Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

nikkis.jpgThis sign is displayed at one of the most venerable restaurants in Birmingham, and it has to be one of my favorite greetings at any place of business. If you’ve been there, I hope you noticed it and are nodding your head in recognition:  Nikki’s West.

Locals know that Nikki’s is a favorite meat and three spot that goes waaay back. It’s on Finley Avenue across from the farmer’s market, a western area of town that had its heyday when the city was an industrial powerhouse. Even though the area is a bit run down at the heels, Nikki’s still packs tons of diners every day, from laborers to lawyers. It’s a large-scale enterprise, a Grand Central Station of southern cooking. As you reach the end of the extensive steam table, an expeditor politely directs – or rather, herds – you on into one of the three large dining rooms to keep customers moving and gallons of tea flowing.  

But back to the sign. Only an established institution could get by with it, because anywhere else it would be taken as an indication that the clientele wanders in from the Greyhound bus station. I have to wonder what cast of characters has sauntered through these doors over the years.  The stand against tank tops and bare feet aren’t without precedent, similar to the standard “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service,” but rollers on head? How many women walked in boldly sporting pink foam rollers before the owner finally said, “Enough!”

This sign reminds me of what makes some of our favorite local spots so colorful in the first place. With so many restaurants closing in their first year or two, it’s refreshing to see how Nikki’s West has been thriving for over 50.

 Apparently it helps to insist upon only the highest standards for your customers’ dining attire.