By Madison Fisler Lewis
Jan. 27, 2015. When Vicki Treyz moved to the High Country ten years ago after a lifetime spent in the Florida sun, even she wouldn’t have guessed that her move to cooler temperatures would be the start of a decade as the owner of one of the High Country’s most iconic restaurants.
Known by many as the “Cheers” of the High Country, Nick’s Restaurant in Banner Elk has all the right elements of being the local hangout. Vicki’s story with the High Country begins like so many others. After decades living in the south, she soon tired of the Florida heat and decided to retire to the Banner Elk area.
“My husband and I moved here from Florida after owning a moving business for 26 years,” Treyz said. “I have three children, and since we lived at the beach, when we would take vacations we would come up to Banner Elk to go skiing and we just fell in love with this place. It was supposed to be my retirement.”
But once she moved up here, Treyz found herself, like many other locals, at Nick’s Restaurant – then owned by her friend George Dibble.
“You could say that I got Nick’s in a card game,” Treyz said. “George was a friend of mine, and one day we were playing cards and I convinced him to sell me the restaurant. George owned this place for 18 years and he still comes around. He got the restaurant from Dallas Nelson who opened it in 1986 and named it after his son, Nick.”
When Treyz initially got started in her first foray into the restaurant business, she had help from Dibble and enjoyed a warm welcome from the locals.
“I kept George on for a few weeks, you know, to show me how to turn on the ovens and stuff like that,” Treyz said with a laugh. “When I first got started it was a little overwhelming, but now it is easy. I just jumped in and learned how to do it.”
Since then, the restaurant has thrived with a huge network of locals and a big fan base among the tourist demographic.
“We get a good mix of tourists and locals,” Treyz said. “We are a local hangout and that is wonderful. And then of course the tourists come in during the tourist seasons. We are like the Cheers of the High Country, we are where everyone likes to hang out.”
The restaurant has built up a large following for the weekly karaoke nights held every Friday evening.
“Friday night is pretty hoppin’ with our karaoke,” Treyz said. “We started doing Friday night karaoke every week about two years ago. I used to do live entertainment but karaoke is a lot more fun. The guy who does it has a huge following so he packs the place every week.”
Treyz says that most of her customers are locals who just keep coming back to the local watering hole time after time. While most of the customers are from the area, so are all of the members of her staff.
“I employ about 20 people here,” she said. “All of them are locals. I have a good base of employees that can run the place when I am not here, and I would say that it took me about four years to get it so I have people that I can really count on and trust. I enjoy this business a lot more than my moving business in Florida. I am a people person and I love being around people, especially my customers.”
The most popular menu items include the huge jalopy sandwich, a gigantic open-faced sandwich with half a pound of meat, chili, nacho cheese, onions and all the fixins. In addition, the restaurant offers delicious wings, quesadillas, steaks, salads and more.
“In the summer, on Friday nights, we have baby back ribs that are to die for,” Treyz said. “Every Saturday we have Prime Rib, and that is really good too.”
The restaurant features a full bar with the best selection of beer in town.
“We have constantly rotating bottles and drafts, there is always something new and different and we have beer specials every day,” she said.
The restaurant is a no-brainer for sports fans, with plenty of televisions positioned all around the bar area.
And speaking of sports, these days, when she is not in the restaurant, Treyz likes to spend her free time golfing on Sugar Mountain, spending time with her boyfriend of three years and enjoying herself at her home in Matney.
“It is all part of the mountain experience,” she said. “This is a small town community, you can’t go anywhere without seeing someone you know, and I love that. In Florida, you could go a year and not see anyone that you know. This place is exactly what I was looking for. I could never live in a big town like I used to ever again. I just love living here.”
And Treyz puts every morsel of her love for her Banner Elk community into the service that she provides to her neighbors in her restaurant.
“If people haven’t been here, I would tell them to just come down and give us a shot,” she said. “It is just a good place to be.”
Nick’s Restaurant is located 4527 Tynecastle Highway in Banner Elk. For more information, call 828-898-9613 or click here.
Photos by Ken Ketchie