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Nick’s With a Kick

Go to the website “Yelp” on the Internet and look up Nick’s Big Train Bar and you might notice two things: The bar is listed as “CLOSED,” and it’s under the category of “Dive Bars.” Both are correct.

Nick’s Big Train Bar once stood on Tulane Avenue across from Dixie Brewery. Now the bar, having never recovered from Hurricane Katrina, is no longer there and the brewery is blighted, though the building is supposed to be renovated as part of the hospital development. That alone is something to drink to, and in Nick’s day the drink might have been the house specialty Golden Cadillac (a creamy martini made with Galliano liqueur). The Banana Banshee wasn’t invented there, but it should have been, given the bar’s popularization of the drink.

In this issue, in which our cover story honors “Top Neighborhood Bars,” Nick’s comes to mind because, back when there was a neighborhood around the brewery, it was the place to go, or as one Yelp reviewer, identified as Jane S. from New Orleans, so eloquently states it: “Dang, Nick’s, I miss you.  I miss hanging out after closing time, I miss drinking on the bartender’s tab, I miss barfing in your bathroom and I miss being a young drunken idiot.”

Besides his mixed drinks and atmosphere, owner Nick Castrogiovanni made one more contribution to the local drinking culture. According to legend, one day when Dixie founder Valentine Merz came by for a drink, Castrogiovanni, drawing from a gun analogy, told him that his beer “has a kick like a .45.” That was taken as a compliment and Dixie was for the longest time known as Dixie 45.
(Another version says that Castrogiavanni was known for keeping a .45 behind the counter, you know, just in case. Customers began referring to him as “45” so that a frequent command was “give me a Dixie, 45.” The phrase caught on.)

 If you haven’t driven along Tulane Avenue lately, you should. Good things are happening in preparation for the hospitals. The thoroughfare is becoming important again. With all those doctors working nearby a good bar would be welcomed after hours. Wouldn’t it be great to see a reincarnation of Nick’s? And, Jane S., there will be a new bathroom waiting.

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