Imagine our delight, then, when friends told us that Niki'z is back in town! Sure enough, it's now on Mason Street, in a corner building that once housed the Naus Club. It's quite small, and the menu primarily consists of pub food (except once a month, but more on that later). Alas, no linguine or pizza, but Nick told us plans are in the works for an expansion that could include a pizza oven. And, they still have that lunch rewards card - buy nine items, get the card punched and get a sandwich free next time you go.
The first wonderful surprise is a popcorn machine just inside the door. I absolutely love popcorn - there are relatively large containers and a scoop right by the machine for DIY scoops. The surprise, though, is that there's a noticeable kick of heat. I've asked our server a couple of times how they do it, but she's just smiled and said it's a secret. One day, however, I discovered the "secret" - but no, I won't reveal it here.
Although the menu is limited compared with what the restaurant used to have, everything we've tried here has been excellent - including one important carryover: Niki's homemade Italian hot sausage patty sandwich, topped with sauteed peppers and onions and provolone cheese on a toasted Italian roll ($6.99). Yum!
There's a good selection of appetizers here, including Italian fried greens sauteed in olive oil and garlic ($4.50), Jalapeno bottle caps ($4.99) and even fried pickle slices ($4.99). That last one, however, we'll leave to someone else to try. One thing that's still on my to-eat list as of this writing is Niki'z Stuffed Hot Peppers - yellow Hungarian peppers stuffed with special cheese mix served over marinara sauce ($6.50). I used to love them at the old place, and I have no doubt they're delicious here as well.
Daily specials are listed on a board - at this writing, Tuesday is 50-cent wing day, for instance. But generally, we stick with our favorite things, and if I don't get that hot sausage sandwich it's likely to be the traditional gyro ($6.50). A grilled chicken gyro is available, too, but nothing will do for me except the traditional. It's a pita filled with thin slices of gyro meat plus tomato, black olives, onion, lettuce and homemade cucumber sauce.
Still another fave is the chicken fingers basket with fries ($6.50) - the breading isn't too heavy and tastes great, as does the dipping sauce. Prefer clams? There's a basket of them as well, also $6.50. You'll find several dinner-size salads, and build-your-own burgers, with half a pound of ground sirloin, start at $5.50.
The wings are good here as well - both traditional and boneless (six for $4.50 and six for $5, respectively). Our sauce preference is butter garlic or garlic parmesan, but there are plenty of other choices. Niki'z does catering, too, and a tray of 36 wings is $22.50, for instance.
On our most recent visit, though, we tried a couple of different items (for us, at least). Jack had the chicken melt pita ($6.50, and he asked for it on a regular bun). It was delicious - grilled chicken breast topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions and topped with melted American cheese. I tried - and loved - the pulled pork BBQ ($6.99), a large sandwich of shredded hickory pit roasted pork shoulder on an Italian roll. It comes with a side of Niki'z special BBQ sauce, which is delicious as well. All sandwiches, I should add, come with either pasta salad or cole slaw; for a buck more you can substitute fries, and an extra 50 cents will let you turn just about any sandwich into a wrap.
For a really big treat, come here on the first Saturday of each month, when Nick cranks up that hickory pit to crank out roasted lamb, pork (including ribs), chicken and ham - all available for takeout (meats are sold by the pound and chickens are sold by halves and wholes). I've been told there's quite a crowd, so it might be a good idea to call ahead and order what you want. We haven't yet tried most of these, although ham and chicken are on our must-eat list. We can, however, attest to the deliciousness of those ribs, which are available other times. On a recent Saturday evening, in fact, we and friends Jerry and Barb from Niles licked our fingers as each of us got a half rack ($10, including two sides). Yum!
If you go:
508 Mason St.
Niles, Ohio 44446
Open daily at 11 a.m.