Nick’s Big Train Bar and Dixie Beer were part of each other’s history going back to the days when the bar was a favorite after-hours hangout for the brewery crowd.
Nick’s once stood on Tulane Avenue across from the Dixie Brewery. The original bar never recovered from Katrina, though the good news is that a new Nicks will be opening near the original site. What was once Dixie’s castle-like main building is now the most handsome structure of the new Veterans Administration hospital complex across the street.
For the last few years Dixie has been brewed out of town, though more good news is that Tom Benson has bought control of the beer company and promises to again brew the beer somewhere in New Orleans.
According to legend, one day when Dixie founder Valentine Merz came by for a drink, bar owner Nick Castrogiovanni, using 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 for, 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.)
It is written that there is more to life than just beer and those who believed that might have tried Nick’s cocktail house specialties, especially the Golden Cadillac (a creamy Martini made with vanilla-anise flavored Galliano liqueur.) Also, The Banana Banshee, which was not invented there, but should have been given the bar’s popularization of the drink.
Whether it was for the beer or the Banshee, Nick’s had a loyal following, so much so that one website reviewer once wrote:
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.
Soon Nick’s will no longer have to be missed and customers will be able to guzzle locally brewed Dixie there again. That in itself should be all the kick that a good beer needs.