Nickel’s is just a five-minute walk from spectacular Watkins Glen State Park. After making a highly recommended 3-mile round-trip walk through the gorge, it is a perfect next stop. We happened upon it by accident, looking for coffee. But the smokey smell was so enticing that we decided to get an early dinner.
We start with arguably the best part of the meal: Pig Wings. These St. Louis-cut ribs are smoked for three to four hours, then tossed in the fryer so they get crisp. We get them simple, with Nickel’s BBQ rub, but you also can get them sauced. The rub seems to be a mix of brown sugar, chili, paprika, cumin, and garlic. It leans sweet and makes the whole thing taste like candied bacon in rib form. The ample meat is tender, and you don’t need any sauce (though there are three on each table; and hot sauce is available, too).
Buffalo chicken tots are an embarrassingly decadent mound of tots seasoned with Nickel’s ranch rub then piled with smoked chicken, bleu and cheddar cheeses, and Buffalo-style sauce. It’s like a deconstructed Buffalo wing — plus tater tots. They’re extremely tasty, but we can only make a small dent.
Our two-combo plate arrives with kielbasa and brisket, sweet and dense mini cornbread muffins, thin, crisp sweet potato fries, and standard coleslaw. The fries, kielbasa, muffins are stand-outs. The kielbasa is just spicy enough, with a ton of flavor and great texture. The fries are a touch sweet and spicy, likely seasoned with the same rub as our Pig Wings.
We also get the Mac Attack sandwich, because how could you not want a pulled pork sandwich with jalapeño pappadew mac ‘n’ cheese? However, the whole thing falls short, save for the flaky, croissant-like bun from nearby Montour Falls. It comes with the Southern greens, which are tender, with bits of garlic and hints of smoky bacon.
The space is open and inviting, with friendly service and room for local bands to play some nights. It’s a neighborhood joint through and through with beer from the brewery two doors down, meat from Shrader Farms in Romulus, and produce from Lowery Family Farms in Savona.
In short, this is a family-oriented restaurant making delicious barbecue with locally-sourced ingredients. The menu is so well-written, you’ll want to try everything. Just don’t forget those Pig Wings.