Elgin bartender gets $1,500 tip

A bartender at Nick's Pizza & Pub in Elgin got a jaw-dropping $1,500 tip after a customer surprised her - twice.

The bartender, who asked to be identified only as Nicole, is a teacher in Crystal Lake and has been working at Nick's for 11 years, usually in the Crystal Lake restaurant, she said.

Nicole said she served two men, one a friend of hers and the other her friend's boss. The boss, whom she'd never met before, paid their tab and that of a couple seated next to them, for a total $44, and added a $500 tip for Nicole.

"I thought it was a mistake, that it was $5. I said, 'Whoa.' I thanked him and said, 'Are you sure?'" Nicole said. "But he said, 'I know you work two jobs and you work hard."

Then came the stunner.

Nicole's father also was having lunch there with a friend, and when the man found out, he decided to pay for their $36 tab, too - with another $1,000 for Nicole.

"I said, 'I can't take this. Oh my Gosh. No.' But he said, 'Don't argue with me,' and gave me the same kind of spiel about working hard," she said. "I teared up, absolutely. Then the rest of the day I felt weird - excited and happy, but like, 'What the heck just happened?'"

Nicole is "a great, well-deserving person," said restaurant owner Nick Sarillo said, who provided the Daily Herald with copies of the receipts showing her total $1,500 tip.

This is the fifth time in 14 years Nick's employees have received tips of $1,000 or more. "It's pretty crazy," he said.

The large tips came from different customers, with the four previous instances at the Crystal Lake location, Sarillo said.

An anonymous customer left two separate $1,000 tips for two waitresses in 2002. About four years later, a recent widow left a $1,000 tip before moving to Florida; later, another $1,000 came from a youth soccer coach who brought in a group of 15 or so kids, he said.

The most recent uber-generous tip came in November 2014, when Elgin waitress Mary Kowalski got $500 on a $90 or so check. "I had tears in my eyes. I asked (the customer) if I could give him a hug," she said.

Kowalski and Nicole said they believe customers, whom they call "guests," respond to the restaurant's friendly environment.

"It's the caliber of personality that Nick's Pizza hires," Nicole said. "Outgoing, bubbly, personable people that try to build the environment."

  A bartender at Nick's Pizza & Pub in Elgin got a $1,500 tip on Father's Day. Pictured here is waitress Mary Kowalski, who got a $500 tip in November 2014. Rick West/
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