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.

58 Responses to Nickodell

  • 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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