Nic's burgers can now be enjoyed by the masses
About two years ago, Justin “Nic” told me he’d always wondered if you could serve food like his, that is simple, crowd-pleasing diner fare, that would work in an elegant setting. A place with wood paneling, fancy light fixtures, and wood floors. A place where the wait staff operated as if they were serving French cuisine. A place with an underground lounge decked out with periwinkle velvet booths, low lights, and a hand-crafted wood bar shadowed in low light.
“Ya think people would like that? You think they’d come in?” Nic asked.
I told him if he was the one making the burgers, it could work. I went on to tell him he was making burgers in a dumpster people would at least give it a try.
I would hear that question at least another 837 times in the following two years. The answer never varied much.
On Tuesday, Nic watched his long-standing dream come true as the doors to Nic’s Diner and Lounge finally opened to the public at 1116 N Robinson Ave. People showed up. In droves. They came to see the wood paneling, the ceiling treatment, the elegant flourishes of glass, the tiled restrooms, and the window into the kitchen. But mostly they came for what practically anyone who’s ever eaten at the 17-seat Nic’s Grill in Ten-Penn agrees is the finest burger you can purchase in a restaurant in the city. Probably the state, perhaps anywhere on Earth.
I was there Friday for a preview and Tuesday for lunch. Knowing Nic was about I had zero doubt the food would be exemplary, and it was.
On Friday, I tried the Fat Dena. Named for his mother, it’s a chili-smothered burger served over a nest of fries that includes chili, guacamole, cheese. My son tried the Jojo, which includes a fried egg, bacon and mayonnaise. My daughter got the regular, which includes fried onions.
And, yes, they were all perfection.
For now, Nic is focusing on burgers at the new place. He’s closed Nic’s Grill for the next two weeks to ensure the quality of the burgers at the new place meets his very high standards. He will gradually unveil the full menu and breakfast.
You can look forward to chicken-fried steak, pork cutlets, grilled chicken, grilled shrimp, a rib-eye and steak tenderloin. He’ll also feature eight appetizers and hand-scooped shakes. The diner fare will look pretty familiar plus a few flourishes. Nic is offering six burger creations and the option to build your own. Sandwiches include a Reuben, BLT, Portobello mushroom, pork cutlet and Italian.
For now, burgers and sandwiches are available. The bar was being stocked on Tuesday so ask at the front if the lounge is yet open. If it is, head down and prepare to be blown away.
I’ll have much more about Nic’s Diner as it progresses. For now, let me know what you thought if you’ve been by. Nic's is open for lunch and dinner for now with breakfast coming soon to weekends and, if all goes well, daily.