Downtown Niles named Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan’s best outdoor dining experience

Pictured is the 6-foot fire pit in The NODE (Niles Outdoor Dining Experience) located at Second and Main Street in downtown Niles. (Photo provided)

The NODE (Niles Outdoor Dining Experience) has been voted “Kalamazoo and Southwestern Michigan’s Best Outdoor Dining” by MLive and its readers. Over the weekend, Watershed Voice caught up with Niles Mayor Nick Shelton via email to learn more about The NODE, and the impact it has had on Niles’ restaurants. 

The NODE features a 6-foot fire pit, outdoor seating, and partitions between tables for COVID-19 safety and semi-private dining. Visitors to The NODE can either bring their own takeout, or order from a variety of restaurants from all over the city that participate in delivering to the spot. 

“I have personally seen food and beverage from just about every open restaurant establishment being enjoyed at The NODE. There are even restaurants off the beaten path that are offering delivery to The NODE,” Shelton said. “The businesses who are looking at The NODE as an opportunity have capitalized on it. For example, Pizza Transit, a restaurant about a block away, created Smore Kits, an item that is totally different than their everyday offerings, that people can buy and take to The NODE.” 

Shelton said Niles’ city administrator came up with the idea and shared it with Shelton and Niles’ Downtown Development Authority. 

“The DDA director helped find the money to finance the project, and then it was presented to the city council,” he said. “The Council approved the concept on November 23rd and on December 17th The NODE opened with a 6-foot fire pit.” Since the initial opening with the 6-foot fire pit, the outdoor space at Second and Main Street has seen a few more additions to add to its appeal. 

Around Michigan, many restaurants and downtown districts are looking to one another as they try to navigate the best options in response to COVID restrictions, and the new potential opportunities since Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill 5781 that allows for “Social District” areas where visitors may consume alcoholic beverages from licensed establishments in designated outdoor areas. This bill has a sunset of five years, so even once the pandemic becomes more manageable, this may be the new norm for downtown districts across the state. 

You can follow “The NODE – Niles Outdoor Dining Experience at second and main” on Facebook to keep up with The NODE.

Michael “Hogey” Hogoboom is a writer, podcaster, and the director of marketing for Watershed Voice.