Our Story

this is who we are

The Tongva people lived in the area around Nick’s Café before the Spanish arrival. They built the Zanja Madre as a water source. It remain the main water source until the 20th century. The railroad purchased the area and created the main freight yard for the new city of Los Angeles, the River Station. There was a passenger depot, hotel and restaurant. In 1933 Christine Sterling opened tourist area China City across from the River Station freight yard.

In the late 40’s China City burnt down. Nick was just out of Navy and decided to open a little diner across from the River Station freight yards. This was an area being built on the old China City site. In 1948 Nick opened his doors to his little diner. He sat bone-in ham up on the counter and sliced it to order. Some people called his little diner the Ham House.

Lois worked as waitress in those days and had a loyal following. She never wrote a ticket for the kitchen. She would call back to the cook the order and somehow everyone got the correct food. It was busy place back then. The counter was full and someone was waiting behind each seat.

After a successful run Nick sold his diner to a couple of LAPD detectives. They put in a train that ran around the ceiling. The freight yard closed up and the neighborhood changed. Law enforcement began to fill the little place up, along with the DWP workers from yard down the street. Nancy joined the crew and the era of Pepper and Nancy began. They made some spicy salsa and kept the ham. The conversations were lively, service was prompt, and the plates clicked out of the kitchen.

After many good years, the place fell into dark times. The old rails yard were grown over and the freight buildings were empty. The state acquired the rail yards and cleaned it up. An artist grew corn for a project so the area was then known as the Cornfields. The corn went away and a park emerged. Many of old buildings became occupied and there was life again by the river.

In 2009 Rod took it over the little diner. Tradition was baked into the walls. The ham and salsa recipes was there and many of the faithful customers came by. Rod, Luis, Kim and Carlos started a new era of food and service. The conversations are still sassy. The food is still fresh. The ham is still as sweet and the salsa is still as hot.

The horseshoe counter is old. It has seen a lot of history. People have grown up sitting on those seats. Join us to make more history and celebrate the past.



5:30AM - 3PM


5:30AM - 3PM


5:30AM - 3PM


5:30AM - 3PM


5:30AM - 3PM


6:30AM - 3PM


6:30AM - 3PM


keep in touch

Nick's Cafe

1300 N Spring St,

Los Angeles, CA 90012

Phone. 323-222-1450