Big Nick’s @9:50 pm
Upper West Side
Live, from New York, it’s Cheeseburger Saturday Night! Tonight’s host is Big Nick’s on the Upper West Side and featuring the ready for prime beef player, Marty Wombacher. Ladies and gentlemen...Big Nick’s!
That's right, I've decided to keep the Cheeseburger Saturday Night tradition alive. I just don't have to do it in a bar anymore, so I can go out later on a Saturday night and go somewhere where it's not crawling with drunken idiots. I've decided to go to a place that's legendary on the Upper West Side. It's restaurant that's been in business since 1962 called Big Nick's and they have over 60 kinds of burgers there. We'll take the 14th street subway up there. Jesus, it's freezing out here tonight!
And here we are, at least it'll be warmer down there.
It's a bit of a hike to get to the stop.
I stopped and took a break and listened to this guy play saxophone. He was really good, it's amazing some of the music you can experience down in the subways of New York. I flipped him a couple bucks and was on my way.
Holy shitballs, a train is pulling in just as I'm at the top of the stairs! What luck!
No waiting tonight! I love it when this happens.
The train's not that crowded for 9:30 on a Saturday night.
This couple texted the whole time I was on the train. God forbid they put those things down and actually talk to each other.
And here we are at the 72nd street exit.
This is where I first lived when I moved here over 17 years ago, my old stomping grounds, the Upper West Side.
Here's the Beacon Hotel, where my first apartment was located. It was a little shabbier when I lived there, they've fixed it up a bit and it's pretty nice now.
This is the newsstand where I'd buy my newspapers and magazines back in the pre-internet days.
Goddamn, it's cold out here, Big Nick's is just two blocks away, let's hightail it there.
And here it is, the legendary Big Nick's.
There's neon and signs plastered all over the front window.
And more signage over here.
Here's some more neon, Leon.
There's tables outside, but it's too freezing out here to be sitting at one of them tonight.
Some publicity for Big Nick's. I have to watch Midnight Cowboy and see if I can find it.
Okay, let's go in. I love the fact that they're open "23 hours." Ha!
The place is divided into two rooms. This is the front of the left room, there's wooden booths up front to sit at.
This neon light on the wall casts a magenta hue on the room.
Here's the back of the room, tables are packed in here close together and you get to know your neighbors in here. In addition to burgers, sandwiches, a big breakfast menu, Big Nick's also has a wide variety of pizza, as the neon sign announces.
The walls are plastered with pictures and signs and it would take you days to look at all of them.
Here's the other room, off to the left. A waiter told me there was a single table, so I went off to get it. It's pretty crowded in here tonight.
Big Nick's is a friendly place and you're packed in close to each other, so it's easy to get to know your dining neighbors. Seated next to me is: Abe, Kristina and Melodie. I found out that Kristina had just gotten engaged. Congratulations, Kristina!
There's plenty of pictures back here as well. If you look closely to the right you'll see a vintage Allman Brothers poster.
There's tons of things to order here, the menu is like a little 10 page fanzine. Check it out online: Big Nick's menu.
And here's Jon, the pretty and friendly waitress who took my order. In spite of the fact she was busy, she still stopped to pose for the MAD camera. Nice!
Here's a view of the kitchen area from where I was seated.
And here's the counter in front of the kitchen area.
My vanilla shake was promptly served. The shakes here are out of this world!
I love the sign that just says, "TALK." Ha ha ha!
And here we go, Cheeseburger Saturday night! I got the cheddar burger and seasoned waffle fries.
It was delicious, but I have to confess I couldn't eat the whole thing. It was like a pound of ground beef!
The counter had cleared out by the time I was getting ready to leave.
And here we are, back out into the night, walking down Broadway.
Since it's Saturday night, I splurged and took a cab home and snapped this photo out the window. Goodnight everybody and see you tomorrow after dark.
2175 Broadway (77th @Broadway)
Upper West Side
Going to Big Nick’s on the Upper West Side made me think about the the day I moved to New York.
On July 7th, 1993 I boarded a plane in Peoria, Illinois that was headed to Chicago and then I got on one bound for LaGuardia airport in New York. I was 35-years-old, had quit my job as a film stripper where I had worked the last 13 years of my life, sold my car, my furniture, my stereo, my records and most of my clothes and cashed in my pension fund from my job and was moving to New York City that day. I had been so busy for the three months before I moved, I didn’t really think about the fact that I only knew about four people there, I had no job waiting for me and the odds of me getting a staff writing job in New York City were certainly stacked against me. One thought started racing through my brain like a hyperactive marathon runner on amphemines: “What in the living name of holy fuck have you just done?”
I had a few beers on the flight and calmed down a little. When I landed in New York, I gathered up my suitcases and went out into the blazing heat (the week I moved there it shattered all kinds of heat records and was probably the hottest I’ve ever seen it in my 17 and a half years out here) and trudged to the cab stand. In the two minutes it took me to walk there I was covered in sweat. I believe it was over 100 degrees and the humidity was as thick as Sarah Palin’s gray matter.
Of course the air conditioner was “broken” in the cab, I soon learned that air conditioners “break” in cabs a lot in the summer, so they don’t burn up extra gas. Anyway it delivered me to my new home, 2130 Broadway near 75th street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I had found a small studio apartment in the Beacon Hotel (back then about 10% of it was residential.) The room was about as big as a college dorm room, with a tiny kitchen and a bathroom about as big as a phone booth. The hotel itself was a budget hotel and was a little run down, they’ve since remodeled and it’s a lot fancier, but it wasn’t so when I moved in.
Anyway, I signed some papers and the hotel manager, Tom, a fortysomething man with grey hair and a moustache, gave me my keys.
“Welcome to New York,” he said shaking my hand, “if you have any problems or questions, I’m here till at least six every night, don’t hesitate to call or stop by my office.”
He was a nice guy and I thought I was getting off to a good start having just planted myself in the Big Apple. I took the elevator up to the ninth floor and made my way to my new home: Apartment 915. I had looked for it and put a deposit down about two weeks earlier when the last tenant was still living there. I put my key in the lock, opened the door and found out I had roomates. There were cockroaches crawling everywhere, the room was infested. I hate bugs and stood there frozen watching the black bugs roaming around with the greatest of ease in my new home. I snatched my bags ran back into the hallway and locked the door. Within a couple minutes I was back at Tom’s office, bag’s in hand.
He looked at me, then at my bags and I’m sure I look freaked out. “You’re not moving back to Peoria, already, are you,” he said laughingly.
“There’s cockroaches all over my apartment,” I blurted out nervously. “I have a thing about bugs.”
I could tell he was stifling laughter as he said, “You’re going to have get over that if you want to live in New York.”
“Huh?” I asked, still in ful-tiltl freak out mode.
“Some buildings are infested with cockroaches and short of tearing the building down, there’s not much you can do. We have exterminators come in once a month and try to keep it down as much as we can, but it’s a problem,” he explained. “The reason there’s so many in your apartment is because it’s been empty for over two weeks, when you live here if you spray and put traps up, it’s not that bad, but you will see a couple every now and again. I really should’ve checked that out before you moved in. Here’s what we’ll do, I’m going to have one of the maintenence men set off a bug bomb in there and we’ll clean it out tomorrow in the morning. I hate to have you do this, but we’re all booked up here, and when we set off the bug bomb, it’s got to be empty for at lleast twelve hours. If you want to check into another hotel for the night, just bring a receipt tomorrow afternoon and I’ll reimburse you. Just do me a favor and don’t get a suite at the Waldorf Astoria? I’m going to have to expense this out through my boss and he’ll be pissed I didn’t think to bomb out your place before you got here,” he explained.
I smiled, feeling relieved he was going to take care of the problem and said, “There’s a budget hotel in midtown called The Wellington. I stayed there when I was here looking for apartments, the rates there aren’t bad.”
“Oh, look at the seasoned New Yorker! He already knows budget hotels in midtown!” He said laughing. “I know that place, if they’ve got a room that would be great, just bring the receipt tomorrow and I’ll take the amount off of next month’s rent, if that’s okay.”
I told him that would be fine, called the Wellington and got a room for the night. I took a cab there, I still didn’t know the subway system and checked into the Wellington. I put my bags in the closet of the modest room and turned the air conditioner on and layed down on the bed, soaking up the air conditioner and trying to relax. After about fifteen minutes I sat up and was just sitting there listlessy and I looked over at the wall and there making a beeline towards the floor was a cockroach. I grabbed a TV Guide off the TV and walked over and with one fell swat, killed the nasty cockroach.
Then I went to a hardware store and got some spray and traps and brought them back to my hotel room in anticipation of moving into my first apartment in New York City.
I’m not afraid of cockroaches anymore.
Further reading: New York Magazine, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, Grub Street (last paragraph), Associated Content.
Early in the morning, I ain’t got nothin’ no nothin’ but the blues.
Bonus Photo From Gene!
MAD commenter and one third of the BBC, Gene sent in this photo from his Saturday night out with Smoopy. Thanks for the photo, Gene! If you have an after dark photo of a place you’ve been to, feel free to send it in. And now, take it away, Gene!
Woody's Bar ... Savage, MD
Small bar behind a liquor store - that nobody knows that it even exists. They only have Bud and Bud Light on draft ... made me think of you ! First time we've ever been here. Apparently the bar has existed here for decades ... real old school and 365 worthy. Me and Smoops have driven by here and mentioned that we should go in sometime ... and today was the day. This bar doesn't exist on Yelp, or even Google. An almost secret hideaway!