Put it in your mouth

Where do you go to get the best damn Lebanese food in all of Portland? Nicolas, on Southeast Grand is where. Since 1986, this unassuming little restaurant has been serving its customers traditional, delicious and healthy meals for affordable prices.

With a menu that emanates authenticity and an environment that is quaint and bright, Nicolas is a great destination for either lunch or dinner. I visited Nicolas on a Sunday afternoon, and it was packed. The aromas engulfing the small room hinted of garlic, onion and Middle Eastern spices.


I scanned tables of happy patrons noticing the different platters, breads and specialty drinks, such as the strawberry yogurt drink and the fresh peach concoction. I ordered the strawberry drink and was very satisfied by its fresh blended strawberries, homemade yogurt and hint of rose water. It provided a very nice compliment to my Mezza platter.

Some of the most fulfilling (and relatively inexpensive) combinations at Nicolas can be found under the Mezza category. This Lebanese tradition consists of many small appetizer plates. Ordinarily, this platter would be eaten before an entree, although I find this combination to be a meal in itself. With your choice of meat, vegetarian, vegan or falafel, there is something for everyone.

In fact, one of the best things about Nicolas is their flexible combination of dishes that offer vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike many options, making Nicolas a mecca for alternative dieters.

On this outing, I chose the meat platter because it comes with the really fantastic Lebanese sausage kafta (like a meat skewer). Also, this dish is accompanied by hummus, some of the best falafel you can find, tabouleh and flat bread. The platters differ according to their titles: the vegan comes with mjadra (cooked lentils with rice) and a garbanzo plate, the vegetarian comes with spinach pie and the falafel delight comes with a Lebanese salad. It is safe to say that, no matter what your dietary orientation, you will not be disappointed with your choice.

On the appetizer menu, Nicolas offers a number of smaller dishes like Tahziki, a vegetarian offering consisting of rich sour cream blended with homemade yogurt, fresh garlic lemon juice and cucumbers. You can also order their splendid grape leaves stuffed with rice and seasoned beef.

Nicolas has a number of sandwiches as well, ranging from the traditional gyro with roasted tender seasoned lamb slices to the outstanding Shawarma, with fresh cuts of sirloin beef marinated over night with garlic, olive oil, ten different Middle Eastern spices with herbs and red wine rolled with saut퀌�ed onions, lettuce, tomatoes and tahini sauce.

Nicolas has an array of specialty dishes, too, which range from a savory lamb platter to the vegan deep fried eggplant or zucchini. No matter what you choose, I am confident you won’t be disappointed. And with all dishes priced under ten dollars, you won’t break the bank either. So go ahead and put Nicolas in your mouth! Oh, and they’re open seven days a week.