Nick’s Restaurant in Xenia does not disappoint

Photo: Nick’s Reuben on grilled rye with corned beef.

By Paula Johnson

I drove out to Xenia to Nick’s Restaurant to meet a DCP pal for lunch recently, curious to see if the buzz about the place was deserved. Nick’s has been around since 1949 when Nick Malavazos opened it. Though it was always popular, over the years it declined with many customer favorites disappearing from the menu. Nick’s was bought in 2009 by Marc Perkins who focused on revamping and ramping up the quality of ingredients used. His formula seems to have worked; when I arrived, there was a wait for a table, (it was lunch on a Tuesday) so I settled in at the bar for a look around. The wood paneled bar area has a cozy feel bathed in warm light, the walls adorned with plaques bearing pithy sayings like “There Are No Rules Here – We Are Trying To Accomplish Something.” and “Do You Want To Talk To The Man In Charge Or The Woman Who Knows What’s Going On?” The vibe here is casual, slightly irreverent (the menu has instructions like “Practice safe lunch – use condiments” and “We don’t serve women here, you have to bring your own”). Clever and cheeky, and just plain fun. When our table was ready, I wasn’t at all sorry it was a booth in the bar, which has the same casual lively feel as in the dining room itself. Though the weather that day was still warm, patio season had just ended, which was a shame. I took a look at Nick’s attractive outdoor space, and when the weather cooperates once again in spring, I know where I will be lunching.

Clever and cheeky, and just plain fun.

Winging It

So seated we were, and ordering decisions had to be made. My friend was a veteran of Nick’s with many a visit under his belt, so with his advice, along with our server’s, I selected an assortment of what Nick’s is known for. That meant starting with two things: Wings, and Fried Vegetables. Nick’s wings have a solid reputation, having won awards at the Kickin’ Chicken Wing Fest at Fraze Pavilion every year since its inception. There are two ways to go with the wings – breaded or “naked”. We went with breaded (the sauce clings better that way according to our server), and chose two of the more than a dozen sauce options (10 wings for $8.99). The award winning Sweet Hot Damn was our favorite, not cloying in its sweetness with a hint of heat at the finish. The other sauce, Spicy Garlic, was also sweet, a little too similar to the first without the heat and not particularly garlicky. I’d like to give the naked wings a try and sample some other sauces next trip.

The Fried Veggies (mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, pickle spears, or onion rings, $4.99 for one, $7.99 for three) were terrific, and not to be missed. Nick’s flaky fried breading was what it should be, a crispy coating for the veggies, obviously freshly hand made. These are what good fried bar food snacks should taste like.

Not Greek To Me

In deference to ordering something that wasn’t fried or grilled, I tried Nick’s Greek Salad ($7.49), and it was the only thing I tried that day I took issue with. While the elements of a traditional Greek salad were there: ice burg lettuce, kalamata olives, cucumbers, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, and even some nice grilled wedges of pita, the distinctly non traditional sweet bright pink raspberry colored dressing was not what I was expecting, and a disappointment. I’d love to see them switch to a real Greek style dressing.

Hamburger Heaven

What I was not disappointed in at all was what I had long heard about: The Big Nick Burger ($8.99), a half pound burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and Nick’s special sauce. We tried that, served with Nick’s tasty house made chips, and another favorite of mine, Nick’s Reuben ($8.99). I loved both of these sandwiches. First the burger: We ordered it medium rare, and it actually arrived medium rare. I’m not overstating the fact that in itself is rare. Overcooked is sadly usually how most burgers are served regardless of instruction, but this one was juicy, pink, and perfect, and lived up to its reputation. The Reuben, served on grilled rye, was made with REAL corned beef – not that unforgivable pretender that comes sliced in plastic and bears no relation to the real deal. This was house made and piled in large shredded chunks on the sandwich, and made it hard to pick which sandwich I preferred. I’m calling a tie here, but I do plan a repeat match up to be certain. There are several more sandwich options on Nick’s menu, plus pizzas, not to mention dinner features like steaks, smelts, chicken livers, liver and onions, and frog legs.

Nick’s won me over as the perfect place for a satisfying, well prepared casual bite, and I plan to add it to my list of favorites. I’ll be back long before patio season rolls around again.

Nick’s is located at 1443 N Detroit St. in Xenia. For more information please visit GoToNicks.com or  call 937.372.3202.

Nick’s Restaurant: 95%
Cuisine: 48%
Value: 23%
Service: 24%

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Dayton City Paper Dining Critic Paula Johnson would like every meal to start with a champagne cocktail and end with chocolate soufflé. As long as there’s a greasy burger and fries somewhere in the middle. Talk food with Paula at PaulaJohnson@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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