This question, posed by my dad, has only one answer. We're going to Nick's Patio for dinner. This little diner-style restaurant located on Ironwood St. has been part of our family ritual since I first picked up a fork. My mom's Italian heritage inculcated in her a love for cooking, and she has made dinner for my family every night since her marriage to my dad over 30 years ago.

sweet, coffee, bread, tea, pastry
Annie Dooley

When she goes out of town, though, the Nick's all-encompassing menu is unquestionably preferable to my dad's repertoire of meals, namely hot dogs, frozen pizza, and grilled cheese. 

When I started out at Notre Dame and my friends' parents came to visit, they inevitably asked me where the good places to eat in South Bend are located. Nick's has always been my first response. It's not fancy dining by any means. Rather than priding itself on exotic sounding menu items and a chandelier lit interior atmosphere, Nick's trademark is meeting the needs of any person who walks through its doors.

The Versatility:

When I was growing up, Nick's Patio met the needs of my big family on a Friday night when my dad wanted to relax after a long work week. Towards the end of high school, it met my social needs by providing a comfortable hangout spot before curfew.

Now that I'm in college, it meets my needs at all hours of the day: at 1 am during finals week when I just can't study for another second, for a Saturday morning brunch with friends so we can recount the previous night, or whenever one of my friends says, "I've really been craving Nick's lately." They have food for every time of day, meal, palate, budget, and preference. 

I've seen countless seniors eating their early bird dinners. I've seen families with squawking young kids. I've seen groups of St. Mary's girls brunch at Nick's religiously. I've been there on dates. I'm convinced that any person, at any point in their lives, can walk into Nick's and immediately take heart in the lively, intimate atmosphere complemented by the comfort of a well-cooked Midwestern meal. 

The Recommendation:

My current obsession is their skillets. Something about the crumbled feta in the Greek skillet paired with little slices of gyro meat and diced tomatoes gives the dish just the right amount of zest. It looks awesome when it's served and it tastes like something you would give up your diet for. All of the Greek food they serve is incredible, and (fun fact!) Nick's caters South Bend's annual Greek festival held every summer. 

The Love:

From the colloquially named "water guy" who inexplicably always knows the second you could use a refill to the basket of assorted crackers they give you when you're seated to tide you over until the meal begins, Nick's Patio is an iconic part of South Bend's culture. It's a booming business that has transformed the stomachs of townies and college kids alike, and the best part is that you never stop wanting it. 

Although South Bend's humdrum environment is often under fire from other kids at ND, one thing they can never berate is the eating scene here. How could they when we have Nick's Patio on offer.