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Local Business

It’s lunch time: Owner brings something new to the table at neighborhood bar

General Manager Michelle Young (foreground) and employee Diane Zimmerman serve up food, drinks, and plenty of smiles at Nick's Tap in Rock Falls
General Manager Michelle Young (foreground) and employee Diane Zimmerman serve up food, drinks, and plenty of smiles at Nick's Tap in Rock Falls

When Kyle Sanders took over Nick’s Tap 2 years ago, he wanted to put his own spin on the local watering hole on the city’s west side.

He started by spinning a big chunk of beef and lamb.

“We started wanting to do lunches, and thought about things not in this area,” the bar’s general manager, Michelle Young, said. “Gyros were the first thing to come to mind.”

But they weren’t the last.

The traditional Greek fare – cooked on a pair of Kronomatic broilers and sliced fresh with each order – is just one of items added to the menu at the bar at 1300 Prophetstown Road. Gyros are the Thursday special at Nick’s, part of the new lunch rotation served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“People were very excited for it,” Young said. “We’ve always been known for Wednesdays. Kyle started adding the gyros and it took off like crazy.”

Even before Sanders took over, Taco Wednesday had been popular with bar regulars for quite some time, but Sanders wanted to see what else he could bring to the table.

The popularity of the gyros was enough to draw out a daily special list. Burgers are served every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Different specials accompany the burger on Monday and Friday, pork chops and steak sandwiches alternate every other Tuesday, and Reubens are served on Fridays. Taco Night was brought back after a short hiatus, and they’re served from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays.

The bar also holds cookouts, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays. Burgers, brats, and hot dogs are available at each Pic-A-Nick.

While fleshing out the menu has been a focus of Sanders, he doesn’t want that to be all Nick’s is known for. He’s not looking to compete as a full-scale restaurant. He’d rather keep it limited to lunchtime bar food – but real good bar food.

“We don’t want to be the same as every other bar,” Young said. “I want fresh, I want hand-made, and that’s what we’re going to do. We take pride in our food. We don’t buy the cheapest meats. We’re buying probably the more expensive meat, and still are able to keep our prices fair.”

Before Sanders stepped behind the bar, he’d been a regular at Nick’s for nearly 30 years.

“It was just something on my bucket list,” Sanders said. “I always wanted to own Nick’s, so I did my best to get it going and got it done.”

Nick’s was established by Nick Nardini in 1936, and the neighborhood around it once had a grocery store and a liquor store within shouting distance. Both are gone, but Nick’s and its longtime customers are still around, many of whom still come in for coffee at 7 a.m. Sanders described Nick’s as a “shift bar” where Northwestern Steel and Wire workers would come to before or after work.

Young hopes that the expanded lunch menu will help bring in new customers, while giving regulars something new to enjoy.

“We have an awesome clientele,” she said. “We have an awesome bunch of customers that come in, a bunch of simple folk who like to hang out and drink a few beers.”

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