Nickodell

There were two Nickodells at one time.  The less-famous one, which closed before the other, was at Argyle and Selma in Hollywood.  No one noticed when that one went away…but everyone in town lamented the closure of the one at 5511 Melrose Avenue, built into the side of a movie studio.  The studio was at one time RKO Studios…then it became Desilu…then it assumed its present identity as Paramount.  Whatever the studio was called, Nickodell was the place folks working on the lot escaped to for a mid-day cocktail, and many important deals were made at its tables.  When I Love Lucy was casting and they needed someone to play Fred Mertz, Desi Arnaz got a call from an actor named William Frawley and they arranged to get together and discuss the role over drinks…at Nickodell Melrose.

Also right down the street was a studio with a lot of history.  The building at 5515 Melrose started life as the Consolidated Film Studio and later became the West Coast home of NBC Radio.  It went through a dozen tenants after that before becoming the home of KHJ channel nine, a local TV station which now broadcasts (from elsewhere) as KCAL.  It was said that in the fifties and sixties, the KHJ News Crew practically lived at the bar at Nickodell and wrote their copy on its napkins.

I only ate there twice, maybe three times.  The food was pretty straightforward American — steaks, chops, chicken — and you got the feeling that for most diners there, the cuisine was of secondary importance to the libations.  But the meals were served efficiently by real, professional waiters (no aspiring actors allowed) and the whole place had a cramped, wonderful sense of Old Hollywood history.

Nickodell’s closed with some fanfare in November of 1993.  News crews showed up the last week, as did everyone who’d ever eaten there and wanted a last meal and a souvenir ash tray.  But then it suffered the ignominious fate of completely disappearing.  Paramount just moved some fences around and suddenly, not only was Nickodell not there but you couldn’t even see where the building had been.  When I drive by now, I think I know where it used to be…but I’m not sure.

75 Responses to Nickodell

  • Steven says:

    My first experience eating at Nickodell’s was the day my father took me there for lunch. I was a teenager. At that time Nickodell’s was next to Desilu Studios, on Melrose. My father was an actor and had just finished filming an episode of Star Trek called “Dagger of the Mind”. Season One, Episode Nine.
    I was in awe eating at this iconic restaurant. Not to mention seeing quite a few celebrities and radio personalities like Don Steele of KHJ.

    During the 1980’s, I worked in the Film Industry in Hollywood, on Highland near Melrose. The Company was called Editel. During that time Desilu Studios was no longer. The Studio became and still is Paramount Studios on Melrose.
    Nickodell’s was our go to place for lunch about 4 times a month.
    If we had time we would eat there. The Menu had a nice variety and the food was consistently good. At times we would call in and pickup our lunch. For the most part, my cohearts and myself would order the Infamous Chopped Salad. To this day, no one makes a Chopped Salad like Nickodell’s. I only wish I could of gotten the recipe before they closed the doors.

  • Doug Wilson says:

    I retired from LAPD in 1992 a year before the restaurant closed. I ate breakfast there many times with my partner Ralph Thurman. Ralph became friends with the main chef at the restaurant and he invited. Us to eat there . Working Hollywood ate there for free. At least three or four times a week . The chef made our breakfast special . Doug wilson I ate

  • Quincy Magoo says:

    Shortly before the Melrose location closed, a friend and I decided to eat at Nickodell. It was horrible. The ceiling tiles were falling. The restaurant was filthy. The menu was horribly dated (tomato juice was an appetizer). As a native Angeleno, I miss many of the restaurants on this list. Nickodell is not one of them.

  • Michael Chapman says:

    In the 1950’s & 60’s I often had lunch at Nickodell’s with my grandparents who lived on N. Bronson just a few blocks from Nickodell’s & have many a fond memory of the Restaurant & That Section of Melrose Ave ‘Esp. between Melrose & Gower to Bronson as we walked that neighborhood often for years & that’s where my dad, their son grew up as Well- ‘So Much history in those few block/s radius….

  • Kirk Silsbee says:

    Hi Molly Dawson. My grandfather, John Brant (nee Brautovic) was a Croatian immigrant and he knew your grandfather Nick Slavich well. John used to deliver eggs to restaurants during the Depression and Nicodell’s was one of his stops. In subsequent years, when John came upon a street crew working on the roads with the name Gooho on the equipment, my grandfather would stop the car, jump out and find his countryman Mr. Gooho and throw his arm around him. I’m sure he hugged your grandfather many a time.

  • gil deane says:

    As I said in another post, my Dad(Benny the waiter) was a fixture at the Nickodell for about 40 years…the neighborhood has a lot of meaning for me…my wife, the former Evelyn Nadson, played tenor sax, flute and clarinet with the Ina Ray Hutton “all girl” band(I didn’t know her then), seen on KTLA…channel 5…from the studios a few blocks away on Van Ness and Melrose. I never heard her play.

  • gil deane says:

    My dad was the “Benny the waiter” referred to in several comments about the old Nickodell on Melrose…great memories!

  • gil deane says:

    This website is an exciting discovery…my Dad was “Benny the waiter” who is referred to in several comments about the now defunct Nickodell on Melrose, adjacent to RKO and Paramount….we used to live near Van Ness and Marathon and then on south Fairfax, near Airdrome.

  • Sheldon Deane says:

    Brings back wonderful memories.I am the son of “Benny the Waiter”. My father waited on tables at the Melroe Grotto and Nickodells for approximately 40 years, retiring at 80 yrs. old. I also have an article about my father that was published in the LA Daily News. Still have a matchbook cover and postcard from Nickodell.

  • Lisa A Alkana says:

    I worked at Paramount 1987 to 1991. We would go to Nicodells every once in awhile. The problem for us at lunch time was he had to be back within the hour and the low key, relaxed atmosphere seemed to result in food the would appear seconds before we had to leave. Box it up and on our way. We were really there for the retro vibe, not the food.

  • Steve Maslow says:

    In The 70’s I used to work next door at Abbey Sound Studios and would frequent the place for lunch on numerous occasions. My first time experience with a Monte Cristo sandwich! Wow what a treat. I wish it was still opened.

  • Cat West says:

    Nickodell’s was a favorite place to hang out and occupy a table for long afternoons in the 1970’s. I would go there with a friend after the lunch crowd from the studios left and the big green booths were available. I often ordered the liver and onions which were always prepared to perfection. They had a vast menu of mostly “continental” cuisine that included many items seen at the Brown Derby. The specials were great too because the kitchen was following recipes responsible for years of success from the glory days. The bar was a classic Hollywood background for movie deals and detective novels.

  • Robert Gibson says:

    Oh, the sweet weight of nostalgia…circa 1951…Melrose Grotto. I always had the swordfish steak. My father was a cop in Hollywood, so he knew the best places. And he was acquainted. I was only 8, a cadet at nearby Cheviot Hills Military Academy. Men in uniform got special treatment….

  • Fred says:

    Croquettes there!!! I used to wait for my GF who was an very active “extra” with some small talking parts at Paramount 1986-7…we would dine there… now we are still together closing in on 32 years. Croquettes are a comfort food for my Philly roots! Love at first bite!

  • Mel Cownzowfski says:

    I arrived in So. CA in late May of 1972. I soon found a half-way decent job there. A co-worker suggested I try Nickodell’s. That was one suggestion that I’ll always appreciate. I can remember eating at Nickodell’s on Melrose from time to time between 1972 and 1980-something. The food was always consistently good and not overpriced for the quality received. I always found the servers to be pleasant, professional and efficient. Gourmet food it was not, but that wasn’t the reason I went there. I loved the ambiance and the low key, relatively quiet atmosphere that one could almost always count on. The photos of the various Movie/T.V. stars didn’t damage the mood or anything like that, but I honestly couldn’t care less if there were pictures on the walls or not.
    My favorite dish at Nickodell’s was their baked turkey (with gravy) along with stuffing, peas and carrots and a nice slice of pumpkin or apple pie for desert. I usually had a glass of moderately priced white wine with my meals there. Nickodell’s may be gone, but it is definitely not forgotten! It is no doubt missed by many, surely including myself.

  • Larry Hernandez says:

    As I read through these wonderful stories, a few people could not remember the corner bar/restaurant on Bronson just across from Paramount’s Bronson Gate. it was Oblath’s. Had a few too many drinks there on occasion with my buddy Robert. (worked at Paramount from ’78 – ’90)

  • Dennis says:

    My favorite all time restaurant! Does anyone have a menu from Nickodelk’s?

  • Carol A. Johnson says:

    In May of 1953 my boyfriend took me there to celebrate our engagement. I was 16 and my fiance was 18. I will never forget it.

  • Rags says:

    Nickodell was a step back in time way back. The food was straight forward and enough to eat, rather than a dollop of anything for ridiculous price. I loved the wait staff and the carts so that the food came out hot. I’ve been gone thirty years and still remember when my mom would visit she had to go there for brains and how hard it was for me to eat while watching her dig into the brains.

  • Mike Neschleba says:

    While going through my late Dad’s photos I came across several taken in front of the Melrose Nickodell in late 1961. He was on a business trip for GAF coming from Binghamton NY to visit the Ozalid plant. The whole group took turns posing in front of the sign.

  • Molly Dawson says:

    My grandfather was Nick Dell Slavich – Nickodell. He opened the Selma restaurant first, then the Melrose location. After retiring, my grandfather sold the business to two of his employees. The restaurant operated with the same menu until Paramount bought the location to build a new entrance.

    I not only ate there as a child, my husband and I took our three children there until the restaurant closed. As the story is told, it was the second oldest restaurant in LA until it closed. The family has scrapbooks full of pictures from the restaurant. Nickodell is a treasured memory for our family.

  • Tim Gibbons says:

    I used to eat at Nickodell (Melrose) from when I was a little kid, in the late 50’s, until it closed in 1993. My favorite dish was Steamed Finnan Haddie — a dish that no restaurant that I know in L.A. now serves. It came with boiled potatoes (with butter and parsley, of course). The drinks were great, the prices moderate (I have menus from 1983, 1961, and 1955). The finnan haddie went from $1.75 (1955) to $2.00 (1961) to $7.50 (1983), but that included an appetizer (or glass of red wine), soup and entree. I liked Mary Jammal, one of the waitresses. She was very good at her job! Here’s an article about its closing: http://articles.latimes.com/1993-11-19/local/me-58563_1_bottled-water

  • Al Donnelly says:

    Nickodell had an earlier incarnation under another name. Seems to have lost my source (something in radio or studio history maybe). I was able to secure a paper placemat from it, printed with microphones and the RKO lightning bolt etc.. Did they use paper ones during the Nickodell era?

  • Bette Carlson says:

    I used to go to Nickodell’s in the ’60s. There was a very funny waiter named Joe. He reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld’s uncle but it isn’t the same person. I think Joe was a part time actor. Also there was a waiter whose name I can’t remember and I believe he was Hungarian. A bartender named Al. Al gave our son a battery operated car (for a 3 year old) as a Christmas gift. We loved going to Nickodell’s. I wrote another reply about The Playboy Restaurant just down the street but I forgot to mention Joe the waiter.

  • Bette Carlson says:

    I moved to California in 1960 and went to a bar on Melrose and Bronson named The Playboy. It was owned by a Greek fellow named Tony Gilketsis (spelling) and sold to two or three people named Dorothy King and Troy Melton. Troy was a stuntman. He may have bought them out. My husband Joe was a bartender there until 1975. We frequented the bar from 1960 to 1975. I originally lived across the street on Bronson in an apartment across from Raleigh Studios. Then I moved to the street where Paramount gate on Bronson used to be. Kitty corner from the gate was a bar and restaurant named Oblatts (sp). On the same side of the street were 2 apartment buildings and I lived in one of them until 1965. Also, across from the Playboy on the same side of the street was a gas station. Western Costume was east of the Playboy and shared a parking lot. The Playboy was frequented by many actors and people who worked at the studio. My husband and I were friends with many of the studio employees as the Playboy was like a Cheers bar after 7 p.m. and especially on the weekends. He and our friends played in many a golf tournament. A bar called Lucy’s was across the street on the south side of Melrose just off Bronson. It is not the same Lucy’s Mexican Restaurant that is down the street now. I think the Lucy’s I speak of has been torn down. I also used to go to Nickodell’s regularly for dinner and drinks with friends and my husband.

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