The Nickel comes across as fairly laid-back during brunch, especially considering its location inside the posh Hotel Teatro downtown. Why? Well for starters, any time the flavors of your favorite childhood breakfast cereals are offered in adult beverages, formality already seems tossed out the window.
The restaurant's brunch menu boasts a decent selection of both traditional and unique house creations, many worth the trip into downtown (if you don't happen to be a hotel guest). But the Nickel sets itself apart with its spectacular breakfast cocktail specials, the likes of which I haven't seen elsewhere in Denver (or in other cities I've visited, for that matter).
Lets start with the food, though, much of which offers lighter takes on standard dishes. I started with a fruit and quinoa salad filled with a mix of fresh melon balls in a cherry vinaigrette. I’m not the world’s biggest quinoa fan, but here it worked well when dressed up with fruit. The quinoa wasn’t too crunchy, but still added pleasant texture around the melon, and edible flowers added visual appeal.
Chicken and waffles has become a common brunch dish at trendy eateries around town, but the Nickel spurns the deep fryer in favor of grilled chicken on top of cornmeal waffles. It turned out to be a delightful twist on a classic while still staying true to its Southern roots, and the waffles were lighter than what you might expect from cornmeal. And instead of cloying syrup, the dish came with a smooth avocado cream, which I generously spread into every nook and cranny of the waffle.
Clearly the Nickel loves grilled chicken, as it made an appearance again in the Nickel Sandwich, dressed to the nines with more avocado as well as romesco sauce, pickled squash and a fried egg, all on a focaccia roll. The chicken was moist, and the pickled squash didn’t overpower the meal or turn the bread into a soggy mess. All these factors (plus a side of home fries) equal a perfect sandwich for me.
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Morgan Foote, front-of-house supervisor for brunch, explains the kitchen's approach to the weekend meal: "Our chefs are good at creating new items and can quickly change up the menu to include what is fresh at the market."
Now for those drinks: For $20, you'll get a bottomless mix-and-match selection of Bloody Marys, a charcuterie bar, mimosas with orange, cranberry or grapefruit juice, and my favorite, the White Russian bar. The process is simple: Your server brings you a tumbler with vodka and Kahlúa, which you then top with your choice of three milks that have been infused with cereal. On my visit, the options were Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Krispies. I opted for the Cocoa Krispies to make a sort of mocha concoction, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch to capture the fleeting essence of fall (as a kid sees it, at least). A cocktail isn't complete without a garnish, so the Nickel also provides corresponding dry cereals to top off your creation.
I have concluded that if you aren’t putting vodka in your cereal (or cereal in your vodka), then you're doing breakfast wrong.
The Nickel is located at 1100 14th Street. For more information, call 720-889-2128 or visit the restaurant's website. Hot tip: There's a two-hour limit per table on bottomless drinks, so plan your consumption accordingly.