Nicky’s Thai Kitchen – North Side Pittsburgh
Nicky’s is in one of the better patches of the North Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh, which continues to exist as a dichotomy of beautifully refurbished row houses located a block over from dilapidated crack dens. Both of my parents grew up near Spring Garden Avenue so I’ve spent some time there visiting relatives therefore I can testify that the area is looking much better these days. On the other hand I’m sure my wife was thrilled when we found a parking spot right out front. This meant that she wouldn’t have to explore the somewhat sketchy surroundings which would no doubt have had her intrinsic suburban bred Spidey-Sense tingling.
Once seated inside, we waited and waited and waited for almost half an hour until our server came over and graced our table with her presence. The waitress had an unfriendly, bordering on surly personality, and took our requests for water contritely before quickly vanishing. My wife succinctly stated our mindset up to that point with the statement “The food here better be really good for us to ever come back.”
We passed the time chatting and gazing out the front windows observing the action on Western Avenue. I noticed an interesting man exit a cab right out front and I could tell quite quickly that he was someone with money. There is just a slight but perceptible way that individuals with millions in the bank look that’s different than the rest of us. One signal was that he was wearing a suit. Rich guys wear suits when they head out of the house regardless of what activity they’re going to do. Even if it was 95°F and they were going to a baseball game, they’d be wearing a double-breasted Ermenegildo Zegna. This is the old, rich white guys’ version of “keepin’ it real”.
I slowly started to realize who the man was as he and his companion were seated next to us. After some quick wikipedia research on my phone, I put a name to a face and it turned out to be the Englishman Nigel Lythgoe from So You Think You Can Dance. A nearby female soon came over and asked for a picture and Mr. Lythgoe happily obliged. He was very gracious to the woman so I can’t report any expected celebrity egotism. It took me until later that evening to figure out why he was in Pittsburgh. As it turned out the American Idol auditions were held that week at Heinz Field and he is an original developer and producer of the show. If it wasn’t for that lack of knowledge and an inherent void of singing talent, this would have been the perfect chance to stand up and do my damn thing on Shai’s “If I Ever Fall In Love”. But I digress…
Our waitress appeared again and hurriedly took our culinary orders. Not having had the opportunity to get Thai food in some time, I mistakenly overestimated my spicy level and went with a 7 on the Shrimp Phad Thai. In retrospect I should have stuck to a 5 at most, but it was still awfully delicious considering how hot it was. The noodles were perfectly cooked and reinvigorated my love of Phad Thai, which was seriously maimed after a lunch at Lulu’s Noodle’s a few months ago.
Nicky’s is a BYOB joint* so I brought an Erdinger Weissbräu (5.6% ABV - Hefewiezen) from home to enjoy with my meal. It was solid but nothing spectacular. My wife got the Chicken Phad See Eaw for dinner, which consisted of larger noodles in a dark soy sauce. Hers was a spicy level 4 and therefore much easier on the pallet with no accompanying sacrifice in good flavors.
Final Call: Ultimately the response to my wife’s demand of great food wasn’t met. It was very good, but the service ended up leaving a worse taste in my mouth than the spicy food. I’ll drag her back with the hope of running into Simon Cowell next time.
* Unaware of Nicky’s BYOB policy, Nigel Lythgoe was forced to walk to a dive bar up the street for alcohol and came back with two Bud pounders for him and his friend.