Wednesday, 11 April 2012 11:18
The windows at Phil Nick’s cry out to Main Street that it’s “A Good Place to Eat.” The old-style gold letters do not lie. Phil Nick’s has some of the best Southern food (and Italian-African-American-Carribean) around town.
During the last 40 years, Phil Nick’s has seen a lot, and is currently believed to be the oldest open restaurant in Gainesville. The menu has been maintained over the years as the world changes around it.
By Harry Leeds
A Tradition of Sandwiches
Charles George and Jackie Hart have run Phil Nick’s for about eight years, after the original owners, father- and son-in-law team Phil and Nick. “One was really short and a little stocky, and one was really tall and thin,” said a patron who hadn’t been at Phil Nick’s since 1972. He said the Cuban sandwich he ordered ($6) with it’s side of Zapp’s chips and a pickle, were the same as the day it hit the menu.
Phil and Nick were Italian and Caribbean; when Jackie and Charles took over, they kept the Italian-African-American-Carribean menu.
“We changed very little,” says Jackie, “so people can come in and get the same delicious sandwich they did 30 years ago.
“We have people come in multiple times a week who have been coming here close to 40 years.”
The Cuban and Italian subs we tried were like stepping back in time; the perfectly layered Italian ($6.20) was big and savory, with the bread buttered and the greens crunchy between the meat. Fantastic!
The place is packed at lunchtime, but opening at 6:30am also makes it great for breakfast. With Southern favorites like eggs, grits and bacon, Phil Nick’s also offers sandwiches on a bagel or a flaky croissant. Their sausage biscuit ($2.50) is a classic—creamy and satisfying.
We tried a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a bagel ($4.50) and on a croissant ($5.50). The generous portion of thick, almost market-style bacon made each bite of the fresh eggs burst into our mouths for a savory morning experience. The bagel and the croissant both sopped up the juices to make that big bite moist, complex and soothing.
Specializing in private parties, they offer a slew of trays for any occasion. Besides subs, corned beef and cabbage, and the ever-popular giant lasagna, they offer big trays of barbecued ribs or pulled pork. Veggies options include collared greens, stewed tomatoes and asparagus. They even offer deserts and brunch specials, such as quiche.
“Last summer we catered a wedding reception for five hundred people,” Jackie says. “Even though we close at 3:30, we still have this space and groups have private events here.
“People order trays of food for tailgating. We’ve had a sit-down dinner with 85 people inside the restaurant. We’re serious about catering.”
The incredible slabs of shiny hickory smoked ribs ($8.85) looked perfect; Charles prepares all the ribs himself, smoking them, and using his own sauce. We also tried the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($7.25) with a heap of coleslaw on top. With the homemade sauce, this was a seriously delectable sandwich.
But don’t take our word for it. The next time you want to be a part of history, make a (long overdue) visit to this downtown institution.
Address: 37 N Main St. (across from The Top)
Signature Dish: Ribs, Sandwiches
Parking: Street parking
Price: $ (out of $$$$)
Hours 6:30am-3:30pm Mon-Fri
Attire: Come as You Are
Take-out: Yes (Downtown)
Catering: Yes (Any size event, even tailgating)
Outdoor seating: No