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.

90 Responses to Nickodell

  • joey s. says:

    Just talking to an old friend about Nickodell. There was a group of us, who worked on Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy and any new Garry Marshall shows from the mid 70’s on and it was right next door so we spent A LOT of time here. I used to run into Robert W.Morgan, who was previously a DJ at KHJ among other radio stations that I grew up with and we became buddies till his death. We loved the shows we worked on, but Nickodell gave us a nice place to talk, hang & eat between the long hours. I’ll always have great memories of this place!

  • Steve Zall says:

    In the early 70’s, I was working for a company called Media Locations and Permits. One of our biggest clients was a show called “Dynasty”. One day I walked across the street to Nickodell’s Restaurant and standing in front of it was a tall man with gray hair. He said to me “Who are you having lunch with today?” I replied “I don’t know – I just got here.” To that he said “Well now you’re having lunch with me, and two of my friends!” I asked him what his name was, and he replied “Garry Marshall, and my two friends are Jack Klugman and Tony Randall”

    After that lunch we ended up being lunch partners eating together a couple of times a week. Garry was the first person to introduce me to Nickodells. It was an honor to know all three of them!

  • Dennis Sanchez says:

    God! I loved Nickodell. Perhaps it was because it was the first big time restaurant I had ever been to. Perhaps it was because it was where Desi Arnez signed William Frawley to play Fred Mertz in the “I Love Lucy” show. But perhaps it was the food Man, that turkey lunch with salad, the best mashed potatoes; New York Clam Chower. and cream spinach! Salad and the tasty bread. I mean you were right there in the middle of Hollywood history. I shared a table with Richard Crena. I drank gin tonics with the cast from Happy Days. I mean it was a dream! And now it’s gone! If I could reach back and pull anything back in time, Nickodell would be high on that list!

  • Kraig Miller says:

    I was a frequent diner at Nickodell’s beginning in 1984. I was a recording engineer at Studio 55 which was in the same building. A favorite memory was having late night drinks with George Putnam and listening to firsthand stories of Hollywood history that became juicier and more salacious as the night and drinks progressed, great memories!

  • Michael E. Chapman says:

    I grew up on Bronson Ave & Rosewood just a few blocks away in the ’50s ’60s into the ’70s ‘was such a historically rich neighborhood to call home. My dad & his parents, my grandparents lived here since the early 1930s & my grandfather managed the Hollywood Post Office & later West Hollywood Post Office on Fairfax & became friends with several actors incl. Helen Hayes who would periodically dine with my grandparents at their Bronson Ave home.

  • Brian Strasburger says:

    Brian – Sherman Oaks
    I am keeping the history alive, I have one of the original booths in my Man Cave!
    I got this from the last owner that was also one of the Original Chefs.I have ashtray, red tablecloths, and matches.

  • Jim says:

    My parents loved this place last time we went was in 1974 with my grandfather great grandmother and sister and parents for my moms 33 birthday the spaghetti amazing…. we sat next to sonny and cher.

  • Belinda says:

    I lived on N. Norton Ave. in the 50s and we used to go to the Grotto/Nickodell almost every Sunday night with my grandparents. Often saw Bill Frawley there. I think I always ate the veal cutlets but I remember they had great bread and butter (I was probably 5 LOL)

  • Nan Williams says:

    Dinner before the I LOVE LUCY tapings with Lucy’s mom, DeDe and a couple of other friends. Such wonderful memories. Great food, then we walked over to the studio…

    Nan Williams

  • Lorraine Reutter says:

    My father had a dental lab at 916 N.Western called Curiel and Simpson, for many many years mom and I would meet dad and go to dinner at the Nickodell on friday nights . I remember seeing William Frawley having dinner there also George Putnam who at that time was a news caster. No one made a better Seafood Louie than the Nickodell ….I have fond memories of those days .

  • David Szatkowski says:

    As a young computer programmer from Texas in 1969, my very first business trip was to install a computer at our L.A. office across Melrose from Nickodell. It was a last minute trip so I didn’t have time to cash my expense check. When I arrived no bank, not even B of A who had our corporate account, would cash my check! So one of the guys in the office sent me to Nickodell where the maitre’d took the check reached into his pocket and counted out $300! I wish I could remember his name. From then on I ate at least one meal there every day. The food was delicious and the service superb. The other patrons were very interesting. One was a guy from channel 9 who hosted a horror show late at night. He would introduce the movie, then run next door to Nicks to have a drink between segments. Al kept the TV above the bar tuned to his show. When the next commercial got near, he’s finish his drink and run back next door, only to return for another drink. Al was known for his generous pour, so I don’t know how this guy was still walking by the last segment. Robert Reed from Brady Bunch & Michael Cole from Mod Squad also came in regularly. They were friendly. Robert Reed even remembered my wife and kid’s names when I would return several months later. Nickodell will always have a special place in my heart.

  • Terry G. Smith says:

    I liked the one on Selma best, just off Vine St. Better atmosphere. But then, it was the early 50’s.

  • Lisa M says:

    I have a menu!

  • Dee wes says:

    very interesting. I thought there was one on Hollywood blvd. but above someone says argyl / selma .. well nevertheless, I went to school with Del Zahner who was the grandson of the famed owners. His son was then named Nick. My best friend was married to Del and he died tragically. my friend and the son moved away. They lived in North Hollywood. (went to nhhs). I am not sure what happened to Nick. Recently was in touch with my old friend and she said they were estranged. Interesting background story. btw i do not know which nickodells they owned or if it was a family i know they had money, del was well off.

  • Scott Balesteri says:

    Went to Nickodell’s after a casting call at Paramount back in 1983. This article brought back some great memories of the ambiance and the food. Miss these old Hollywood haunts when I go back to visit time to time.

  • 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:

  • 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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