Review by: Michael Stern
Memorable | One of the Best
“Southern Cuisine The Way It Used To Be”
When Nikki’s opened, as Roser’s, in 1949, Orlando served as a Naval Training Center. Walt Disney World wasn’t even a gleam in Walt Disney’s eye. At the time, locals knew Roser’s as the one and only local eatery that specialized in soul food. Today’s chef, Nick Aiken Jr., apprenticed with Roser Mae Jones. He still uses her recipe to make wonderful single-serving size sweet potato pies with savory crust and deep orange, earthy filling. Those pies are just one thing that have earned Nikki’s Place its reputation as an Orlando gem.
Shrimp And Grits!
Chef Nick’s shrimp and grits deserves four stars, at least. It competes with the best versions of the Lowcountry. Our waitress, Joyce, boasts that Nick sauteés the shrimp and makes its sauce for each order. One taste confirms that claim. The big, firm, ocean-sweet shrimp come with just enough tail to hold onto when you drag them through the plush grits. Be sure to get plenty of the sauce that smothers the dish! What exactly makes this sauce spectacular is a chef’s secret. Bits of red and green pepper and onion each retain their own full flavor. Butter makes it rich. An unfathomable kaleidoscope of herbs gives it Cajun complexity and a fair measure of heat. Glory be, the meal comes with a whole separate ramekin of this sauce. We dip everything into it: bits of biscuit and waffle, chicken wings, forkfuls of fried fish, even clumps of collard greens.
The People’s Favorite
This Orlando gem is a tiny place with a 5-seat counter and 6 oilcloth-covered tables. On Sunday when people come from church, it overflows with extraordinarily well-dressed customers – ladies in effulgent hats, gents with spats, boys in suits and ties, girls in tulle and organza pastels. Joyce tells us that it is common for regulars to sneak away from pews during services and bring their phone into a stall in the church bathroom. “They call to place an order before they come here. They get ahead of the game, so when they walk in the door, their dinner is ready. I always know where they are calling from because I can tell by the echo, and I ask them, ‘Why are you whispering? The pastor can’t hear you.'”
|Meals Served||Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner|
|Credit Cards Accepted||Yes|