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.

28 Responses to Nickodell

  • Allan Rosenberg says:

    Do you remember the “Original Barbeque” at 8th and Vermont for many years? It closed in the early 1970′s. My family and I went there for many many years, we loved their Barbeque sauce. I think it was owned by the Nickodell family. Where would I look for the recipe for the barbeque sauce?

  • Jesse Silver says:

    Nickodell was a great place to unwind after a tough day on the lot. The food was good and the drinks were serious. Totally agree with the sense of Old Hollywood. I was working at Paramount at the time that Nickodell went out of business. Many of us felt sadness at losing such a great hangout.

  • CS says:

    I was a waitress there in 1975, my first job after college. So many memories of the place, including an elderly waiter named “Benny” (had to be in his early 80s back in ’75) who worked there in the 1940s – 1950s, who talked about the days when “there was a star at every table.”

  • T. G. Smith says:

    Just discovered this site. I used to got to the Nicodell’s, one block east of Vine, between Hollywood and Sunset; I think that was Argyle. Very nice memories. But Scandia was always my favorite. Had a favorite table there. Frascati’s on Wilshire very good too. And who could forget The Luau. Really enjoy your site. Thanks for the memories. T. Smith

  • Alan Maretsky says:

    I worked next door at KHJ-TV. In fact I started my TV career there. I used to go fetch dinner for the on-air technical director when we worked together. I recall it was the first time I had ever eaten a Monte Cristo sandwich. On Saturdays when the Real Don Steele show taped, afterwords we’d all go over and finish out the day in the bar.

  • Christopher Roth says:

    I WANT MY NICK’S BACK!!! I had friends working at Paramount in the mid ’80′s I used to visit for lunch and dinner and drinks…what a great place, with genuine “old Hollywood” atmosphere, great drinks, and some of the greatest old-fashioned American dishes done better than any other place I’ve ever tried in Hollywood, including some things that you cant even get any place else….I Want my turkey Croquets back….(yes, just like Howard Johnson’s used to have, only fresh, not frozen…), best meatloaf I’ve ever had, every meal included real appetizers including marineded herring in sour cream, I’ve never seen anywhere else ever…WHO HAS THE RECIPIE BOOK??? My dream before I die, resurrect a NEW NICK’s, if I can find the magic book….(And dont get me started about MAISON GERARD’S)

  • John Cassel says:

    I had many great meals at Nickodell. My favorite was always a Ceasar Salad made tableside by Mary. She taught me how to make a Ceasar but it was always better to have her make it.
    Dinner at Nickodell then down the street to the Formosa for martinis by Lindy.
    They closed Nickodell and Lindy died. Two big reasons why I’m not going back to Hollywood.

  • Paulette Shaffer says:

    I’m looking for Nickodel’s clam chowder recipe - any ideas?

  • dianne de la rocha says:

    I will never forget the dark lighting and red booth seats. As a child my grandfather would take us here, and I would always order the spaghetti with meatballs and a Shirley Temple, and delightfully listen to all the Hollywood gossip of the day…

  • Patrice says:

    It was a very hot day, a friend and I got lost in the cementary . When we found our way out , we saw Nickodell , went in for a nice glass of something cold . Not looking our best , all hot and tired . Looked across the red booths to see walking in the back door by the kitchen . Who did we see , to our surprise was Michael Cole , Clarence Williams , Peggy Lipton .

  • Murray ARONSON says:

    Nickodel was a fine restaurant. I’d describe it as a much less expensive Musso and Frank. The caesar salad was made tableside and it was a big production. Delicious. The special roast chicken and roast duck dinners were scrumptious. I miss Nickodell.

  • Ty Anderson says:

    I worked at Paramount in 1968 to 1971 when I went to Fox. I work the swing shift and ate dinner there almost every night. Michael Cole of the Mod Squad also ate and drank there nightly. Sometimes I would walk back to his dressing room with him. I have seen the Bonanza cast, Edmond G Robinson, The Mod Squad cast, Lucille Ball and so many others there. I was a 19 year old kid, it was awesome.

  • Don Mac Brown says:

    Voila! Blocked. Could not recall the name of one of favorite restaurants sharing nostalgia with friend. Many thanks for your site. Nicodells,of course.

  • Reed Berry says:

    I dined with a friend at Nicodell on Melrose on its last day of operation 20 years ago. The late Huell Howser (who passed away earlier this year) was on hand with his cameraman to interview diners for his television show. The food was good and it was quite an experience seeing this chapter in L.A. history come to a close.

  • Pam says:

    I loved Nickodell! I was heartbroken when they announced it was closing. I was lucky enough to go there one last time. My favorite dinner there was the New York steak with baked potato and a salad. One of the last places to have French dressing. Anyone remember how the dressing was made?

    Nickodell, gone but not forgotten.

  • Lisa Lee says:

    Does anyone remember is there was a Nickodell’s location in Santa Monica?

  • Douglas says:

    During the heyday of 93/KHJ Boss top 30 radio (’65 to about ’80) Nick’s was the virtual disc jockey lounge for the likes of Robert W. Morgan, Real Don Steele, Bill Wade and many more. KHJ was just steps away and many a jock would hang out right up to air time.

  • Gail says:

    I worked there in the 80′s It was very exciting Some of my favorites Bono, The Traveling Wilburys, Anne Ramsey (Throw Momma from The Train) and Leonard Nimoy (Spock) making Ceasar salad at table the chopped salad The wonderful swordfish. Great exciting job for a young woman.

  • Vicki Vogt Lindoerfer says:

    I worked at KHJ during Boss Radio era….1965-1972. Many, many, many nights were spent at Nickodell’s after work. I spent my 21st birthday there with The Real Don Steele and others, and the wait staff there were shocked, because I’d been drinking there for at least a year prior. (Bank in the day…not so strict!). I remember a favorite waitress…Delores…Armondo the maitre d…and Steve, who ultimately owned the place I think. I loved the place.

  • Helyn says:

    During the 1980s I worked in sales for a huge company. My favorite memory of Nickodells was the Cob Salad. It was my introduction to what has become my favorite “salad meal”. I have never been able to replace the taste of that salad and the memories of eating at that restaurant.

  • Christian Anderson says:

    In the mid-1950s, we lived around the corner from Nickodell at Argyle and Selma. My mother was a radio personality at station KMPC and would occasionally take me to dinner there after work. I was only about 7 years old when June Allison and Dick Powell came to our table to chat with us one day. I remember their “club sandwich” the my favorite menu item.

  • Tom says:

    I have eaten there on a few occasions. I worked on Dear John, a TV series, from 1988 to 1992. That was at Paramount. The cast and some execs would eat there for lunch meetings to plan a new season sometimes. I also ate there with Cliffie Stone when we were at a meeting at the Musician’s Union. The table hopping and chatting with friends there was like down home in a black and white movie from the 1940s.

  • michele says:

    It was the late fifties or early sixties when I would go there with my friends family. It was a special place for us kids, ordering Shirley Temples and baked potatoes. I remember getting halibut.
    The main reason I looked for this site, was to see if I could find anything of their recipe for SCRABBLE. I dont think it was a menu item, I believe it was prepared special.
    Basically it was chopped spinach, a bit of ground meat and scrambled eggs. Maybe in the sixties it was part of the high protein diet fad. Loved it! I make it often, but it would be nice to see if there was an actual recipe for it. ( I like to Finish it with butter and vinegar.)
    I miss that family that was kind to include me in what became a special memory for me. Love you Maureen.

  • Jesse Wayne says:

    Nickodell’s was one of my favorite meeting hangouts. Aside from the delicious higher-end menu items, my old standby was their chicken salad sandwich. So many wonderful memories, including Oblath’s, across from Paramount Studio’s main gate. How sad… they’re all gone.

  • Tim Finn says:

    I am the oldest grandchild of Nick and Antoinette Slavich. When my Dad finished Law School and opened a small private practice on Argyle just up one building up from Selma, my Mom worked as his secretary. I was dropped off in the morning at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Grandpa went to work early and Grandma did not drive. Before lunch Grandma, my Aunt Annie and I would take a taxi to the Nickodell. Grandma had to be there to be there before the lunch rush. I stayed in the kitchen. There was a booth back there for the employees for their meals. When I was old enough to walk, I had the run of the place. I remember going behind the bar and having Charlie the bartender give me cherries and Tony the head cheif giving me slices of turkey and most of all Grandpa giving me scoops of ice cream at the freezer. Grandpa’s health forced him to sell the business to his accountant, Leonard, and to his head chief, Tony, in 1957. My family grew up on Lillian Way and Cahuenga just down the street from the Melrose Nickodell that continued its operation. Growing up My folks would occasionally take us to dinner at Nickodell’s. As Grandma and Grandpa still owned the building, the famikly had a tab there. I grew very close to my Grandpa as he was from the old country and did not have any sons. So he shared with me many many stories of his youth on his Island of Brac, his immigration to the US, his trip from New York to San Jose, his early years in LA when the western limits of the city was Alvarado Blvd, to the stories of Nick’s Melrose Grotto and the two Nickodell Resturants. When I turned 18, he and Grandma gave me permission to be able to have my own “tab” at the resturant. I went to college about 7 miles from their home in Ladera Heights. I had dinner with Grandma, Grandpa and Annie almost every week. Grandpa could still tell stories. In their home was a one of a kind painting of “old Hollywood”. This painting has been lost, but it had a bir’s eye view of Hollywood and Vine area with characters of the 30′s, 40′s and 50′s. I used to spend hours looking at that painting. Grandpa was sharp as a tack till his passing in June of 1979. His was the best.

  • jay says:

    My grandmother took me to Nicodell Melrose several times for abalone, when it was still wild caught. Am going to get some farmed to see if I can recreate the taste, which was unique. Never had a drink there and neither did grandma :)

  • John Grant says:

    I used to go there with my parents quite often. My grandmother worked at Paramount for Hal Wallis. She would join us after work for dinner. We would always see someone there. but I recall seeing George Putman ( a local TV news personality– the basis for Ted Baxter..) there A LOT. My last memories there were in the 80′s before a taping of CHEERS when I saw Kelsey Grammar running lines before taping.
    I will always remember the brass coffee urns and coastal wave paintings on the walls around the booths.

  • Judi WElch says:

    More old LA nostalgia spots:

    Star on the Roof ( BH Hilton)
    Coconut Grove
    Truman’s Westwood
    Goody Goody’s WLA
    Intrepid Fox
    Fox and Hounds
    Jack’s at the Beach
    Frascati’s
    Carousel Ice Cream Parlor ( Mickey Cohen’s)
    Schraftts BH
    Bullocks Westwood Tea Room
    Mario’s Westwood
    Ledbetter’s
    Pandora’s Box
    Will Wright’s
    La Scala
    Scandia
    Luau
    Trader Vic’s
    Imperial Gardens Hollywood
    Herbie’s Hot Nuts
    La Barbera’s
    Bruno’s

    Wish they were still here……

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