Saturday night, Ted and I decided to try a little place near us called Nibblers. It’s located in a strip mall in the next town over, and I really like the idea of the place. They do sustainable food, and it’s all local and very fresh. As much as possible, they get their ingredients from the local Farmers’ Markets. As a matter of fact, I found out about Nibblers a year or so ago when they opened, and they had a booth at the Farmers’ Market, where they were giving out really yummy samples of something or another on a corn chip, and I’ve wanted to try it out ever since.

I would call it a tapas bar/wine bar combo, similar to another local restaurant that I love, Va De Vi. They had a very large selection of wines, and the servings are what is called, “small plates”, meaning there’s not much there. That’s OK with me, as I often like to try little bits of several things at restaurants.

It’s disappointing, then, to report that we really disliked our meal. We started with flash fried spinach, which was kind of how it sounds…spinach that has been very quickly deep fried in very hot oil, so that it’s crisp, sort of like a potato chip. It’s a clever idea, and I enjoyed the surprise of the crunchy texture. Unfortunately, all I could taste was the oil and salt.

We then tried a Jambalaya Cake, which was sort of like a crab cake. Again, all we tasted was the oil. Getting tired of olive oil at this point, no matter how local and sustainable it might be.

Next was a salmon dish, which really LOOKED like fresh salmon, but tasted to me like canned salmon. Not fresh, overcooked, blah. I didn’t finish it. Ted was very hungry, so he finished his, but he didn’t really enjoy it.

Last, we had some potato wedges with an aoli. The potatoes were probably the best thing we tried all night. The skin was crispy, the inside was tender, the flavor was mostly good…but still, they tasted far too much of oil.

We were in a bit of a rush, so we didn’t have any wine with our meal. I think some red wine might have cut the taste of the oil in our mouths. As it was, we had to eat or drink something when we got home to get the greasy taste and feel out of our mouths.

To be fair, we didn’t mention our disappointment to our waitress. The service was fine, but as I said, we were in a hurry, so we didn’t really have time to try to suss out if there was a way to salvage our meal or not. Having worked in restaurants, albeit many years ago, I know that this isn’t fair, and doesn’t give the staff a chance to fix things. On the other hand, I kind of felt like we should be able to pop into a cute neighborhood tapas place and try a few things on a tight schedule, without having to go into the sort of negotiations that would have come next. Want to try something else? Want some wine? Desert? No, we just need to go. That sort of thing.

I doubt we’ll give it a second chance. The meal wasn’t terribly expensive, but it wasn’t cheap either, and there are plenty of other restaurants in our area where we can get a reliably good meal. Too bad. I really wanted to like it.

11 thoughts on “Nibblers

  1. Hi there,
    Thanks so much for posting about our little restaurant and your experience. We always love to have new people try out our little place, though we are so sorry that you didn’t enjoy your first experience.
    Just for the sake of your audience, please note that as a restaurateur it is difficult to help people have a great time unless you tell us your experience was off when you are there. If you let any restaurant know it’s a less than wonderful experience, the good ones can turn it around then and there.
    As the main issue you had was oil and you ordered three dishes on the menu that ae brought out from the deep fryer. If you had mentioned an issue when there, we would have suggested some dishes like our proscuitto wrapped figs, one of this month’s highlights: like the fricasse or the gumbo, or even the trout amandine.
    The salmon is cedar plank roasted and that can give the salmon a smoky flavor, but I can’t explain the issue as we use only fresh wild salmon. I will definitely check out the dish more closely based on your issue.
    It is always the wish of a restaurant to be able to make your one experience of popping in and having a couple of plates be brillant — and there are so many factors that make a difference
    I am very happy the service was good and that you liked the atmosphere. It’s great when components of the dining experience work. However, we would love for your entire experience to be a great one.
    We would love for you and Ted to give us another try, and let Daniel and I bring you a couple of dishes from the menu that might give you a different (and better) experience. Please call and ask for Trace or Daniel and let me know when you would like to come in.
    Since most restaurant reviewers give a restaurant three or so tries before they post a review, perhaps you’ll give us another chance so we can have the opportunity to turn your experience around.

    Have a great day,
    Trace Leighton
    Nibblers Eatery & Wine Bar

  2. I found that a lot with tapas in Seville. And with my host family’s cooking…they LOVE their olive oil there! Too bad it didn’t turn out better for you guys!

    A little off-topic but still about food…got a postcard in the mail yesterday advertising a new Farmer’s Market opening this Saturday morning, 9am. Mitchell and N. Wiget over in Shadelands. Spence and I will most likely ride over to check it out. Thought you’d like to know about it and didn’t know if the mailing was just sent to the immediate neighborhood. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. You’re right, Jimmy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a restaurant owner comment on a personal blog before. She seems very thoughtful and wants to make sure her customers have a wonderful dining experience.

  4. Well, even though it wasn’t a good experience, when you’ve got the owner commenting on your blog and inviting you back to make things right, it sounds like you might have a better experience the second time around!

    In general, I love tapas-style restaurants, and the idea of finding one that uses locally grown food!

  5. I love the whole idea of a place like this. Local and small plates–my kind of stuff. I know you’ll go back now that you’ve gotten a personal invitation; make sure to let us know how it went.

  6. I love to see all this wonderful discussion of fun neighborhood restaurants, tapas, local & sustainability, etc…. It really makes me feel great about the world around me. And as the co-president of the Contra Costa Certified Farmer’s Markets, I love the great promotion this blog is giving to our local markets.
    I’m the chef at Nibblers, Trace is my partner both in the restaurant and in the rest of our lives. I want to thank you for allowing us to understand your issues in a format we can understand and respond to.
    Beyond echoing Trace’s comments above, I would like to add a couple things…
    -first, thanks to all our local fans who’ve kept us in business for four years. Local diners like yourselves who are concerned about quality and sustainability are our lifeblood.
    -second, I’m blown away by your displeasure with dishes our guests usually love. It’s a good heads up for me to watch everything that much more closely. Freshness, clean, distinct flavors & balance are things I really strive for in our menu & preparations, and I’m really sorry this isn’t what you experienced.
    -finally, as the person responsible for our concept & decor, let me thank you so much for the ringing endorsement; this is a totally more up front & open minded review than the ones we get saying the food was good but the atmosphere was too casual & the plates were all too small.
    I really hope you do give us a second try, and with a weekly changing menu, I’m sure you’ll see why our regulars come back like they do.

    Daniel Clayton
    chef de cuisine
    Nibblers Eatery & Wine Bar

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  8. The power of the pen! That is pretty cool the owner and chef commented, good for them!! I can’t wait to hear about your next experience…

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