On Saturday, busy Kirkwood Avenue was closed off between Dunn Street and Grant Street for a block party celebrating Nick’s English Hut’s 90th anniversary.
"Everyone has at least one Nick’s story that they will happily share, well some people actually won’t share their Nick’s story, over a cold brew or a classic stromboli sandwich," Mayor John Hamilton said.
People gathered around the entrance to the block party shortly before it opened 3 p.m. At the gate, they purchased tickets for food that was being grilled outside by Nick’s as well as tickets for raffles and drinks. Several other Bloomington vendors were there including Soma and Upland Brewery.
During the block party, Hamilton declared Aug. 12, 2017 Nick’s English Hut Day. The announcement was met with cheers and applause from the crowd.
Hamilton read the proclamation with three generations of families that owned Nick’s lined up in front of him. Nick’s started as 50-seat bar and grew to be a 500-seat bar and restaurant, Hamilton said.
Nick’s was opened by Nick Hrisomalos, an immigrant from Greece, in 1927. When the restaurant opened, it was only a sandwich shop known as The Toasted Sandwich Shop. Unable to before because of the prohibition, the restaurant acquired a liquor license in 1933 and opened its bar. It was known as Nick’s English Hut from then.
“This busy bustling local landmark has captured the spirit of the city,” Hamilton said.
Cristian Medina, president of the Bloomington Indiana Scholastic Chess Club, said he asked Nick’s if he could set up a few tables for the chess club at the block party and was pleased when they said yes.
“I’ve been in Bloomington for 12 years,” Medina said. “Nick’s blends with the community. They are always available for community events. Nick’s is part of the Bloomington DNA.”
The block party had a lot more than chess. For kids, there was game tables, chess and a dunk tank. For adults there was beer, food and live music with plenty of seating and free Nick’s keychains.
“I like the tradition of Nick’s,” block party attendee Andrea Amore-Roberson said. “I’m not from here, but when I’m here I love to stop at Nick’s.”
Nick’s also runs several other successful Bloomington establishments including the Cafe Pizzaria, which was the first restaurant to serve pizza in Bloomington.
Students, alumni, families and Bloomington residents gathered for the celebration.
“It’s an alumni tradition,” block party attendee Tony Weber said. “I’ve never had bad service at Nick’s.”
Nick’s is a well-known IU tradition. In April 2008, former President Barack Obama surprised staff and patrons when he visited Nick’s while campaigning in Indiana. It is a place of graduations, marriage proposals, alumni reunions and even weddings in the case of a former server.
“Coming to Nick’s is like coming home,” block party attendee Sean McKinney said.