Nick’s is something like Mecca for Hoosier Nation. On any given night, you will see IU students of the past, present, and the future. More often than not, you will find all three generations rubbing elbows together. In short, it is a fitting place to start this blog.
Normally we will not delve into the décor of a place — this blog is about burgers, not their surrounds. Yet for Nick’s we need to make an exception. Established in 1927, the original restaurant space has all the hallmarks of an interwar period establishment. Which is to say that it is dark, with dark-stained wooden beams, a cramped bar, and low ceilings. These elements come together to make a cozy, comfortable place to eat a burger.
Nick’s calls itself an English “Hut.” Not an English pub, nor an English tavern, nor an English bar. Like its unassuming name and historic (read “old”) setting, Nick’s delivers an unassuming, but nonetheless very tasty, classic hamburger.
While brimming with options, the Nick’s burger menu is essentially à la carte. In addition to traditional burgers, they also offer a turkey burger and a mushroom burger (that’s a burger topped with mushrooms, not a burger made of mushrooms. Chris was confused at first). We opted for two different, yet very similar burgers: Chris opted for the cheeseburger with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and brown mustard, while Neil ordered a bacon cheeseburger with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and sweet pickles. You pay $1.50 ($10.99 v. $9.49) more for the bacon, which may or may not be worth the difference.
The cheddar cheeseburger is truly a classic. The bun is a simple Kaiser, not even adorned with little sesame seeds, but was lightly buttered and toasted to avoid sogginess. The lettuce is crispy, the sweet pickles are little green pads of sweetness to counter the savory patty, which tastes lightly seasoned with salt and pepper but not much else (Neil’s note: the pickles were amazing. Amazing). The only detractor to the condiments were the tomatoes, which were bland, pinkish-white, and mealy. As we are still in tomato growing season here in Bloomington, relying on mass-produced food service tomatoes was disappointing.
Chris, I think you nailed it. I won’t rehash all that you said, as I agree with it all (especially the tomatoes (COME ON RESTAURANTS, give us better tomatoes). Instead, I’m just going to focus on a couple things: meat and fries. The burger is made of 100% “black angus premium natural beef” from Fischer Farms in Jasper, Indiana (about 90 minutes from Bloomington). Local ingredients always score more points with us. The only thing better would be to know the name of the cow and his or her friends. But I’m getting off topic. The beef was juicy and cooked to perfection. It was also clearly good beef. However, it was, in my opinion, underseasoned. It seems wasteful to use that good of product and not season it correctly. Nick’s won back some points, though, because the patty had a pretty good char and you could taste the grill. The grill taste added a nice, backyard barbecue kind of vibe to the burger, and I’ll take that any day. While we aspire to be nothing more than a burger blog, we’d completely fail in our mission if we didn’t mention the sides, as well. The burgers come with fries or chips (other sides are available for $1.95 more. That’s a lot). We both opted for fries. I mean this in the best way possible: the Nick’s fries reminded us of McDonald’s fries. I like McDonald’s fries. Hot, crispy, and pretty well seasoned. They were a great complement to an even better burger.
In all, the burgers at Nick’s are of good quality, and show care and consistency of preparation. Though they are probably a little bit overpriced, both of us would recommend these burgers without reservation.
Raw Score: 4 / 5 burgers
Price-adjusted: 3.5 / 5 burgers
Price: $10.99 – bacon cheeseburger and fries; $9.49 – cheeseburger and fries
Gained points: Presentation, overall taste, consistency
Lost points: Lack of seasoning on the meat, price, bad tomatoes
Drinks: We both opted for the Upland Oktoberfest (it felt like Oktober outside)
Date of visit: 9/18/12 (National Cheeseburger Day)
 Which is French for “to the card” which really means “made to order,” and spoken with a little bit of pretension. We will try to limit the French from here on out. After all, burgers are about America damn it!