Nothin' but Nuggets at the Nugget Spot
The woman behind the counter at the recently opened Nugget Spot is well rehearsed in explaining the ordering process to first time customers, "Choose between chicken and pork, then pick one of the four coatings. Each order ($7, eight nuggets) comes with your choice of sauce."
In short, the Nugget Spot fits the mold of a single item restaurant that offers creative variations of an iconic dish. The playful theme of the menu at the Nugget Spot is reinforced by incorporating ingredients like Cheez-Its, Ritz crackers, pretzels, and rice crispies.
The nuggets differ from a fast food product though in that they are not molds of forcemeat, stamped and fried in uniform oblique shapes; the use of my chunks of breast meat may cause the chicken nugget enthusiasts to proclaim they are actually mini tenders. Nevertheless, they are crisp, fatty, and salty with a juicy bite—exactly what you would look for in a nugget. The pork nuggets are also whole chunks, but are just slightly tougher than their chicken counterparts, and don't have a noticeably strong pork flavor.
Of the four options for coatings, the Southern Fried style closely recalls the craggly batter of a McNugget, though much more peppery; an order of the Southern Fried nuggets with their honey dijon or barbecue sauce is a safe bet for those who prefer not to tinker with a classic combination. But the boldest flavor comes from the Ritzy Ranch coating which is dusted with a powdered ranch dressing, rich in tangy buttermilk. The Cheez-it and Pretzel coating both fail to deliver any strong cheddar or pretzel flavor.
Many would consider the nugget merely a vehicle to deliver dipping sauce, so it's no surprise that the Nugget Spot offers eight varieties. If you're looking to stray from the aforementioned classic honey mustard or barbecue sauce, the wasabi mayonnaise offers a pleasant latent heat that's not at all aggressive to your sinuses. Their blue cheese dressing is also surprisingly funky, removing any doubts that it may be from a bottle. And if you're a fan of McDonalds green packets of sweet and sour sauce, the Mumbo sauce comes closest, only bringing much more sour to the party.
As is the case with most fried foods, your nuggets are at their best when eaten immediately, which makes me wish that their space was more inviting to dine in. The narrow store that the Nugget Spot occupies is brightly lit, economically packed with seats, and generally feels like a fast food joint—not exactly the kind of place you want to linger around, even if they do offer affordable beer and a big screen TV.
Ultimately, that seems to be a common thread amongst the one item restaurants in New York City, they offer no more than what their name promises, not on the menu nor in their atmosphere, supposing that it's enough to be the definitive destination for one particular dish. For the Nugget Spot it just might work; if a friend of mine ever has a hard craving for chicken nuggets, I know where to take them.