“Bouillabaisse is not a real well-traveling dish, and poached halibut is not a real well-traveling dish,” Leahy said during a recent phone call, “so we decided to just forget the concept for now, and just make tasty food that is going to travel well, like burgers and fried chicken.”
The response, especially in the neighborhood, was so positive that it led to the rebranding as Nick’s Westside.
“The more I talked about it with my partners, we decided that being a more approachable restaurant was probably a better business plan, at least for the near future,” Leahy said. “But, we’re still using all the same farmers and fish guys, and the same quality ingredients, just making it about food that people want to eat right now.”
Taking those ideas a step further, Leahy decided, in December, to launch a ghost kitchen for a companion takeout-and-delivery restaurant called Chicken Out, offering fried chicken with biscuits and sides, along with smoked chicken wings, roasted chicken, a fried chicken sandwich, and even a version of chicken shawarma.
The kitchen at Nick’s Westside was designed to service a 175-seat restaurant, Leahy said, “so we had the capacity to do more than we were doing, and I wanted to be able to bring all my cooks back to work. It just kind of made sense, because a lot of the ingredients were things we already had on hand, and so it was a kind of low-risk and high-reward gamble to take.”
As to why he chose chicken, Leahy said he wanted to do something that had a broad appeal, and would travel well.
“We’re not the cheapest chicken delivery out there,” he said, “but I feel like it’s a good value for the quality of food, getting an all-natural bird from Springer Mountain, and still getting farm vegetables. And, we have enough variety that people can try different types of things.”
Looking back at the closing of Aix and Tin Tin, Leahy said he thinks he made the right decision, but there’s still a sting.
“Certainly, I put a lot of work and love and soul into Aix and Tin Tin, and, you know, it was a pretty personal project,” he said. “But, I think you had to put that aside, and make a smart decision that took care of staying open, and getting as many people back working as possible.”
Also, like many other chefs and restaurant owners, Leahy said he thinks the pandemic has made his business better in many ways.
“The benefit to this whole thing is, it made us take a hard look at all our systems and business practices, and see where we could streamline and do things better, so I think we’ll be a leaner, better business when it gets back to normal,” he said.
Menu: chicken and sides
What I ordered: crispy smoked chicken wings; the four-piece crispy fried chicken, with biscuits and Brussels and cabbage slaw; baked mac and cheese; seasonal vegetables, with broccoli and carrots. Ordering and pickup were easy and efficient, and everything traveled well. I ordered the wings with the lemon pepper rub, which I didn’t love. I especially liked the slaw and crispy-topped mac and cheese. I’d be interested in trying the chicken shawarma next time.
Service options: order online for takeout, curbside pickup and delivery from DoorDash, GrubHub, Postmates or UberEats
Outdoor dining: no
Mask policy: employees wear masks
Address, phone: 956 Brady Ave NW, Atlanta; 770-838-3501
Hours: order for pickup and delivery, 3-10 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; closed Sundays and Mondays
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