I joined FusionFest for their October 2022 Diversitastic! Dining Experience for an evening immersing myself in true southern hospitality.
FusionFest is a project of the Orange County Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs and a nonprofit organization with the mission to celebrate the people and the many different cultures that make Central Florida awesome by showcasing talents, sharing stories, driving innovation and building community based on respect and understanding.
This month's cultural experience showcased Nikki's Place, an institution in the Parramore district of Downtown Orlando. The long running establishment is small in size but big in flavor and hospitality! And the food? Well, let's just say that if you're craving authentic southern cooking, THIS is the spot to visit when you're in Downtown Orlando.
A Brief History Of Nikki's Place In Downtown Orlando
Nikki's Place is located at in the Parramore neighborhood, located just to the east of Downtown Orlando at 742 Carter St, Orlando, FL 32805.
The restaurant was founded in 1999 by Chef Nick Akins in the same building where he got his start in the restaurant industry back in 1952. Back then, Chef Nick was just a boy in the neighborhood who was brought in by Mama Rosser to work at her restaurant as a dishwasher. Over the years Chef Nick worked his way up in the kitchen and began honing his culinary skills.
Nikki's Place is named after Chef Nick's daughter, Shannea Akins, who they affectionately call Nikki. At Nikki's place, everyone is treated like a visiting member of the family, and they'll even great you with a friendly "hey cousin!"
Diversitastic! Dining Experience At Nikki's Place
In this two hour cultural experience curated by Monica Tamborello of the FusionFest team, we had an opportunity to sample a wide selection of Nikki's Place authentic soul food menu, stories, song, and poetry.
We started with incredible appetizers! First were the fried green tomatoes and fresh fried okra. Let me tell you something, I could eat those fried green tomatoes EVERYDAY! The outside crust was light but had the perfect amount of crunch and seasoning. On the inside was a super tender green tomato. I mean, that's like eating a vegetable, right?
The main courses and sides started to come out as we heard from an incredibly talented young lady who shared a thought-provoking spoken word piece that touched everyone.
All of the dishes were served in small, family-style portions, but it felt like the dishes just kept on coming. We had smothered pork chops, pig feet with barbeque sauce, rib tips, and beef stew as the main dishes. Sides included cornbread, yellow and white rice, candied yams, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, black-eyed peas, cabbage, rutabagas, and potato salad (Did I mention there was a lot of food?).
While we "sampled" the menu (this was actually a feast), we were delighted by the voice of Qiana Miles, who performed "Midnight Train To Georgia" as well as one of her own original songs called "WTF", which stands for worth the fight. Her original song was a motivational number that left everyone inspired and loving themselves just a little bit more. Here's a portion of her performance.
To close, the Akins Family came out with their team where they were praised with a round of applause and they shared a little more about their story with us. Events like this are so important because they provide us with an opportunity to see the mutual benefit that businesses like this have on the community and vice versa.
The next time you consider going out for a meal, whether solo or with friends/family/colleagues, consider supporting a local small business instead of a major corporation. You're likely to have an incredible meal while supporting an incredible family who supports the community as well, just like the family at Nikki's Place.
If you're in Orlando and looking for some authentic southern comfort food, make sure to check out Nikki's Place!