my friend told me her boys love serving themselves hot chocolate.
And beware: You have to pay cash or write a check. They don't accept credit cards here.
After you order, standing on the black-and-white tiled floor, you wait, and they'll either call out your number or deliver your food to your table, depending on how busy they are. You can get food to eat in or to go. You pay when you pick up your food or after you eat, depending on how crowded it is.
My favorite place to eat here is in the tiny annex that overlooks the picturesque Brita's Old Town Gardens nursery next door, filled with flowers and giving a garden-like effect.
On any given day, you can find this filled with locals, who are relaxing and enjoying the scene. Small sidewalk tables also provide a view of the street action in this sleepy town, though right now that's not terribly pleasant, with street repairs going on up and down Main Street.
On a recent afternoon, I enjoyed a roast beef sandwich on toasted sourdough, with mashed avocado and iceberg lettuce. It came in paper, on a red plastic basket. The roast beef was high quality and had good flavor. The sandwich was $5.95 and I paid 95 cents extra for the avocado.
My friend had a vegetarian cheese sandwich, which included avocado, tomatoes, pickles and alfalfa sprouts and cost $5.95.
Nick's also offers a daily soup-and-half-sandwich special for $4.99.
I also quite enjoyed drinking my Stewart's diet root beer from the bottle, which is hard to find. They also had Stewart's cream soda and orange drink for $1.75 each.
On another visit I had the carne asada burrito, which was enough for two meals. It came stuffed with meat, beans and rice, and I ordered mine with salsa verde. It was fine, but the salsa was a little too mild for my taste.
Next time I come back, I want to try the chili.
Owner Dominic "Nick" Zampino, who's proud of the tradition that his restaurant has become in Seal Beach, now also runs a second Nick's in Los Alamitos, with much of the same menu.
But it will never have the same vibe as the original, which is a Seal Beach institution.
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