Nick’s still does the trick

For many Indiana University alumni, no Bloomington establishment evokes stronger nostalgia than Nick’s English Hut. (Which is neither English in origin, or a hut. Discuss.) Just saying the name brings to mind (usually drunken) visions of the quirky little shingled-awning, half-timbered façade on Kirkwood Avenue just a block from the edge of campus. Indeed, within stumbling distance.

Nick’s English Hut on Kirkwood Ave.

Inside, the nearly eighty-year-old restaurant welcomes drinkers and diners into its dark and cozy man-cave environs with Indiana University memorabilia strewn over every available inch of space. Be forewarned, taking in the IU license plates, photos, pennants, mounted deer heads and newsprint-style tables feels like looking through a giant kaleidoscope, and being in here for any length of time can be enough to make you feel dizzy. If the room starts to spin, just focus on the food, or one of the televisions scattered throughout the joint (this is one of the best spots in town to settle in for an IU game).

I didn’t hang out at Nick’s often when I was an IU student, but I do recall one particular end-of-semester happy hour with J-school ethics class comrades and regular lunches here with coworkers when I interned at the Herald-Times newspaper. This was 20-some years ago. The menu doesn’t appear to have changed much since then. Chili, sandwiches, pizza and deep-fried apps are what you want here.

My old college partner in crime (her nickname, in fact, was the Crime Dog), and I hit Nick’s for dinner about a week ago when I passed through town. First, we fueled up on a mini-pitcher of beer across the street at Kilroy’s, our old hang. If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard “last call for alcohol!” within those walls… but that’s another story. Nick’s seemed more family-friendly than I remembered, perhaps because you can no longer smoke inside. Maybe we’re just older now.

Nick’s mushrooms with Dijon dipping sauce

We shared an order of the (deep-fried, of course) mushrooms as a starter. Yummy, greasy beer-battered goodness on a plate. The Dijon mayo dipping sauce was pretty tasty, too.

cup of Nick’s house-recipe chili

I followed this up with a cup of cheddar-smothered chili; Crime Dog went with the stromboli. Both house specialties. Nothing fancy, just the kind of solidly dependable eats you want in a place like this.

Nick’s famous stromboli

They say change is good. Not always, though.

For more information, visit www.nicksenglishhut.com.

Nick's English Hut on Urbanspoon

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Nick's still does the trick

For many Indiana University alumni, no Bloomington establishment evokes stronger nostalgia than Nick’s English Hut. (Which is neither English in origin, or a hut. Discuss.) Just saying the name brings to mind (usually drunken) visions of the quirky little shingled-awning, half-timbered façade on Kirkwood Avenue just a block from the edge of campus. Indeed, within stumbling distance.

Nick’s English Hut on Kirkwood Ave.

Inside, the nearly eighty-year-old restaurant welcomes drinkers and diners into its dark and cozy man-cave environs with Indiana University memorabilia strewn over every available inch of space. Be forewarned, taking in the IU license plates, photos, pennants, mounted deer heads and newsprint-style tables feels like looking through a giant kaleidoscope, and being in here for any length of time can be enough to make you feel dizzy. If the room starts to spin, just focus on the food, or one of the televisions scattered throughout the joint (this is one of the best spots in town to settle in for an IU game).

I didn’t hang out at Nick’s often when I was an IU student, but I do recall one particular end-of-semester happy hour with J-school ethics class comrades and regular lunches here with coworkers when I interned at the Herald-Times newspaper. This was 20-some years ago. The menu doesn’t appear to have changed much since then. Chili, sandwiches, pizza and deep-fried apps are what you want here.

My old college partner in crime (her nickname, in fact, was the Crime Dog), and I hit Nick’s for dinner about a week ago when I passed through town. First, we fueled up on a mini-pitcher of beer across the street at Kilroy’s, our old hang. If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard “last call for alcohol!” within those walls… but that’s another story. Nick’s seemed more family-friendly than I remembered, perhaps because you can no longer smoke inside. Maybe we’re just older now.

Nick’s mushrooms with Dijon dipping sauce

We shared an order of the (deep-fried, of course) mushrooms as a starter. Yummy, greasy beer-battered goodness on a plate. The Dijon mayo dipping sauce was pretty tasty, too.

cup of Nick’s house-recipe chili

I followed this up with a cup of cheddar-smothered chili; Crime Dog went with the stromboli. Both house specialties. Nothing fancy, just the kind of solidly dependable eats you want in a place like this.

Nick’s famous stromboli

They say change is good. Not always, though.

For more information, visit www.nicksenglishhut.com.

Nick's English Hut on Urbanspoon

Chili power

It’s turning super cold this week in Indiana, which means one thing – it’s chili weather! Every fall when football season gets underway, I think of chili, and when the weather outside is frightful, a deep steamy bowl of spicy chili is certainly delightful.

Now, I’m a little picky about my chili. For years, the only chili I would eat was my dad’s, a watery soupy version with beef and beans. My dad’s a hunter and I suspect he often substituted venison hamburger for beef on the sly, tricking me into eating it by keeping mum. (I can’t bear the thought of supping on Bambi.) I also used to have a long-standing aversion to kidney beans, which I’ve sort of overcome in recent years. I’m still not crazy about them, but I tolerate them now in some recipes.

When I was last in Ireland visiting my inlaws, my sister-in-law Margaret (who manages to cook creatively for her husband, four kids, au pair and whoever else is around and make it all taste fabulous) whipped up a huge pot of a deliciously sweet chili con carne with rice. It was all meat, no beans and thick enough to be a spaghetti bolognese sauce. I asked her the secret to her recipe and she said it was the addition of sweet chili paste, which I can’t seem to find here in the U.S. grocery store. Bummer. I have added her suggestions of cinnamon and cardamom to my own recipe, which really adds to the flavor and makes a huge difference tastewise.

This season, I’ve been trying to perfect a good turkey chili recipe that I keep tweaking slightly each time I make it. I think I’ve got it pretty well sussed, in spite of the fact that I am not allowed to include onions anytime I cook it for my husband. (One doesn’t realize how often onions are called for until one is forbidden from using them.) It seems like a lot of ingredients upon the first read through, but I find measuring all of the spices and seasonings out into a small bowl before you get started makes it much easier to dump them in all at once when you get to that stage.

Chili purists eat only the soup itself, but I like to jazz it up with some rice, a little diced avocado and oyster crackers or maybe a few crushed corn chips on top. Cheddar cheese doesn’t really work too well with the seasonings in this recipe, but a little dollop of sour cream goes quite well.

Try it and enjoy!

Amy’s Tweaked Turkey Chili

Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 1 hr
Makes: 5 smallish 1-cup servings (I often double the recipe, it freezes and reheats superbly)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 cup chopped yellow onion
    1 tablespoon minced garlic
    1/4 cup chopped yellow bell peppers
    1 pound ground turkey
    1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
    1 (16-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    2 cups low-sodium chicken stock (1 can)
    2 tablespoons chili powder
    1 tablespoon sugar
    a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes (to taste)
    1 teaspoon Kosher salt
    1 teaspoon dried basil
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
    couple dashes of ground cloves

In a large skillet, saute the onion, garlic and bell pepper in the olive oil over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add ground turkey and cook until browned, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon.

Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Alternately, you can put the browned turkey and veggies in a crock pot, add the other ingredients and cook on low for 4 – 6 hours.