Bar Nico’s Squash Milpa appetizer consists of roasted squash, plum slices, mustard seeds and a citrus-spiked tahini dip.
Writer: Karla Walsh
Put that Zoom meeting on mute for 30 seconds, hop on the Bar Nico website and make a reservation for opening day—set for next Tuesday, Oct. 18—or as soon as possible after that. After my sneak peek of the space and the menu on Wednesday night, I can verify that you won’t want to wait any longer than necessary to savor these south-of-the-border-inspired plates. Plus, manager Emily Nelson promises that the lineup will change often, so you’ll want to try these recipes while the season and supplies last.
Bar Nico (428 E. Locust St., which, in a former life, was the Continental), is a welcome, colorful and creative addition to the East Village. The menu echoes the dining room’s aesthetic: bright, fresh and modern yet comforting. This is the latest project from Jason Simon, who also created Alba, Eatery A, Motley School Tavern and Parlor.
Chef Matt Small has been perfecting his taco strategy since early in the pandemic, when he offered them takeout-style from his kitchen at Alba. They were good then but are even better now. On Bar Nico’s debut menu, he’s showing off the best from his two-plus years of experimentation, research and travel. While produce and meats are all sourced as locally as possible, masa is flown in from Mexico, ground in-house, and transformed into tortillas for the large taco roster. Vegetables, seafood, corn and potato-based dishes are ideal for sharing, and those three-per-order taco platters are definitely sizable enough for a duo as well, especially if you want to add a dessert. (Psst … you do.)
Bourbon, tequila and mezcal star in several of the well-balanced cocktails, and Garrett Dotsch, the general manager from Alba, curated the wine list to feature fresher, lighter, delightful food pairing options. Beers and spiked seltzers are also available.
To pair with those beverages, here are my top three recommendations for your food flight:
- Start with the Squash Milpa ($10). Roasted squash and plum slices meet mustard seeds and a citrus-spiked tahini dip that’s somewhat reminiscent of hummus. Scoop up each zesty bite with corn chips.
- Savor a trio of Braised Short Rib Tacos ($13). I’ve never thought to use sauerkraut as a taco condiment, but I’m now sold on the concept. Salsa negra, pickled mustard seeds, and a side of lime, radish, cilantro and white onion complete the entree.
- Dive into a slice of Dulce de Leche Basque-Style Cheesecake ($9), a generous portion of the cloud-like classic Spanish dessert. Its signature dark top—no, it doesn’t taste burnt—is accented by vanilla whipped cream, dulce de leche sauce and chocolate mole crisps.
Even though Bar Nico is just on the cusp of opening, it appears to be poised to rank among the best East Village venues, bar none.
Bar Nico will be open 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 428 E. Locust St. See barnicodsm.com for more details, book your table on Resy, and follow along with new menu additions on Instagram at @barnicodsm.