"I Am Not a Cook!"

The grilled flatbreads are by far the best thing here, and definitely worth filling up on. They're served on a wooden board, right out of the oven, crisp and piping hot, and big enough for two people to share. I'm partial to the version topped with crab, goat cheese, spinach, mozzarella and tomato. You may prefer the model covered with chicken and mushrooms, or the one lined with tomato, asparagus, goat cheese and pesto.

The rest of the small menu focuses on sandwiches, salads and hot entrees. Most of them should be impeached.

Let's talk turkey. I suspect the turkey sandwich was made by Rosemary Woods. You remember her--she's the secretary who "mistakenly" erased 18 minutes of a crucial White House tape. This $7 sandwich was also missing something--turkey. There wasn't more than two ounces of poultry here, and believe me, I'm giving the kitchen the benefit of the doubt. This isn't a turkey sandwich--it's a sandwich turkey.

The carved-steak sandwich brings on plenty of beef. The problem is, it's so tough you might as well be chewing on the flank of a live cow. The grilled swordfish sandwich, meanwhile, didn't smell quite right, and the fish's texture didn't inspire confidence, either. If you're going to eat something here that comes between two pieces of bread, stick to the hamburger. Nixon's doesn't know how to spell the Tip O'Neil [sic] burger, but it does know how to cook it. You get about a half-pound of juicy beef on an onion roll, embellished with bacon, cheese, onions, lettuce and tomato. The accompanying French fries aren't made from fresh-peeled spuds, but at least they come directly out of the fryer.

The snoozy main-dish platters seem to target the Silent Majority--folks who don't care about what they eat. The fatty, chewy lamb steak comes from a part of the lamb that doesn't provide the best cuts. The minute chicken is aptly named--that's about how long it will take you to realize you should have ordered something else. It's a prefab piece of chicken breast, coated with breadcrumbs, then deep-fried and served with a third-rate lemon sauce. This entree costs $12, and I'd guess about $11.90 of it is straight profit.

London broil isn't much of an improvement. The meat is thin-sliced, but you'll still need the incisors of a wolf to tear into it. The grilled pork chop, gilded with pan-fried apples, is a better alternative. The salmon tastes exactly like every other piece of salmon you've ever had.

The entrees come with either routine mashed potatoes or a ramekin of cheesy au gratin spuds. Unfortunately, on every occasion, the potatoes au gratin were way undercooked. All platters also come with steamed green beans, which the kitchen somehow manages to get exactly right.

Greenery fans can get their fill from the Chinatown salad. While I don't understand the name--this salad is about as Chinese as Spiro Agnew--you do get a pleasant mix of lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, scallions and yellow pepper, along with a thin slab of fried chicken breast, all tossed in a light, peanut-accented vinaigrette. Would you like some bread with your salad? You'll have to fork over three bucks for garlic bread--Nixon's must be the only place in town that doesn't put out a breadbasket.

Don't waste your time hunting for a pastry chef, either. There's only one dessert here, a hot fudge sundae featuring nuts, whipped cream and cheap vanilla ice cream.

A word on the service. If you're headed to the next-door movie theaters, and your film starts in 20 minutes, this is the place to eat. Meals are served at the same leisurely pace you'd find at an Army mess hall.

This could be a fun spot. But unless the food improves, by next Presidents' Day, we may not have Nixon's to kick around anymore.

Nixon's:
Crab/spinach flatbread
$8.00
Swordfish sandwich
9.00
London broil
14.00
Hot fudge sundae
4.

00

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