Mortar & Pestle: Coffee, Food, Alcohol? Sounds Like a Good Time!

There are a lot of opinions about this restaurant. Lets see what the Exploring Tampa crew thinks!
Mortar & Pestle, 2019
Coming from the ashes of a popular food truck, Mortar & Pestle is a concept that thrives to bring back the old timey pharmacies. You know the ones... You go to get a soda from the fountain, you wander the aisles, make your way to the lunch counter, then leave with your prescriptions. Located on the same block as local favorites Angry Chair Brewing and Trip's Diner, there's no lack of business to be had. This is also one of the few places in Seminole Heights with a real parking lot. Had you never read a review of this place and had you not heard about their filing for bankruptcy, you'd be impressed. The inside of the building is a hipster's paradise, with the industrial looking tables and chairs, the high ceiling, the steampunk-esque inspired decor. The inside of this building is cool. Next door is also a fully functional pharmacy that I wasn…

CLOSED: Nicko's Fine Foods: A Seminole Heights Tradition

Order up!And a tribute to the King.

Artsy Shot of the Nicko's Sign, 2017

UPDATE (12/12/2017): Tampa Bay Times has confirmed that Nicko's Fine Foods has closed and will not be reopening.

UPDATE (12/10/2017): Though there is no official confirmation, employees of Nicko's are claiming that Nicko's has officially closed. This post will be updated again if and when we get confirmation.


Opened in 1951 as Ayres Diner, not much can be found on the history of this diner. Back in the 1950's, Ayres Diner was known as the only 24 hour diner in town. This lead to a special visit from the King himself, Elvis Presley, who was touring through Tampa and stopped in for a bite to eat in 1956. The Elvis Booth is now marked inside the shop and you can reserve it for special occasions! In the 1980's, Nick's parents acquired the diner and ran it up until 2013, when Nick's father passed away. It was then when Nick took over the diner, researching the original look of the Ayers Diner and making some much needed updates to the classic structure. With a fresh coat of paint, new chrome accents, and some new neon lights, Nicko's was brought back to life. Patrons of the restaurant can expect to see Nick out practicing his magic for the kids to keep them entertained while the restaurant is at capacity and the crowds are waiting for the next empty seat. This is about as much of the history I can find.

Diners, 2017

When you first step into Nicko's, you notice one thing: It's tiny, even by Seminole Heights standards. Need more proof? Try using the bathroom. The decor is funky, but fitting for the era that they're trying to represent, and the clientele is made of mostly locals who seem to come often. While the Ayers Diner was opened 24/7, Nicko's is not. It's a bit of a shame that they're only open until 9. It is the PERFECT place to stop after hitting some of Seminole Heights' breweries and bars. While some will say that the staff is overly nice, I've never found that to be the case. Not that they're rude by any stretch. People just make it sound like the servers are creepy friendly. Not the case. And don't assume that the decor is the only entertainment. Nick (the owner for those of you who haven't caught on), will come out and perform magic tricks when he feels the overwhelming sense of duty. I will admit, he's very good. 

2x2x2 Breakfast, 2017

Lets start with the food. The breakfast here, as is true with every diner I've been to, is excellent. It is the sole reason diners exist, and it's what keeps them alive in the age of fast food and chain restaurants. The eggs were cooked to perfection, the bacon was just the right amount of crispness. The pancakes were a little too thick for my licking, which makes them incredibly dry for my taste. I used quite a bit of syrup to put them down. However, I was able to put them down, and they were great once the syrup was added. The Cuban toast was probably my biggest disappointment from the meal. Anybody who has worked with a press can tell you that the press gives off a very distinct flavor. The flavor on your press adds a signature flavor that nobody else will be able to duplicate. Unfortunately for me, I do not care for the signature flavor of Nicko's press. The Cuban toast as a very strange flavor to it that I will never be able to describe and I found the bottom half of my toast to be slightly soggy. Slight disappointment. However, the home fries that came with Stormy's meal more than made up for that hiccup. There are two types of home fries out there... Dry and unedible and perfectly seasoned and a joy to swallow. Nicko's definitely falls in the latter. It's very rare that I'm able to eat home fries without ketchup (we all have our quirks. Don't judge.), and this was one of those times that I was glad to put the bottle down. 

Country Fried Steak, 2017

But for every positive, there's a negative. Nicko's is INCREDIBLY small. This isn't a problem on a Thursday morning, but try coming here on a Saturday afternoon and you'll be in for a wait. I stopped in once and waited well over a half an hour for a seat. Not a big deal if you're solo, however, don't come here already hungry. I've only been to Nicko's once during a rush, so this may not be true all the time, but the staff seemed to get flustered rather quickly and the focus shifted from customer focused to trying to flip as many tables as possible. I understand, gotta make that money, but it's not as much fun when you're in desperate need of a refill. I should state again, for the record, that I have only experienced this during a crazy rush. This is not a usual behavior. However, I did experience it and it is worth noting. The food does tend to make up for any other shortcomings that may arise. It also helps that the food is incredibly affordable. Makes taking lots of people out really easy. 

Elvis Ate Here, 2017

Things you need to know before you go:
- This diner is TINY!
- The food is incredible and so is the price.
- Weekends get RIDICULOUSLY busy.
- Elvis ate here in 1956.
- Don't pay extra for the Cuban toast.
- Do pay extra for a side of home fries.

What is your favorite breakfast item? When is your favorite time to go to Nicko's? Leave a comment below. If you'd like more information on Tampa, check out my YouTube Channel and if you'd like to support my efforts, don't hesitate to buy a shirt from our Spreadshirt. Also, don't be afraid to click subscribe and you'll instantly be notified whenever a new entry is posted. Thank you all and I will see you next time!

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