“I’ve been coming here twice a day for 25 years. If it wasn’t for Jimmy (Nichols) and his family, I’d starve!” says Rita, a regular who lives across the street from J. Nichols Kitchen in Del Rey.
Rita is one of the residents who has been coming to the restaurant in the Marina Marketplace plaza for decades. She has seen the original and has grown with the renovations.
Much like Rita, J. Nichols Kitchen isn’t just another restaurant in the area. In the Marina del Rey area since 1974, this is a family owned and operated restaurant that has grown with the community.
At first, I have to admit, I was leery. I was fearful it wasn’t going to be much after reading some of the other reviews. However, I’m glad I decided to go.
The history behind the restaurant is that Basil Nichols (Nikoulopoulis), father of Jimmy Nichols and Christene Pluhar, who now run it, had a simple idea: He wanted to offer a place where people would want to come in, drink their coffee and enjoy quality food.
For nearly four decades, J. Nichols Kitchen was a fixture the locals were familiar with, but the building was approved for renovations as part of the plaza and the family decided it was the right time to update the restaurant.
Jimmy Nichols had been working in the restaurant since the age of 9. He and his sister, Christene, would come after school and on weekends to help out their dad. Jimmy recalled how he would ask his father to make some changes to the restaurant because he wanted it to be a place that could appeal to a different generation.
As time went on, Basil began listening to Jimmy’s vision and eventually agreed to make changes. While Basil passed away seven years ago, his memory and vision live on through his children and the restaurant they have redesigned.
They say the city’s ordinance to remodel was the opportunity they needed to create a restaurant that reflected who they were without changing the core of what the restaurant stood for. Designed by Rocky Rockefeller and decorated by Christene herself – who worked previously as an interior designer for a firm in Los Angeles – J. Nichols is now a contemporary restaurant with tremendous potential.
With a menu that puts a modern spin on old favorites, new dishes that reflect Chef Roger Hayot’s personality and breadth, and a vision to make this the community stop for decades to come, the new J. Nichols Kitchen may be something the locals are still warming up to. I stopped in and sat with Jimmy and Christene, who shared their family history with me while I browsed the menu.
I ordered the roasted beets and feta to start: a visually colorful dish. The beets were cooked firm and served over a mold of feta cheese, topped with arugula and sherry vinaigrette – it was refreshing. I was having a “breakfast for lunch” kind of moment so I decided to create my own omelet: egg whites with kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, basil, and feta served with home fries, crispy bacon, and a latte.
The omelet was very good; I say this with an emphasis because sometimes, an omelet falls flat or is too runny – not this one. In all fairness, I didn’t try many menu items but after perusing through it, I am definitely going back to try the hummus, homemade sausage, truffle fries, charred pit beef, and the Del Rey Salad (maybe not all at the same time).
Jimmy Nichols has a deep appreciation for a colorful menu, having graduated from Pepperdine University and attended culinary school in San Francisco for 16 months. He and his sister share a love of food, a passion for family, and a devotion to the success of this restaurant. Change can be difficult but it is inevitable, and I hope the local community will give the new version of J. Nichols Kitchen a try.
J. Nichols Kitchen, 4375 Glencoe Ave. Del Rey 310.823.2283