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Nico's at Pier 38 gets new and bigger space. Finally!


Nico Chaize's little lunch-and-breakfast counter is overwhelmed with business. The good news: A new restaurant is on the way.

Courtesy Nico's

There's only one thing wrong with Nico's.  As Yogi Berra once said, nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded.  Nico's was so popular, it was hard to eat there.

That's finally going to change.

Everyone knows the Nico's story.  In late 2004, a young French chef named Nico Chaize, opened a small breakfast-and-lunch take-out counter across from the Honolulu Fish Auction.

He served fish fresher than anyone's in town, and he served it cheaper.  He also made his own hamburger, his own gravy for loco mocos, trying to do plate lunches with the same devotion that he learned in high-end kitchens like Michel's and the Bistro.

Slow at first—a number of purveyors wouldn't extend him credit because they were sure he was going to fail.  Then word got out.

It got, in Nico's words, "crazy everyday."  With less than 100 seats, all outdoor patio furniture, Nico's was serving 600 plates a day, 800 on Friday.

I was there last Friday.  It was crazy.

The food (left) was good as always: furikake ahi, a generous 7-ounce cut, rare if you want it.  Plus rice, housemade ginger-garlic-cilantro sauce, and a salad of real Nalo greens.  All for $9. 

But getting the food?  A struggle to first get in the door and order.  Then a battle to get back inside to pick up your order. Want a table?  Get lucky.

Here's the good news: In a month or two, Nico's will start work a new restaurant, four times the size, with a full bar.

It will be in a building catty corner along Pier 38, meaning the new restaurant will have the same view of the fishing boats along Pier 38, with half indoor and half outdoor seating, the latter under a permanent awning facing the water.

Bigger, but not different.  "I want to keep it the same experience," says Nico.  "And the same prices.  What we're doing now is working, so we aren't going to change it."

Lunch will still be order at the counter, dinner may well be table service, with more items on the menu.

"The restaurant will still be industrial-looking, efficient, but a nicer experience," says Nico.  "No lines.  I lose so many people who come, take one look and go someplace else."

Expect the new restaurant by the end of the year. 

Nico's, Pier 38, 1133 N. Nimitz Hwy., (808) 540-1377, nicospier38.com

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