Portland Lebanese Institution Nicholas Restaurant Has Opened in a New, Larger Space

The Southeast Madison Street building has been updated and remodeled and includes a heated patio.

Nicholas Restaurant has opened in its new space on Southeast Madison Street. Photo courtesy of Nicholas.

One of Portland's oldest Lebanese-Mediterranean restaurants is kicking off its first full week in business at a long-anticipated new location.

Nicholas moved from its original flagship on Southeast Grand Avenue to a 4,000-square-foot space at 1109 SE Madison St., officially welcoming customers last Thursday. That building was formerly occupied by Mad Son's Pub until 2017 and Madison's Bar & Grill prior to that.

Preparation for the relocation began last fall, which was complicated by the COVID-19 outbreak, but the founding Dibe family made it work despite those challenges.

"A global pandemic is not the ideal time to open a new restaurant, but we're excited to bring our customers a larger and safer space to dine," said second-generation owner Hilda Dibe, who now oversees all three locations. "The new location builds on my parents' legacy, one that allows me to expand my vision and retain our cultural heritage."

Original owners Nicholas and Linda Dibe fled war-torn Beirut in the early '80s and immigrated to Portland with their four young daughters. In 1987, Nicholas invested his entire pension in the restaurant, which originally served Greek food, pizza and calzones.

Over time, the couple added some of their favorite Lebanese dishes and the menu's popularity grew. That allowed the family to expand and open spinoffs on Northeast Broadway and in Gresham.

The new restaurant increases the dining room by 3,000 square feet, allowing tables to be spread apart for safety precautions during the pandemic. There is also a heated outdoor patio. And anyone who remembers the building's décor under its previous iterations should be delighted by a remodel that includes handcrafted mosaic tiles, pendant lights and private booths.

The move also prompted the introduction of a beverage program that pays homage to the Dibes' home country.

Nicholas Restaurant is finally open in its new Southeast Madison Street building.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.