The trick to eating at Big Nick’s in the Upper West Side is to arrive hungry, but not starving. Otherwise, their 28-page menu — which includes more than 40 types of burgers, nearly as many specialty pizzas, two dozen salads and even more sandwiches, Greek options, an around-the-clock breakfast section, all types of pasta, and on and on — might just overwhelm. Trust me on this one.
But aside from that little caveat, Big Nick’s really is special in this city. It’s wood veneer walls are covered in a collage of photos, notes from the management and handwritten menu specials that only could have grown organically over decades. Children are given balloons. The staff is brisk, occasionally gruff, but always accommodating.
It took me about three times of eating at Big Nick’s before I really get a handle on it, and my strategy now is to hone in on what general category of food I’m interested in and ignore the other sections of the menu as if they’re not there at all.
In fact, on this night I already knew one of two things I was ordering before I walked in the door: the Grecian-style spinach ($4.50), listed under appetizers, page 6.
Not creamed spinach, not like any other cooked spinach dish I’ve ever had really, the spinach is laced with feta, slices of onion, and some sort of (assuming Grecian) seasoning, garnished with tomato and cucumber slices and a lemon wedge and served hot.
It’s a fantastic way to dress up spinach, tastes good, and is so good for you. (Of course, it was my mother, the dietician, who first picked out this fairly obscure appetizer when I brought here here).
Being that my whole table was bathed in a warm, pink glow from Big Nick’s neon sign advertising how daring and delicious their pizza is, for part two, I decided to try a slice of the Fricasse pizza ($3.75), which, according to the menu, is: “a Big Nick original & NYC’s first green pizza!”
More feta, more spinach, plus onion, herbs in a cream sauce — it was okay, a little watery, actually. I’ve previously heard other diners rave about this pizza, which is what had piqued my interest. Was it that I was spinach saturated? That I prefer a pizza not so wholesome? I’m not sure. No matter, there are dozens of other pies to pick from next time.
Big Nick’s, 2175 Broadway, at W. 77th Street, 212-724-3010 (pizza) 212-362-9238 (burgers and other)