Nikki’s Place

Meat-and-Three | Soul Food
One of the best

When Nikki’s opened, as Roser’s, in 1949, Orlando was best known as a Naval Training Center and Disneyworld wasn’t even a gleam in Walt Disney’s eye. At the time, it was the one and only local eatery that specialized in soul food. Today’s chef, Nick Aiken Jr., apprenticed with Roser Mae Jones, and still uses her recipe to make wonderful single-serving size sweet potato pies with savory crust and deep orange, earthy filling.

Chef Nick’s shrimp and grits is one of great bargain meals of all time — on a par with anything we’ve eaten in the Lowcountry. Our waitress, Joyce, boasts that Nick sauteés the shrimp and makes its sauce for each order, a claim one taste confirms. The shrimp are big ones, firm and ocean-sweet with just enough tail to hold onto when you drag them through the plush grits, making sure to get plenty of the sauce that smothers the dish. It is spectacular sauce, its precise ingredients known only to the chef. Bits of red and green pepper and onion are full flavored and still barely al dente; 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.

Nikki’s is a tiny place with a 5-seat counter and 6 oilcloth-covered tables, and 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.'”

What to Eat
Nikki’s Place, Shrimp & Grits
Shrimp & Grits
Shrimp and grits with their complex seasoned sauce are a glory of Nikki's kitchen.
Nikki’s Place, Collard Greens
Collard Greens
Collard greens are bold and pungent.
Nikki’s Place, Sweet Potato Pie
Sweet Potato Pie
The recipe for sweet potato pie dates back to the earliest days of the restaurant. One little pie, pictured here, is a very large serving or enough for two. It is spicy, earthy, and hugely satisfying.
Nikki’s Place, Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes
No surprise: sweet potatoes are really, really sweet, almost more like dessert than a side dish.
Nikki’s Place, Smothered Turkey Necks
Smothered Turkey Necks
What fun it is to fork meat and spicy gravy off the smothered turkey necks.
Nikki’s Place, Wings
Wings are large and crunchy.
Nikki’s Place, Banana Pudding
Banana Pudding
Banana pudding strikes a good flavor note, but it doesn't have the tantalizing mouth-feel of the great ones.
Nikki’s Place, Layer Cake
Layer Cake
Layer cake is big in soul food restaurants everywhere, especially in Orlando. This strawberry-white coconut cake is moist and just-right sweet.
Nikki’s Place, Chicken & Waffles
Chicken & Waffles
A classic breakfast of chicken and waffles. Please pass the syrup.
Nikki’s Place, Half & Half
Half & Half
Nikki's ultra-sweet half-and-half is equal parts lemonade and tea.
Nikki’s Place, Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Nikki's mac 'n' cheese is a mild one, more soupy than custardy.
Nikki’s Place, Peach Cobbler
Peach Cobbler
Peach cobbler is a hearty dessert, with reefs of luxurious savory crust balancing sweet fruit.
Nikki’s Place, Tilapia
Available on the breakfast and lunch menu, tilapia tends to be a fairly boring fish, a situation that waitress Joyce dealt with by bringing us tartar sauce and mustard, which she recommended we slather on in equal portions.
Directions and Hours
closed now
Sunday8am - 6pm
Monday8am - 6pm
Wednesday8am - 7pm
Thursday8am - 7pm
Friday8am - 7pm
Saturday8am - 7pm
This restaurant is featured in the following eating tours.
7 stops | 27 MILES | 1 hr

Road Trip Overview

Driving just two hours total, this road trip will take you in and around Orlando before heading to the coast, visiting 9 memorable restaurants along the way. With Seafood, Soul food and Sandwiches along the tour, there is something for everyone. The total distance of driving is 74 miles, which can easily…

3 stops | 2 MILES | 10 min

Orlando connotes corporate-fabricated fun, but hungry visitors can explore another kind of magic kingdom: a realm of miraculously good soul food. Here is a cache of personality-plus restaurants where menus run from turkey necks to pig tails, and where dinner always includes constellations of brilliant vegetables – including, of course, that great southern vegetable, mac…

4 stops | | 1 min

From Orlando and Winter Park down the east coast of Florida to Miami is a journey of never-ending adventure. Here you encounter brilliant sunshine, exotic wildlife, and bright urban energy, as well as an array of spectacular seafood, Latin-spiced specialties, and farm-fresh fruit. Must-eats include rock shrimp, El Cubanos, porky chicharones, and spectacular grilled cheese…

Open Year Round
Meals Served
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted
Alcohol Served
Outdoor Seating

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