First off, we ended up at Nick's at what is possibly the most un-Nick's-like time to end up at Nick's: 5 p.m. on a Monday. Nick's is more of an 11 p.m.-on-a-Friday kind of place in my mind, probably an idea that's leftover from when I was an undergraduate. Nick's looks just like it did back then, except now you can actually see what it looks like because there's no haze of smoke. Back then, Nick's was the place you'd end up at after going to a movie with the guy you were madly in love with, but who was himself infatuated with some other girl who was spending the semester on an archeological dig in Turkey. (Note: just a random, made-up example.)
But I digress.
Nick's is the kind of place where you should order a beer and a cheeseburger, or the spanakopita, or the daily special, especially if it happens to be liver and onions. JM wisely ordered Monday's daily special, the hot roast beef sandwich, and I wished I'd followed suit. Nichole ordered the fried chicken, which looked good, but is not quite the perfect kind of entree that I associate with Nick's. However, I went ahead and ordered the most un-Nick's-like thing on the menu. The veggie burger.
It says something about Madison that a place like Nick's even has a veggie burger on the menu, and even more that someone had mentioned to me that it was good. Nick's serves the Gardenburger, a variety that features rice and cheese and grill marks. It didn't have a whole lot of taste other than the flavor of the fixin's, but it was better than a Bocaburger. I subbed cole slaw for French fries, and received a large bowl of extremely tart, vinegary slaw that could have fed the whole table.
Dining with JM and Nichole, I was most surprised that there wasn't a whole lot of plate- and item-sharing. Your opinion about your food is your opinion about your food; it doesn't have to be discussed at length, necessarily. It all shows up in the review. At any rate, we talked about Nick's decor, dogs, local fence companies, local restaurants (of course) and the oddities of minor celebrityhood in a small pond.
I've been thinking some about having meals with distant acquaintances and total strangers, since I've done a fair bit of it this year, between the Fromagination fondue lunch and the Gastropcalypse Test Kitchen. That too brings me back to university days, in the dining hall, which is probably the last time that most of us make a habit of eating with strangers daily.
It's a good thing to do now and again, really. We should have more neighborhood potlucks, or neighborhood association restaurant nights. And if you all decide to meet at Nick's, order the special.