Nichols Pizza-N-Grill in Los Osos is the kind of neighborhood place you can count on to deliver something for everyone — even patrons who are gluten-intolerant.
Tucked between Ralph’s Grocery and Starbucks on Los Osos Valley Road, Nichols Pizza-N-Grill is a larger and slightly different incarnation of Darren and Mari Nichols’ previous restaurant — Big Daddy’s Pizza. It still has the same attention to quality food and reasonable prices, but now sports rotating craft beers, a raft of flat screens and an expanded menu.
“We listened to our customers, and they kept saying they wish they had a place to watch sports that had good beer,” said Darren Nichols. With that in mind, the couple opted to provide that just a few doors down from where Big Daddy’s was.
After four-and-a-half months of an extensive interior remodel (much of which Darren did himself with a lot of timely help from friends), Nichols Pizza-N-Grill opened on Aug. 1, 2013. Able to accommodate almost 100 patrons, the new space sports a spacious main dining area with additional bar seating and seven televisions, plus a separate room with two more flat screens.
(History buffs will appreciate the touch of several vintage photos throughout that illustrate earlier days in San Luis Obispo County.)
Beer connoisseurs can tap into 18 different options, and most are rotated out on a regular basis. Typically, there’s a monthly “tap takeover” that showcases a particular craft label, followed up a couple weeks later by a “kill the keg” event so the tap can be switched over to a new selection.
The move to the new digs also meant having a full kitchen instead of just a pizza oven setup, so the Nichols Pizza menu now includes burgers and hot dogs, sandwiches and salads, from-scratch clam chowder and chili made with Darren’s mom’s recipe.
With all the televisions, all the big games are on, including the full Sunday football schedule and Monday and Thursday night football. The restaurant opens at 9:30 for those Sundays, and offers waffles, loaded tater tots and breakfast pizzas (essentially an omelet on dough and cooked in the pizza oven) until 11 a.m. when the regular menu fires up.
Fans of Big Daddy’s Pizza will certainly recognize the lineup of pies at Nichols Pizza-N-Grill. Among them are the hearty Surfer’s Friend with pepperoni and Italian sausage, the spicy Hazard Canyon with Buffalo sauce and chicken, and the Veggie Osos with spinach, mushroom, red onion, bell pepper and feta cheese. You can also make your own pizza concoction, and choose from either of the housemade, hand-tossed doughs — regular or gluten-free.
Though persons with extreme sensitivity should be aware there is gluten present in the kitchen, the Nicholses give more than lip service to their gluten-free claim. The prep area is sanitized before the dough is made, as is the area where the individual pizzas are prepared. In addition, there are strict instructions as to which toppings are OK or off limits.
“We have family members with celiac issues, and we’ve seen what can happen without careful service,” said Nichols, who also spent about a year developing a good-tasting gluten-free dough recipe.
That personal attention to quality runs throughout the Nichols Pizza-N-Grill menu. Burgers are hand-formed from fresh, never-frozen Black Angus beef and served on Edna’s Bakery buns. Sandwiches are made with housemade artisan bread, and all the sauces and salad dressings are made from scratch.
“Almost everything here can be made with typical pantry ingredients,” Nichols noted. “I don’t like eating all the junk that comes in processed food, and I want our customers to eat good food, too.”
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1236 Los Osos Valley Road
nicholspizza.com, special events noted on Facebook page
Hours: Open daily, Monday-Wednesday 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-9 p.m., Thursday 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (Open at 9:30 a.m. Sunday during football season.)
The scene: A family-friendly neighborhood restaurant with several flat screens and some video arcade games.
The cuisine: Hand-tossed pizzas with a gluten-free option, burgers and sandwiches, salads and appetizers, 18 rotating drafts, and a from-scratch emphasis throughout the menu; delivery and take-out available.
Expect to spend: Individual pizzas start at $8, a large gourmet is about $20, most other entrées under $10; several lunch, daily and happy hour specials available as well.