My recent trip to Portland, Ore., to visit with my daughter included some great places she picked out for us to eat. Knowing that I grew up in Coney Island, she decided to take me to a Portland classic locale — Nick’s Famous Coney Island Food & Cocktails.
Portland is a funky town, no doubt about that, and Nick’s fits right into its artsy cum blue-collar waterfront vibe. The bar has been on the same street for 85 years, most of those in the same spot and it looks it with its old-style bar and stools on one side and its dark interior. It reminded me of a place that could have been along the Brooklyn waterfront circa 1950.
We were there for the hot dogs and I was not disappointed — nor was my vegetarian daughter who tried their veggie dog offering. Note, of course, that hot dogs are not on my usual low-fat, low-salt diet.
But this was a vacation treat, much as Nathan’s is when I’m in NYC. Plus, oddly enough I was just getting over a bout of food poisoning the week before I visited that caused me to drop nine pounds in seven days, so I thought a food splurge was in order.
The meat hot dog I got is made for the place, a bartender there told me, and is a combination of beef and pork with a natural casing.
It was plumper than many dogs and had great mouth feel while I as chewing it. But the hot dog is just the beginning at Nick’s. Its specialty is its Coney Sauce, a mixture of ground beef and spices with a slightly taco-esque flavoring.
I ordered the Old-fashioned Dog, classic guy that I am, which was a hot dog covered with cole slaw and the Coney sauce, and of course mustard. The cole slaw was a nice light complement to the Coney sauce which was a beef heavy but tasty. I added more mustard to what it came with, I can never get enough mustard.
To not go completely off my diet, I got a side salad rather than fries as my side with a vinaigrette dressing.
As I mentioned, my daughter ordered the veggie Coney, which the menu says is “a one of a kind tofurkey kielbasa with a vegan version of our Coney sauce.”I have no idea what could have been in the veggie version of the Coney sauce, but my daughter gave it a thumbs up.
Nick;s was an out-and-out blast to go to. The bartender was from New Jersey and was able to have an in-depth conversation with me on the differences between Nathan’s hot dogs, classic Chicago Vienna Beef hot dogs and Nick’s hot dog. That alone was worth going.
Next time you’re in Portland, give Nick’s a visit, or two.