Two weeks ago, Bridget and I went out for "A Classy Hollywood Night" and it should come as no surprise that we had a fabulous time! Instead of a full recap of that night, I wanted to highlight the two venues we visited as they are both classic Hollywood spots! We started at the iconic Musso & Frank Grill.
Musso & Frank's history is long and incredibly glamorous! Opening its doors in 1919, it has outlasted its counterparts and become the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Hollywood. They opened when Hollywood Boulevard was little more than a dirt road and famously, Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, and Douglas Fairbanks would race down the street on horseback to dine here. As you probably guessed, the loser would have to foot the bill.
|Musso & Frank's has the best napkins you will find anywhere!|
Bridget and I intentionally arrived early for our reservation in order to enjoy a cocktail at their amazing bar.
Thanks to our Mad Men Cocktail Hour training, I was able to navigate the menu of vintage cocktails quite easily. I felt super sophisticated!
We decided on Sidecars. And. They. Were. Amazing!
The bar is located in the New Room. It was moved from the other side of the restaurant in 1955 when what was then called the Back Room closed. The Back Room, or Writer's Room, was an exclusive area where writers could write and drink undisturbed. This space is no longer part of the restaurant and has opened as a bar in its own right - appropriately called The Writer's Room.
It's rather surprising that there haven't been a slew of things filmed in Musso & Frank's over the years, but two of the few are favorites of mine. Ed Wood filmed the scene where Ed Wood meets Orson Wells in the Old Room.
Also filmed here, a few episodes of Mad Men. This should come as no surprise since many of the locations used for the series are located in Hollywood, Downtown L.A., and Pasadena.
Once you visit Musso & Frank, the booth shots used in the series are unmistakable, yet it was a scene (that I cannot find any visual evidence for) that was filmed at the bar that made me sit up and take notice. The entire establishment is so unique that it cannot be mistaken for any other spot.
The ambiance of Musso & Frank's is absolutely amazing! You step through the doors and step back in time. Is there any other place that still has coat racks for each table?!? I would put money on the fact that there are MAYBE a handful of others out there.
After we were seated, we received delectable bread, a menu, a wine list, and also some backstory about this slice of Hollywood history.
I think they are a being humble and a bit modest by using the tag line "Some Place to Eat" since for decades this was THE place to eat. And to drink. (And as far as I'm concerned, it still retains that status.)
Another interesting read was the menu. There is so much about this place that I adore and one of the things is the sense of family and tradition. It is still family owned and much of the menu has gone unchanged for almost one hundred years! Which can make for some very interesting meal choices!
In addition to offerings such as Baked Escargot, Cold Smoked Tongue Sandwiches, Calf's Liver, and Lamb Kidneys, there were also so many appetizers that we had questions about that I think we were starting to try our server's patience... But really, you can't see an Appetizer Frank without asking what exactly that is - for the record, it is tomato slices topped with sardines and hardboiled eggs. Or see something like Half Avocado and wonder if there is something more to it - there is not. Perhaps if we'd been more adventurous (or had multiple Sidecars at the bar), we would have ordered the mystery items and let the chips fall where they may.
Items which we are not used to seeing on a menu aside, there were so many things that looked absolutely delicious that we were having quite the time trying to decide.
Yes, it looks ridiculous. Yes, it was ridiculous. And yes, Bridget almost cried when she did not have enough room to finish her steak and I wasn't that far from doing the same when I was forced to leave some of my swordfish. A-Mazing!!!! While the fried zucchini and the asparagus were good, the stand out sides were the creamed spinach and the potatoes au gratin! When I think of Old School dining, those are the two vegetables I think of and Musso & Frank has PERFECTED them over the last 94 years! Ridiculous. Seriously. Ridiculous.
After we'd admitted defeat and had our table cleared, we ordered some Port to enjoy while we sat and took in our surroundings/ digested our fabulous meal.
We took in our surroundings for so long that we not only had a little tiff...
|Don't worry, they print a whole set of menus each day that reflect the date and specials, this was not defacing Musso's property.|
But we essentially shut the place down! This was quite beneficial when we made friends with the waitstaff as we were leaving and they had time to give us a little tour and some fantastic tidbits of information.
As I touched on before, the now separate Back Room or Writer's Room is predominantly where the writers hung out (go figure) starting in the 1930's. According to one article I found, the booth that we inhabited that night was the usual booth of Raymond Chandler who legend has it, penned much of The Big Sleep in that very spot. When you are standing at the bar, it is the fist booth against the wall to your right...oh how I wish I could have found some photographic evidence of that. In addition to Chandler, the list of authors who called Musso & Frank home is quite long: F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, T.S. Elliot, Aldous Huxley, John Steinbeck, John O'Hara, Dorothy Parker, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, and Charles Bukowski. The Los Angeles Times once wrote that if you stood in the Back Room long enough, "...you would have seen every living writer you had every heard of, and some you would not know until later." This is what Bukowski looked like on one of his visits.
Onto our tour of the Old Room.
Next on the tour was the booth I was most excited about...my lady Marilyn's booth! Too bad I was under the influence of cocktails, wine, and an absurd amount of food, or I would have been more aware of taking a fab photo. But here is Bridget looking amazing and me looking, slightly less than amazing. Must go back and try this again - Ooohh....Brunch in Marilyn's Booth? I wonder if I can call in a reservation that specific?
And here, Kittens, is how a booth shot is really done.
The list of Hollywood A-List Regulars who ate and drank and held meetings and inked deals that made Hollywood history is incredibly long and spans generations: Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, Elizabeth Taylor, Steve McQueen, Jimmy Stewart, Rita Hayworth, Groucho Marx, John Barrymore, and of course, Charlie Chaplin are merely the tip of the iceberg. Chaplin was perhaps their first regular and the first booth once you come through the front door was widely known to be his.
After spending a few hours here, you will feel literary, talented, and perhaps even like something of a superhero. At the back of the Old Room, there is an old phone booth that was used in the first Superman movie. Or was it the series? Either way, here is our friend ripping at his jacket to reveal his superhero outfit!
In addition to the history that took place within these walls, much of the charm comes from the staff. Many of the servers and bartenders have been here for 30, 40, even 50 years and many have become celebrities in their own right.
Manny Aguirre has been in the restaurant business for over fifty years, with Musso & Frank Grill since 1989 and has been written up in Esquire and Eater, though I'm sure there are many more. People come in specifically to see him as well as the other two icons behind the bar, Ruben Rueda, and Maria Gurrola. They've even got their own FaceBook page!
This is Hollywood and Musso & Frank Grill most definitely has the glitz of Old Hollywood that you would expect with the mahogany wood and red leather booths, coat racks, and servers wearing red jackets, but this is family. And you can feel it. People enjoy being here, they care for each other and about the experience you have and they are spot on with their motto of "The history will bring you in, the food and the service will keep you coming back."
This was only my second time here, but I will definitely find myself here many more times in the future. If you are still on the fence about paying this place a visit (HOW that is possible, I have no idea), perhaps this fantastic article will sway you. It really captures something about the experience of visiting Musso & Frank Grill.
I urge you to pay them a visit, you will not regret you did.