Driving I-65 through the Heart of Dixie, you can take Exit 262 B to Finley Avenue and be in the parking lot for Niki’s West in 2 minutes. Steve and I decided to pop in for lunch last week, and we drove into a crowded parking lot at 11:30 a.m. People were getting out of their cars and hurrying in, obviously anticipating a good meal on their lunch hour. Many of the patrons appeared to be coming from work, but there were plenty of others with more time to spare. We observed a group of 12, apparently from the same office, who came in and were seated and served very quickly.
We were directed to one of three large dining rooms, and the atmosphere was loud and busy. The seating capacity is 425, and I can easily imagine that number turning over at least twice during busy weekdays. It would be beyond crazy on Sundays, but Niki’s wisely closes on that day. Niki’s West is open Monday through Saturday from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Three meals a day, six days a week for hundreds of diners. What a commitment!! I will definitely be tempted to return for breakfast in the future.
At Niki’s, it’s called a steam table, rather than a buffet. Plates are served. You don’t serve yourself. The most popular is a “meat and 3” option. It is a BIG meal, AND it comes with giant yeast rolls!! The price is $12.77 and that includes the tax but not a beverage. Each day features different meats and vegetables, but always there is a large selection. From all I observed, the steam table is the most popular way to go for lunch.
We chose to order from the menu, because we were particularly interested in seafood. The seafood platter was $27.95, and we ordered it broiled rather than fried or Greek style (which is broiled with olive oil and Greek seasoning). There was a $2.25 charge for sharing a plate. It came with 2 sides, and once again, we decided to go the healthy route and had boiled okra with tomatoes and yellow squash. In my less healthy days, I would definitely have chosen fried okra and squash casserole. Oh well. Greek style chicken and steaks are also on the menu.
Although ordering from the menu was relatively fast, the ability to serve a LOT of people a LARGE variety of items QUICKLY seems to be the main attraction. The service was attentive, helpful and friendly. The taste wasn’t gourmet by any means, but it was fine. The yeast rolls were outstanding, and according to our server, “the cinnamon rolls come out at 4:00 in the afternoon.” Oh my. I can only imagine the smell and taste of those!!
Niki’s West has been serving hungry eaters in the Birmingham area since 1957. I predict many more years of popularity and success.