There’s a large sign above the doorway of Nina’s Breakfast and Brunch. It reads “Welcome.” And in that one simple word is the philosophy of Teri Downey, who opened Nina’s in January. Everyone is welcome!
When guests come through the door, they’re greeted with a friendly “hello” or “good morning,” often from Downey herself. Soon they’re looking at a menu filled with her signature creations and, if they’re so inclined, sipping a cup of “the best coffee.”
“It’s actually roasted at a place in Kirkwood. It’s phenomenal either hot or iced,” Downey said. Soon she will be selling the coffee for brewing at home. Customers asked and Downey delivered. It’s what she does, even when it comes to menu items.
“We have great food on the menu, but we also want our customers to know that they can make it their own,” Downey said. “I was having scrambled eggs loaded with vegetables and a customer saw it and said, ‘If that was on the menu, I’d order that.’ I said, ‘So order it.’ People don’t think about ordering things that are off the menu, so we put the Veggie Scramble on the menu. But the point is, they can.”
Of course, it’s hard to think “off the menu” when so many delicious choices are “on the menu.” Point in case, Downey’s handcrafted buttermilk biscuits that serve as the base of the Nina Breakfast Platter – two eggs slathered with pork sausage gravy and topped with bacon crumbles and cheddar cheese – and both her Morning Chicken Poppy and the Ultimate Gravy and Biscuits.
“All of our meals that come with a biscuit will only come with one because it’s that big,” Downey said. “It’s awesome. It’s a recipe I made specifically for Nina’s because I couldn’t find a good biscuit recipe. So, I set out to create one. I was making biscuits daily for months.”
But Downey’s labor paid off in a biscuit that is tender on the inside, crispy on the outside and buttery through and through. When topped with Nina’s loaded sausage gravy, it’s as Facebook reviewer Kim says: “Hands down the best biscuits and gravy I have ever had!”
The trick is that the gravy is loaded with sausage and just the right amount of Downey’s signature pepper blend.
The Morning Chicken Poppy is a riff on a family favorite casserole that pairs a sour cream-based gravy with poppy seeds and shredded chicken, served over a biscuit and topped with bacon and butter cracker crumbles. Each richly flavored bite melts in your mouth.
“When I was getting ready to open Nina’s, my daughter said, ‘Mom, you have to serve the Chicken Poppy,’” Downey said.
Today, she has not only the breakfast version but also a lunch casserole. Speaking of lunch, customer Jeff recommends indulging in Taco Tuesdays.
“We do four different types of tacos – your Classic Beef, a Sriracha Honey Chicken, a Shrimp Taco and a Chorizo Taco. If you like spicy, the chorizo’s the one,” Downey said, noting that at Nina’s everything that can be made from scratch is made from scratch right down to its taco seasoning.
Because Nina’s has a liquor license you can enjoy your tacos, or any menu item, with a Tequila Sunrise and a signature cocktail, including the Hurricane Nina.
For a cozy restaurant, the menu is robust.
“I guess that means people will just have to come visit us,” Downey said.
Future guests can start with the restaurant’s website and Facebook page where they can read about the menu and learn about upcoming events such as the Kids Cookie Workshop and Holiday Pie orders.
“My house always was the one that when people came over, like my kids’ friends, I’d cook for them or with them. I’m doing the same thing now at Nina’s,” Downey said.
3752 Monticello Plaza Drive • O’Fallon • (636) 498-2426 •letsmeetatninas.com Hours: 6 a.m.-1 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 7 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday-Sunday; closed Monday