Fresh-Cut Fries and Fresh Fish at The Nickel
The Nickel Sandwich Grill may be known for its barbecue and smoked boudin, but I'm here to tell you today that the actual sandwiches themselves shouldn't be overlooked—namely the catfish po'boy and the old-fashioned cheeseburger. Both come with your choice of onion rings or french fries for less than $6 each. The onion rings (above) are amazing—thick slices of sweet onion in a sturdy, crunchy batter that doesn't crumble or fall apart with the first bite—so understand that when I say the fries are even better, that means the fries are out of this world.
The Nickel Sandwich Grill
5601 Lyons Ave
They're hand-cut from skin-on potatoes, as thick and substantial as those onion rings, then fried until crispy outside yet still soft and starchy inside. They're liberally coated with salt and Cajun seasoning that tastes a little like Tony Chachere's, to the point where ketchup is rendered moot, a crass interloper. They're scorching hot when The Nickel scoops them out of the fryer and into your bag; waiting for them to cool off is something best accomplished by taking your food to-go, parking the bag safely away from arm's reach while you head back home or to work. (Also, there's no A/C in the small dining room off The Nickel's big kitchen, so taking your food to go also ensures you won't be sweating into your po-boy.)
If you're a fan of the burger at Guy's Meat Market or Chief's Cajun Snack Shack, you'll love the smoky flavor the barbecue joint imparts into its beef patties. Who needs smoky bacon when the burger itself tastes like a rack of champion ribs? But for my money, I prefer The Nickel's catfish po-boy—the same sandwich I've been ordering for going on three years now.
As with its perfectly battered onion rings, the catfish is given a generous coating of batter—cornmeal, in this case—that clings neatly to each delicate, flaky bite of fish as you crunch your way through. It's served on a hunk of French bread that's crusty outside, soft inside, and positively dripping with tartar sauce. If the crunch of the fried catfish itself isn't enough, the dill pickle and red onion slices add to the textural joy of chomping your way through one of these beasts (which I've still never managed to finish on my own).
The Nickel gets busy at lunch, so prepare to wait for your order at peak hours. I prefer to order at the outside window rather than inside the sweltering kitchen; the front porch area out there is also the best place to sit and listen to neighborhood gossip and goings-on. And when fall finally hits, you can stop taking your food to-go and enjoy it at The Nickel itself, which usually has a funky soundtrack perfect for po-boys piped through its stereo system and plenty of cheap beers in the cooler to wash it all down with.