The news came as a surprise: Nice Time Deli in Irvine will be serving its last meal tomorrow at lunch, Saturday, and then closing for good. Fellow Weekling Michelle Woo told me about it this morning, and my reaction was immediate sadness.
For many like me, the final bow of Nice Time Deli marks the end of an era. The Taiwanese purveyor of pai gu fan (pork chop rice) and other standards has fed countless families for more than a decade, but its cheap prices was especially beloved by students from nearby UC Irvine and Irvine Valley College.
I know many fellow UC Irvine alumni who regarded it as their home away from home, a sanctuary between study sessions, midterms and finals that served familiar food: inexpensive, accessible, unfussy, and most importantly good. There have been swings in quality, but for the most part, it has been doggedly dependable.
Other Nice Time Deli's in San Gabriel and Arcadia are already gone, nothing more than a memory. But until now, this Irvine branch seemed immune to failure, revived and remodeled a few years ago by new owners to stand through the ages. But apparently, it was just a stay of execution.
I called the restaurant today to confirm the closure and asked the woman how long they'll be open tonight. They'll be open till 9 p.m. And then tomorrow's curtain call.
Until then, I'm looking forward to eating my last plate of rice and pork chops! Xìexìe Nice Time Deli, and zàijiàn!