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Published: Wednesday, 8/11/2010

Restaurant reviews: Nick's Family Cafe **

Nick's Family Cafe' at 2516 South Reynolds Road, Toledo. Nick's Family Cafe' at 2516 South Reynolds Road, Toledo.
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Several strategies help when going to Nick's Family Caf .

First, wait until you're hungry; the portions are gigantic.

Second, have some idea of what you want; the oversized menu has five pages of offerings.

Third, don't go looking for sophistication.

Nick's, on Reynolds Road just south of Heatherdowns, is a throwback in many ways.

The d cor, with its dark wood paneling, turquoise vinyl booths, and acoustic-tiled ceiling, is straight out of the ‘70s, and its cheerful defiance of the current emphasis on healthy cooking and portion control is a throwback attitude as well.

I haven't found many places in Toledo that serve an eight-egg omelet, but Nick's does. For the record, it's the Nick's omelet for $10.95, and the menu offers no descriptions, saying cryptically “ask your server.” I did, and she's the one who said it contained eight eggs.

You can have a healthy meal at Nick's; you're just going to have to work at it. The menu makes that tough, because it's crowded with offerings and the definitions can get a bit whimsical (chili mac, $6.95, is listed under hot sandwiches).

Visiting Nick's recently for lunch and dinner, I tried to sample a cross-section of the offerings. It was impossible. The list is overwhelming.

For lunch, my companion and I ordered a grape leaves appetizer ($5.95), a perch sandwich ($5.50), and spinach pie ($4.95 alone or $8.95 with rice and vegetable).


The six grape leaves with a rice and meat filling came with yogurt-based dipping sauce, pita bread, and a mixed tomato, onion, and banana pepper salad on the side, plenty big enough for the midday meal.

The perch sandwich was overflowing with three medium-sized fillets, lightly breaded and fried to perfection. It wasn't the best perch sandwich I've had in Toledo, but it was right up there.

I should have skipped the spinach pie. Not only was it too much to eat, the big ball of heavy, gloppy filling between the phyllo crusts was simply unappetizing. It reminded me of spinach straight out of a can, with not a lot of appeal.

For an evening meal, we ordered the gyros sandwich with French fries and a Greek salad (the menu says $10.95; we were charged $11.40) and the jumbo shrimp dinner ($10.95), which came with fries and a side salad.

The salads were piled on platters that I'd estimate to be about 10 inches long, each containing roughly a head of lettuce. Atop the side salad was what looked to be an entire tomato and an entire onion, both diced. The Greek salad was even more laden, with feta cheese and olives. We set the side salad aside and worked on the Greek salad. We didn't even come close to finishing it before the entrees came out. The gyros sandwich filled a 12-inch platter, and it came with a 10-inch platter heaped with fries.

The shrimp dinner was on one 12-inch platter, with eight shrimp crowded by a huge helping of fries.

The sandwich was fine, although there are better gyros to be had at other restaurants. The shrimp were a guilty pleasure. I don't let myself have fried shrimp too often, and these were worth the calories, although I did have some major twinges of guilt when I saw the oil pooled on the plate under them.

The amount of fries was simply obscene. There were easily enough on one platter to feed a family of four … and we had two platters' worth. The leftover salad and sandwich went home in boxes; the fries were left on the table, much to the disappointment of the waitress, who thought we didn't like them. If we had been unable to take the leftovers home, it would have been a major waste of food.

A fan of rice pudding, I ordered a serving to go, thinking I'd have it for an evening snack. The $1.99 serving came in a cottage-cheese sized container and weighed nearly a pound. That will make four desserts.

Nick's serves no wine or beer, and the prices and variety make it a reasonable place for families on a budget.

I will go back to Nick's, but for my health's sake, I'll stick to the appetizer menu … just one appetizer, no more … or I'll order an entr e to share. Until I decide to take up manual labor and need the calories, I just can't handle the kitchen's generosity.

Contact Bill of Fare at: fare@theblade.com.



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