REMEMBERING BIG NICK’S IN PHOTOS, STORIES, POEMS AND VIDEOS


What, you didn’t know Nick was a poet too? (This poem was written long before the restaurant closed.) Photo by Zipper.

Big Nick’s Burger & Pizza Joint on 77th and Broadway closed on Sunday, July 28 (or to be precise Monday at 4 a.m.) and left about a million memories behind. We’ve collected a few of them here, in words, pictures and videos.

Check them out below, starting with a video we made, and one from New York magazine. Thanks to everyone who sent us photos and comments.

Below are some photos we took of the restaurant on its last day:

For more photos from Big Nick’s final night, check out Facebook galleries here and here.

Below, we’ve collected remembrances from readers who sent in their thoughts a couple of months ago for our Save Big Nick’s campaign. We gave Nick the letters.

I’m fourteen years old and from Miami. New York has always been a second home for me and Big Nicks is a big part of that. When I come here we my parents and order pizza I feel as if all the troubles in the world are gone. We started from basic cheese and pepperoni to vegetables and teriyaki chicken. My parents and I love this restaurant and would hate to see it go. Big Nicks isn’t just a Burger and Pizza joint it’s a New York institution for this generation and more to come. When I have a family and kids I imagine myself walking them from school and taking them inside Big Nicks and sharing my childhood ‘pizza’ memories with them. Big Nicks is not just a pizza and burger joint it’s a New York City food gem for generations to come.

–Manny Garcia

In May of 1975, as a single mother with a 3-1/2 year old daughter, I moved into a building on W. 77th Street between Amsterdam and Broadway. In the hassle of the move, with no time to cook, I asked a friend who was helping me to find a neighborhood restaurant to take my little girl to for a bite to eat. They chose Nick’s, the first place they came to, and it was a huge success. My little girl came back with take-out for me, enthusiastic about our great new neighborhood with the yummy pizza. As I recall, her choice was the Hawaiian with pineapple, about as exotic as you could get at the time. We went back to Nick’s many times.

All these years later, I’m still here. My daughter has moved to Massachusetts, Washington State, London, Shanghai and, most recently San Francisco. Now she has a 3-1/2 year old of her own. I hope Nick’s will still be here when they visit in July so the three of us can have what I hope won’t be our last Big Nick’s treat.

–M

I started a brunch retiree group with another retiree
14 years ago. We originally used Nikko’s
Nicks premier restaurant corner 76th & Broadway.
When he closed we moved over to
Nicks Burger, pizza joint.
Every Wed. For 14 years at 11:30 till 1 pm.
Where would we go, only a person like
Nick would put up with us?
With us.

–Nathan Lichtwar

The New York we loved for 30 years while we lived there has changed a lot, but Big Nick’s was always there for the juiciest and best burgers or brunch! When winter wanes, Big Nick’s moves outside first. A Landmark for New Yorkers and former New Yorkers!

–Veronia and LeRoy

OH NO!! First my heart and taste buds were broken with the closing of Nikko’s. Since then our Wed. brunch group has been meeting at Big Nick’s. Would hate to lose this one also. Hang in there Nick, we are with you.

–Michael Rosenthal

I first went to Big Nick’s 34 years ago, for my sister’s 15th birthday. (We were seeing a show across the street.) I’ve been going back ever since. Moved to the Upper West Side 20 years ago and have never lived more than 6 blocks from Nick’s in all that time. High school, college, first jobs… Nick’s was where we’d go. My kids have grown up eating his pizza, his burgers have fueled many a late-night debate among friends (where else would you go after a night of carousing to get good grub in your stomach and prolong the night?) Nick’s is Old New York in the best possible way. The idea that they would be forced to close breaks my heart. Thank you Nick, for being such a great part of my life.

–Anonymous

Big Nick’s is our first stop when we return to New York and our last stop before flying out again. It has become such a meaningful place for my husband and I and our friends. We go there to laugh, to share, to sometimes cry over our burger – which always cheers us up. We introduce new people there nearly every day of every trip. You cannot beat the extensive menu, the delicious slices, the quick and efficient service, and the location. The location is paramount to Big Nick’s. Please, do not replace this true New York restaurant with another crappy retail store. Big Nick’s has been there for generations! What has happened to valuing the business that brings people into the community? We will continue our patronage, looking forward to every single bite.

–Alison Follart

This is just awful!  I love Big Nicks.  It is an upper west side establishment, and a part of my childhood. One of the last remaining spots on the upper west with real character and history.  i would be so sad to see it go.

–Josh

Live at 170 W 74th – after 3 years here in 2004 my ex talked me into leaving for a bigger apartment on W 60th. A huge mistake. Many girlfriends later I moved back into the building – my current and forever GF and 9 year love took me to Big Nick’s after an exhausting day of moving – medium plain pizza never tasted so good.

–Steve

Lots of stories, but my favorite was the day I went there to have lunch by myself and found the booth next to me included Neil deGrasse Tyson, right about the time he started at AMNH. One of the most interesting restaurant conversations to eavesdrop on, ever. A very cool celebrity sighting!

–Karen

Favorite memory:  during the Valentine’s Day snowstorm in the early 1980s, Nick’s was open and welcoming.  I was one of three customers that Friday night and the waiter was so nice and funny.  As I was eating my spinach pie, he turned down the lights and said, “Atmosphere for you.”

–Maria

Nick’s restaurants — including the now defunct Nikos — were among my
mother-in-law’s favorites and when she was alive the family would go
there all the time.  She died when my daughter was five, and though we
enjoyed takeout pizza from Big Nick’s, my husband and I didn’t go back
to the restaurant with her until she was a teen.  To our surprise Nick
came over to our table and commented on how much she’d grown,
recognizing us after nearly a decade.

–Freda

After church last night, we went to Big Nick’s for dinner.  Found a table outside that happened to be next to a woman who told us that she had three daughters and three grandsons.  She said, as we were ordering our food, that our boys were very well behaved.

“I have a little house,” she told me, as an aside, “up near the Berkshires.  There was a lady out walking her poodle, you know, the larger kind, a Standard.  Well, it was racing up to me and she called its name and it just…stopped.  Right there.  In front of me.”

She paused and dropped her chin slightly.  Then continued.  “I’m not drawing comparisons between the poodle and your sons, but…” and she let me fill in the blank.

Her hair was close-cropped and gray, like I imagine Nero’s was.  Her food came:  a gigantic roast beef contraption on a hoagie roll.  She must have ordered it so there’d be leftovers.

–Howard Freeman

After hearing about Big Nick’s during my entire semester abroad in Paris from a friend who grew up around the corner, it was the site of my first meal back stateside. I was terribly jet-lagged and kept trying to speak French to the staff, but I’ve never felt more American and more at home than I did when biting into that burger. The memory always brings a huge smile to my face.

–Shannon Geis

In 1995 I visited New York for the first time during spring break of my senior year in college.  I landed very late after several delays, and was starving.  My host took my bags, shoved me out the door and said “go two blocks, to Big Nick’s. Pizza and burgers what else do you need?” I was petrified; wouldn’t I be mugged walking two blocks, alone, at night?  How could I possibly find my way on my own? What would I eat at three am?

Having safely arrived, I sat at the first available booth and was greeted by two menus hastily flopped down on my table. I was surrounded by what looked to be post it notes on the walls (which of course were additional menu items). I was completely overwhelmed.  I took the safe bet and decided on pizza.

The waitress asked me for my order and I asked for a piece of pizza.

“A piece of pizza? What’dya mean a piece of pizza?”

“Um, ok, a small cheese pizza.”

“You gonna eat that all by yourself?”

“No I just wanted a piece.”

“A slice. You wanted a slice.”

“What’s the difference?”

“The difference is I know what it is when you ask for it.”

I laughed, ordered two, and decided I was moving to New York after graduation. 18 years later, I’ve never looked back, and I always ALWAYS take first time visitors to Big Nick’s.  I hope they can stick around.

–Shawn

Big Nick’s was always a favorite of mine when I lived on the Upper West Side.  Sunday mornings particularly.  It was just a regular place with great food.  I loved the burgers, but really enjoyed the Frank and Beans.  It was always busy, but I never felt crowded.  I liked it because there was no pretension.  I hope it stays.  I wish the landlord would re-consider his rate hike for the simple reason that Big Nick’s space didn’t get remodeled.  Why should his establishment bear the full weight of a real-estate tax increase?

–Philip Horky

FOOD, HISTORY, NEWS | 4 comments | permalink
    1. jbr2138 says:

      Same name, but different video…this one beautiful:
      http://gothamist.com/2013/07/31/video_the_last_night_at_big_nicks.php

    2. Dino says:

      …. the best pizza & burgers EVER! And ANYWHERE!

    3. Edwin.Roman says:

      So disappointed. I loved their pizza and often frequented this place—especially during the years I was a student at John Jay College. It had so much personality and this amazing ambiance. New York City is becoming a wasteland of chain stores, malls and banks. The personality / heart of many neighborhoods has been destroyed by big business. Support local independently owned businesses!!!

    4. Les Foodites says:

      RIP Big Nick’s. Thanks for showing me the ways of pizza during my childhood.

      lesfoodites.net