Nick & Jimmy's has made a move away from its Greek roots - Albuquerque Journal

Nick & Jimmy’s has made a move away from its Greek roots

Green Chile Meatloaf, one of the New Mexican Food choices at Nick & Jimmy’s. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

Something felt amiss as I perused the menu recently at Nick & Jimmy’s, the restaurant just south of I-25 and Jefferson. It looked like the same wide-ranging roster of food I remembered from previous visits, where upmarket stuff like filet mignon and rack of lamb shared space with pizza, burgers and enchiladas. The Sole Française was there, as was the Green Chile Meatloaf, but something else was missing.

Then it hit me: The Greek Cuisine section of the menu had vanished. A few items remained, like a gyro sandwich and the flaming cheese dish called saganaki, but the souvlaki, moussaka and spanakopita that once took up an entire section of the menu, the food that spoke to the heritage of the restaurant’s founders, Nick Kapnison and Jimmy Daskalos, was nowhere to be found.

I searched online for some kind of official announcement, but all I came up with was a Facebook post pointing Nick & Jimmy’s Greek food lovers to Mykonos, a Kapnison family-owned restaurant in the Northeast Heights.

One can only speculate, but the move suggests an attempt to bring more focus to a restaurant known for covering a lot of ground since Kapnison and his former business partner Daskalos launched it in 2009 just down the hill from Jefferson.

Tuna Poki Tower, diced ahi tuna over mango and cucumber with a spicy aioli. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

The restaurant stood out for a long time as a locally owned operation in a row of chains like Pappadeaux and Fuddrucker’s. The recent arrivals of M’tucci’s Twenty-Five and Tomasita’s changed that, but Nick & Jimmy’s still offers something unique for that stretch of the I-25 corridor in the form of a high-end dining experience with live music and a frequently changing roster of specials.

The building, with its red-tiled roof and stone-faced walls, suggests a Tuscan villa. Inside, it’s split into a spacious dining room and a bar with ample seating.

When I joined a friend for weekday lunch, the dining room hummed with activity, but the bar scene was drowsy, with just a few old-timers watching golf on a large-screen TV.

We were seated in a high-backed booth, and the bartender promptly set out warm Italian bread with a tasty olive oil dip seasoned with garlic, Parmesan and red peppers flakes.

Nick & Jimmy’s offers the typical assortment of beef, pork and chicken dishes, along with one of the city’s better seafood menus. Sole, salmon, shrimp and tuna are always available, and swordfish, scallops and lobster tail show up regularly as specials. Prices for entrees land in the $20 to $30 range.

Seafood also turns up in the selection of starters ranging from $10 to $16. An item called the Tuna Poki Tower ($16) was presented as a colorful cylinder layered with diced cucumbers, mangoes and ahi tuna and topped with sliced avocados and a pile of micro-greens. A spread of Sriracha aioli echoed the color of the mango while adding creaminess and quite a bit of heat. The tuna was fresh but there was no evidence of the soy sauce and sesame oil marinade one associates with poke, and the sliced avocado was just short of ripe.

Prince Edward Island Mussels, one of many seafood offerings at Nick & Jimmy’s. (Richard S. Dargan/For the Journal)

The Prince Edward Island Mussels ($16), another seafood starter, offered up 18 or so of the black-shelled bivalves in tomato broth brimming with olives, cherry tomatoes and capers. The rich, flavorful broth reminded me of a puttanesca sauce with the mussels substituting for the anchovies. Slices of sausage added a strong fennel flavor to the mix. My friend who had never tried mussels before was a big fan of this dish. The leftover bread was perfect for sopping up the remains of the broth.

A side of Truffle Fries ($6) was just so-so. The generous pile of fries imparted a faint earthiness, but most of the fries were short, crunchy spears.

The New Mexican Food section of the menu includes rellenos, enchiladas and tacos. A spin on a diner classic, the Green Chile Meatloaf ($20) appeared as a thick slab under a coat of brown gravy. I saw diced green chile in the meatloaf, but its flavor and heat were muted. As a classic meatloaf, though, it was good. The meatloaf was moist, the gravy rich with beef flavor. It was served with silky-almost-to-the-point-of-being-runny mashed potatoes and a pile of sauteed zucchini.

Vegetarians have choices among the starters, salads and pasta dishes. The scant gluten-free options are not marked on the menu.

The bartender did a terrific job handling all the business on that side of the house. She was friendly and attentive even while juggling the responsibilities of serving drinks, taking orders and bringing out the food.

Thirteen years after opening, Nick & Jimmy’s has charted a new course away from its Greek roots. Time will tell whether local diners come along for the journey.

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