This period of isolation has many people binge watching a lot of old series. And one that is getting a lot of traction is “Cheers.” Everybody is craving a place and people where “everybody knows your name.” As much as the great food, Chez Nick on Greene Ave. in Westmount offers the kind of hospitality that goes above and beyond. Here, they not only know your name, they celebrate your joys and comfort you in sorrows. You don’t even have to tell them. They sense it. Because once you come to Nick’s, you’ll be back and you’ll be family. And today, Chez Nick is celebrating 100 years in business and 100 years at the same spot. It’s one of the things in life you depend on.
Full disclosure, owner Rob Callard is a dear friend. He’s the “Mayor of Greene Avenue.” And he is singularly responsible for that glorious atmosphere that is Chez Nick. It’s in how he treats his customers, what he remembers about them — which is everything — and how he inculcates that feeling and knowledge in his staff. His food satisfies our appetites, but his personality fills our souls. But what food. It is as close to home made as you can get, and made with loving care and attention no matter how small the order.
The joy was unconfined when Nick’s reopened a few weeks ago for deliveries and pickups and Uber orders after being closed for the early part of the pandemic. But Rob overcomes. Whether successfully battling health challenges some years ago, or working his way through our current crisis. And Rob believes in giving back. He doesn’t forget. Foremost among his many volunteer efforts are numerous 100+km bicycle rides for the benefit of the Cedars Cancer Foundation.
Heading over to Nick’s for breakfast is a terrific start to any day. But an added plus is that at any given breakfast or lunch you will see more business and civic leaders talking deals and politics than almost anywhere else in town. And the unwritten Golden Rule is “what you overhear at Nick’s stays at Nick’s.” Going to Nick’s puts a cherry on the cake of any day. And by the way, if you make a lunch date, make sure to get there at least a quarter to twelve. Or even call for a reservation. This is the place to be. Don’t forget dinners are terrific too.
Nick’s is the second-oldest dining establishment in the city still at its original location. The oldest is probably Old Montreal’s Auberge Saint-Gabriel which started in 1754 at the same spot. Bill Brownstein has pointed out that the Montreal Pool Room started on the Main in 1912, but that it has moved locations on the street.
Rob began working at Nick’s in 1982 while studying communications at Concordia. He worked for Tom Alevisatos, the son of the original Nick, who ran it from 1970 to 1995. And in that year Rob took over. This is his 25th year. He recently took on the funny,engaging and committed Nicos Kyriakopoulos as a partner. And Nicos is there every day and he is an essential.
Rob remembers that Nick’s was even open in the 1998 Ice Storm. So the closure during April was a first. He says his landlord is understanding. But the rest of us — his loyal friends (we’re not just customers) — know that not only are we stopping by or calling for our orders now, we will be first through the doors when it fully opens. We’ve written a lot in this paper about buying local and supporting your local businesses. That rule applies to no establishment as much as to Nick’s. It’s a pillar of community and a balm to our spirits. And what a 100th birthday party we’re all going to attend when it’s finally held!