Why people are coming from all over to this Dayton-area restaurant (hint: it’s the sauce)

  • Jim Ingram
6:00 a.m. Monday, Dec. 26, 2016 Restaurants

Nick’s Restaurant, located on 1443 N. Detroit St. in Xenia, isn’t what you’d call a “best-kept secret.”

In fact, the bar and eatery has been a staple of its community since it opened in 1949 under then owner and namesake Nick Malavazos. However, as the years passed, Malavazos’ health deteriorated, making it hard for him to be in the kitchen each day. 

Eventually, Nick’s Restaurant seemed to be a thing of the past, with many of the menu items simply being crossed off.

But in 2009, Marc Perkins thought he could revive the place. 

“Since we bought it, we’ve steadily put money back into it—trying to do things the right way. (We’re) making the food a priority (with) good customer service,” Perkins said.

Perkins, who left a career in aircraft maintenance, remembered his younger days working in restaurants. 

“It’s always been a passion of mine. I’ve always liked to cook. So I took a leap of faith and bought this place.” 

Nearly eight years later, Nick’s has become a destination rather than an option, with people coming from as far as Urbana to dine there. One reason for this: the chicken wings. Having won awards at the Kickin’ Chicken Wing Fest at Fraze Pavilion every year since its inception, it’s clear Nick’s wing game is no fluke.

“We went with a better product than what was here when we bought the restaurant,” Perkins said. “Better oil, flour and seasoning. Everything here is hand-floured. We take a lot of pride in that.”

The most popular sauce -- another award winner -- is the Sweet Hot Damn. Named for the phases that cross your palate as you eat it, the sauce fools you into thinking it’s mild before delivering a punch of heat.

Jim Ingram
Nick's breaded wings slathered in the Sweet Hot Damn sauce.

Another change Perkins made was creating a diverse menu using fresh ingredients from local suppliers whenever possible, from the award-winning appetizers on through the burgers, gyros, salads and pizzas. Did I mention the steaks? Nick’s recently instituted a steak night, featuring a 16-ounce rib-eye. They even make their own dressings.

“You don’t get a frozen patty. You don’t get a frozen anything. Everything is fresh,” Perkins insisted.

According to Perkins, Nick’s is also the only restaurant in the Dayton area serving smelt -- a deep fried Canadian fish.

Nick’s features seven types of burgers, but the Big Nick is king of them all. It’s a half pound of juicy Angus beef with your choice of trimmings and the restaurant’s special sauce. It’s a mountain of meat, so come starving or come with friends to help you finish it.

Jim Ingram
The Big Nick burger is a half pound of juicy Angus beef.

Perkins, along with manager Emily Hale and a staff of more than 30, are enjoying the fruits of their years of labor in restoring Nick’s Restaurant to its former glory. The atmosphere is casual and the care in producing great tasting food is evident. 

But Perkins doesn’t like to put a label on what his restaurant does.

“People ask me all the time, ‘What kind of place is it?’,” he said. “It’s not a pub. It’s not family dining. It’s not a sports bar. It’s a (open until) 2:30 a.m. bar that serves great food and has great atmosphere.”

“Seasons change, but we’re continuing to grow the business,” Hale added.

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