If your ideal dinner consists of chicken tenders and french fries, Nikki Green is not the restaurant for you. The menu provides plant-based meals in a unique way so that we vegetarians don’t have to order salads everywhere we go or casually push pieces of sausage to the edge of our plate for our carnivore friends to eye during the entire meal. It isn’t for the close-minded or those averse to a variety of vegetables in all their forms. Its limited menu doesn’t appeal to picky eaters, but it encourages an expansion of the idea of what dinner consists of outside the box of meat and potatoes.
When I first walked into Nikki Green, I thought I was in the wrong place. The lighting was harsh and bright, making me feel like I was in an art gallery as opposed to a restaurant. There were a few tables and a bar-like section with high stools that faced the parking lot. It was the type of place that made you want to eat and get out as quickly as possible.
At first glance, the menu made me extremely nervous. There were a total of nine options to choose from, all in bowls and all categorized as either savory or sweet. The sweet bowls consisted of a variety of blended fruits, nuts and chocolate — a little too dessert-like for dinner. I chose the Beetbox Bowl with cauliflower rice, roasted mushrooms, zucchini noodles, purple cabbage and avocado with a beetroot dressing, and my foodie associate ordered the Tangi Bowl with jasmine rice, peas, sunflower seeds, broccoli, ginger and tofu with a teriyaki dressing.
Before digging into the Beetbox Bowl, I tasted each ingredient separately, including the dressing. This was a mistake. Each component on its own was disappointing — either very plain or intensely flavored. Sampling the Tangi Bowl gave me the same experience. However, mixing everything together created a whole new experience. The strong flavors from the beetroot dressing blended with the plain vegetables, while the crunchy texture of the zucchini noodles was enhanced by the creamy avocado. The soft rice and tofu were offset by the sunflower seeds, and the ginger provided an occasional break from the teriyaki. The whole was significantly better than the parts. My associate cleaned his bowl even after complaining about the ginger and the lack of meat.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation and the quality of the vegetarian cuisine offered at Nikki Green, even after entering with a pessimistic mindset that was exacerbated by all the lights. It was unique, quick, cheaper than many other dinner options on The Commons ($10-$13 for one bowl) and I didn’t feel that heaviness I usually feel when I go out to dinner and eat rich foods loaded with salt and fat. However, the narrow menu restricts the ability to visit regularly — after a few meals, the whole menu would be exhausted. I still recommend giving it a try because it adds to Ithaca’s restaurant diversity in a bit of a healthier way, and it shows the versatility of fruits and vegetables that we nutrition majors try to force on all of our peers.
Serves: Plant-based bowls
Vibe: Earthy library