Food & Drink

Wooden Nickel Bar and Grill Spans Generations

The locals gathering spot is described as a melting pot for the city of Watsonville.

Daniel Tavares settles in at the bar on a recent Thursday evening at the Wooden Nickel Bar and Grill in Watsonville. PHOTO: TARMO HANNULA

The Wooden Nickel Bar and Grill is a locals gathering spot with a generational following that owner Leo Welsh describes as a melting pot for the city of Watsonville. He bought the place 38 years ago; before that, it was a bar dating back to 1935. He says veterans in their 90s have told him they had a drink there before going off to fight in World War II. Welsh is also the chef—when no one responded to his original “Help Wanted” ad, he decided to take on the role himself. He describes the food as continental American cuisine, and they are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday from 9am-8pm. GT spoke to him recently about the menu’s mentionables.

What breakfast dishes are most popular?

LEO WELSH: We probably sell more skirt steak than anything else, which is part of our steak and eggs breakfast. It’s marinated, charbroiled, and teriyaki glazed and comes with eggs of choice, hash browns or home fries, and toast or buttermilk pancakes. Another popular dish is our Dirt Digger, named in honor of our local construction workers who like to eat big. It has ham, bacon and sausage, and it’s a really hearty and filling plate.

What highlights are on the lunch and dinner menu?

Our most popular lunch item is our Nickel Burger, a rich and flavorful half-pound patty on a sourdough bun that comes topped with bacon, mushrooms, avocado, cheese, lettuce, and sprouts. It has won Best Burger in South County several times. Our clam chowder [available Friday and Saturday only] is also a must-try. People often come in just for it, and it can come with one of our many half-sandwiches. For dinner, we feature chargrilled ribeye, New York, and skirt steaks. They come with soup or salad, a baked potato, house vegetables, and are topped with mushrooms sautéed in butter and garlic. We do a ton of fish and chips, too. The fish is always fresh from Stagnaro’s and is done classically and lightly battered. On every lunch and dinner plate, we also serve a slice of housemade chocolate cake. It’s kind of our signature touch; people really like it and talk about it, and it’s a unique after dinner treat. But sometimes people eat it first, almost as like an appetizer—and often ask for another slice later for dessert.1819 Freedom Blvd., Freedom. 831-724-2600, woodennickeltoo.weebly.com.

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