Past all the pizza joints and barber shops of the south side sits a seemingly sleepy restaurant called Nick's. The only sign is street-side; from the outside, it looks like a bar more than anything. But inside — inside is good grub.

Owner Nick Iaria started the biz back in 2006 with a trendy food truck on Army Post Road. After moving around a couple of times, the restaurant now resides in what used to be the old Tavern South.

When I dropped by, the place was buzzing — even for a Wednesday. From businessmen on lunch breaks to older couples on day dates, this dive was clearly the place to be.

Baseball trophies and vintage posters line the walls, including one promoting Exile's beer, now served at Nick's. An old statue of a mustachioed man greeted diners on their way in. The staff was friendly and quick to serve.

But the best part, of course? The food.

The menu is split into three simple sections: starters, sammis and pizza. I opted for their signature sandwich — the King Tenderloin — a thick, hand-cut slab of fried pork loin topped with cool lettuce, onion, pickles and tomato on a toasted bun ($7.25). You can ask for jalapenos or banana peppers, but I stuck with a regular Andrea side of ranch.

The steaming sandwich came out fast and fresh from the fryer. I don't even know where to begin — the sandwich was the size of my face. Literally. Every crisp bite tasted like complete State Fair goodness. Heck, if you're feeling super nostalgic, you can even order it on a stick.

Other twists on the sandwich include the marinara-draped Italian, Bacon-Swiss or Chili Cheese ($6.25 or $8.25). Still hungry? Give your "sammi" a sidekick: onion rings, cheese curds, even fried pickle spears. (So long, waistline!)

Pizza is also on the menu, with options like taco, Greek, BBQ and buffalo chicken ($13.00).

My lunch buddy ordered Nick's other signature sandwich: the Hot Italian Beef ($6.75). Um, of course I snagged a bite. But just one — it was dressed in giardiniera and I don't do spicy. He scarfed it down in a snap.

On the other hand, a to-go box was certainly in order for me, and I looked forward to stuffing my face yet again.

Anyone can tell you that going to Nick's without ordering a tenderloin is like going to New York City and not visiting the Empire State Building — it's a must. And for less than $10 a meal, how could you resist?

Nick's Tenderloin & Italian Beef

Find it: 1106 Army Post Road

Hours: 10:30 a.m. - 8:30 p.m. Monday - Thursday, 10:30 a.m. - 9 p.m. Friday - Saturday, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Sunday

Info: 777-2759, www.facebook.com/eatatnicks

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