For the record, there is no Nick. Or rather, there was, once, but he's long gone. The current owner of Nick's Lounge is Bryan — he's the one shuffling around in a bright-red baseball cap emblazoned with the president's name, chatting with customers and picking up empty glasses.
He's been running the bar for about a year and a half now, having gently rescued it from dive-bar seediness with a fresh coat of paint and some minor improvements, but by and large, it's easy to imagine this place has looked and felt more or less the same since the days of the original Nick, some fifty years ago: low lighting; framed prints of jazz greats and Matisse paintings lining the walls; lots of tables, rather than a dance floor; the distinct and unshakable sense that someone, somewhere is smoking a cigarette with a silver holder, regardless of whether this is actually true (it is not, by the way, at least not these days.)
Bryan's improvements included blue walls, a minimally-designed-but-very-pleasant back patio, karaoke most nights a week and (free! good!) jazz on Sundays, but the place doesn't really need much more in the way of bells and whistles: This thoroughly neighborhood-feeling spot — nothing more, nothing less, and in a world full of bars full-throatedly asserting themselves every chance they get, this is a very, very good thing.
The (cash-only) bar contains capably mixed renditions of all the standards plus a handful of beers on tap — nothing too fancy — and a good majority of people seem to know each other, or at least want to. If, for example, you sing a profoundly middling rendition of "Bad Romance" during karaoke, not only will you be enthusiastically applauded, you will be asked to do an encore — forced, really, seeing as your fellow patrons will cue the song up for you without your consent and cheerfully not take no for an answer. And if you then come back a couple nights later, not one, not two, but three people will recognize you, and it's not like you even look particularly distinctive — it's that kind of place.
If it's slow, Bryan might come up and offer you some spicy corn nuts, or maybe moonlight on a karaoke version of Prince's "Controversy." Everyone calls him by name, or at least a name — some of them by the real one, several others by "Nick," not any knowing better, but he doesn't mind.
What the Fork - May 5, 9:40 AM
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