The Overhaul of the Amber Den
Dismantled tables covered with drywall dust littered the dining area of Nick's Off Market a couple weeks ago. Owner Nick Simonton said that the tables were too slippery, causing glasses to slide eerily around on their own, and a transition to booths was under way. The restaurant—which Nick opened a year ago as the Amber Den—was nearing the end of an overhaul guided by the results of a customer survey he'd undertaken. (Nick's background is in business and marketing management.)
Some of those surveyed wanted lutefisk; some wanted dishes to be conveyed by attractive naked servers. While Nick seemed bewildered by the desire for pickled fish and nudity in his restaurant, he has expanded the menu significantly in response to the survey. "We're making the sandwiches supremely excellent," he said and gazed upward, perhaps envisioning the ideal sandwich.
Though the restaurant now has a full bar, it's retaining its trademark wine on tap, which Nick, a former wine bar consultant, says reflects his attitude about wine. "My mom visited wineries in Sonoma with me one year," he said. "She's a pink-boxed-wine gal. She got tired of people telling her what to like. To me, wine can be unapproachable in a way that makes it less enjoyable." Boxed-wine lovers and professional sommeliers are equally welcome at Nick's Off Market, newly (re)opening sometime this week. And if you have a request, Nick is likely to listen to it, as long as what you want is legal and doesn't smell.