King St. West became gentrified very fast. With all the fancy new restaurants popping up around Portland and King, where does one go for a quick lunch not to break the bank? A dilemma especially persistent for Ma Cherie who works in the area. Nook has been our choice for quite some time now.
The bright green stand-up sign is visible from King as well as ever-present awning making a difference for the otherwise tucked-in cafe. Even with their clean signage, we're not too sure we would have simply stumbled upon Nook when looking for lunch. This is where word-of-mouth makes all the difference. Everyone seems to know about Nook, and recommends it.
Note that in the summer they bring out chairs and tables, making a small patio area, tucked in the King St alleyway.
A few short stairs lead down to a semi-basement space with exposed pipes, wood and brick. The most memorable part are the glass cubes of light hanging from the ceiling. Other than that it is simply furnished. No time to waste here, coming down the stairs you turn the corner and are instantly greeted and asked for your order. To be honest, there were days that we find that extremely annoying as we need some time to read through their black board menus. Unless people make eye contact, that probably means they are not ready.
Nook specializes in panini sandwiches. There are plenty of them - chicken, turkey based as well as tuna and veggies. The best part of ordering a panini is that a combo gives you an option of their daily soup side or two salads side. There are always 6 unique choices of salads. This combo comes up to $10 after tax. It is very filling. I often just come and grab a large salad, which is a mix of your choice of 3 salads. Another great option is their chili (and yes, they do make a vegetarian one as well). A lot of men go for their "special" which is a baked dish. That day it was Curry Chicken with Rice.
Lastly, there is a relatively new part of their menu with smoothies and hot drinks. Plenty to choose from in this section too!
We went for their Tuscan Turkey Club and Maple Walnut Chicken paninis. After paying and deciding to stay in, we took a seat on their high chairs by the window facing King Street. We both really disliked our seating, as the tables are uncomfortably high, or perhaps the tall chairs not tall enough. Ether way we felt like children at adult table. On a positive note, it is an ideal choice if you are wearing clothing you are afraid to get food onto. The staff were very quick to bring our food. The Tuscan turkey club had plenty of pesto, some bacon, tomatoes and provolone. A great combination. Their Maple Walnut one had chicken, brie, walnut and maple syrup - a heavier choice but a unique one. We also took a side of their salads - an interesting wild rice with sting bean and papaya, as well as broccoli with cherry tomatoes and almonds. Both were original and refreshing.
This place is owned by an Asian couple (we believe). They are always very friendly and only have staff which could be easily mistaken as their family, they all work so well together. Overall, we like Nook. Much like a lot of other people employed in the area. It is a place for locals, a place to grab something you know you like, a place where the staff will likely know you by name and serve you a delicious meal with high efficiency at a low price.
I must note, if you have a sweet tooth, they also make plenty of pastries. I personally am a big fan of their brownie - not too sweet, very chocolaty and filling, with a great moist texture.
Lastly, rumor has it that they are open for breakfast too! We will be back, sometimes more than once a week.