The Good Place has a long and storied history of good fake restaurants. Start with the icons: Knish From a Rose, Cruller Intentions, Biscotti Pippen. Move to the simpler pleasures: Bagel on a Stick, Caviar on a Stick, Hot Dog on a Stick on a Stick. Each one of them beautiful in its own way. There are so many more, too. I somehow haven’t even mentioned Lasagne Come Out Tomorrow yet, which feels impossible. But there’s no time to list all of them. There’s barely time to link to the full list, courtesy of Good Place writer Megan Amram. We have a pressing issue to get to. We have to talk about Stupid Nick’s Wing Dump.
Stupid Nick’s Wing Dump is both a fictional Florida eatery and a perfect collection of words. Everything about it. Say it out loud right now and listen to it roll off your tongue. Try hitting the p’s and the k’s extra hard. Think about the general concept of a guy named Nick choosing this name for a restaurant. Picture the confusion you’d feel if you saw the sign as you were driving down the highway (“Stupid Nick’s Wing Dump — Next Exit”). Is it a prank? Is the title ironic? What, exactly, is a “wing dump”? And why does it feel so right, so cosmically on-the-nose, that Jason Mendoza — the show’s charming Molotov-heaving, Bortles-shouting Florida goofus — gets to spend the rest of eternity in one, as we learned in the show’s penultimate episode, “Patty”?
To answer these questions, or at least try to answer them, we have to go back to season one. To the fourth episode, specifically, not long after we learned that Jason had been pretending to be a silent Buddhist monk named Jianyu. The group was at a dinner where everyone discussed their favorite meal. Jason was fed up with the tofu ruse. He wanted to talk about Stupid Nick.
This raises a number of questions, starting with the thing in this scene where he says at another point that the meal took place at “the Stupid Nick’s in Gainesville”:
- Is there more than one Stupid Nick’s location?
- Is Stupid Nick’s a successful franchise?
- What was Jason doing in Gainesville, a full 70+ miles from his Jacksonville home?
- Did he make a special trip there just to go to Stupid Nick’s?
- Or did he just hit it while he was in the area for a DJ gig or something, possibly at the University of Florida, kind of like how I would never drive four hours just to get pizza from Pepe’s in New Haven, Connecticut, but if I’m in the area to visit family I will cram a stop there into my schedule no matter what?
- Is topless wing consumption a health code violation?
- What if the health code inspector was one of the topless ladies eating free wings?
All interesting. All fascinating. And at least one of them seemed to be answered — at least initially — just six episodes later, in the first season’s 10th episode, when Jason was sad about potentially ruining things for everyone with his secret getting out and turning to Janet for a pick-me-up.
At first glance, this seems to imply that there was one location, the one in Gainesville, and it closed due to this pelican incident. But I want you to consider something else. Something bigger. Something deeply hilarious. Consider the possibility that the uproar over a pelican falling into a deep fryer caused such a media storm that it took down an entire regional franchise. Think about the articles, the tweets, the full-on national media microscope zooming in tight on Stupid Nick and his shoddy practices. It would make me so happy. Sad about the pelican, sure, but definitely a net happy.
Other questions raised by this scene:
- How did a pelican get into the kitchen?
- Did someone try to eat the fried pelican?
- Does Nick have serious self-esteem issues, between identifying himself to the public as both stupid and ugly?
- What if Nick is actually a handsome business genius and this is all a marketing ruse to appeal to Mendoza-type Floridians?
- What is a “meat trench”?
- Do you think the menu specifies types of meat you can order (steak, ground beef, pork, pelican?), or do you think it just has two options, Big Meat and Kid’s Meat, and both are unidentifiable piles of mystery slop served with an ice cream scoop?
- Is Nick still alive or did he die?
- If he died, is he in the Good Place or the Bad Place?
- Should there be an entire Nick-based spin-off, like Cheers if Cheers had been set in a food dumpster filled with naked people and petty criminals and amateur DJs, some of whom check all three boxes, one would assume?
Again, all valid, fascinating questions. I could go on, too, easily and possibly forever. There is so much more I want to know about these restaurants and their hideous moron proprietor. It’s one of the reasons I was so upset that the show never mentioned it again over the ensuing three-plus seasons. It’s also one of the reasons I was so excited to see it return this close to the end. You could make a reasonable argument, based solely on the amount of time I’ve been thinking about it over the last few years, that Stupid Nick’s is my favorite restaurant. I’m surprisingly okay with that. Imagine Guy Fieri visiting it for Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. Visualize the entire segment. Have you ever seen something so beautiful?
One last note in closing: As I was researching all of this, re-watching the episodes where Stupid Nick’s was mentioned, it dawned on me how important the restaurant was to the development of the show. Look at that first reference again. It was a big part of the first real twist the show dropped on its audience, the revelation that Jianyu was a fraud and our first real insight into who Jason Mendoza really was. You don’t need to give a character much more backstory than “loves a restaurant named Stupid Nick’s Wing Dump.” That alone speaks volumes and tells us almost everything we need to know.
And then look at that second reference again. I cut off their conversation at “Ugly Nick” because that was all I needed to make that particular point, but here’s what happened immediately after.
JASON: Why are you so nice to me?
JANET: Well, you were very nice to me while I was rebooting. Also, I’m programmed to be nice to everyone.
JASON: Janet? I just realized something. I love you.
Jason and Janet. Janet and Jason. One of the greatest love stories of all time, one that raises even more questions than anything we’ve discussed here, started with a token of affection from a place called a Stupid Nick’s Wing Dump. Sure, Nick may have murdered a pelican and who knows how many other unreported regional birds of flight, but he also brings people together. You could do worse for a legacy.