I have written about the joys of going to an establishment where they remember you – your likes, your dislikes; or are willing to prepare something “off the menu” to your liking. But I find a certain comfort, as well, in being a regular at a place where just the opposite is true – they savor and protect your anonymity, and everyone is treated the same.
Such has been my experience with my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles – the venerable “Musso and Frank” Grill, in Hollywood, which purports to be Hollywood’s oldest restaurant (1919) and certainly can count itself as the sole survivor of the former plethora of “old Hollywood” celeb hangouts like The Derby, Ciro’s and Chasens. In a city where nothing remains the same, and a historical site draws real estate speculators instead of preservationists, Musso and Frank is always there, always the same. I’ve been dining at M&F for 30 years, and I’m still a stranger and family at the same time, each and every time I visit.
M&F’s has always been a Hollywood favorite – from as far back as the days of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Dorothy Parker, Dashiell Hammett – and continues this day with frequent visits from the likes of Woody Allen, Al Pacino, a virtual who’s who list in Hollywood. The dark wood paneled walls, crowded booths, and geriatric waiters have all survived the decades – as has the menu. Where else can you find Welsh Rarebit, Jellied Consommé, or stuffed celery on a menu – with not sign of penne, pesto or anything remotely classified as noveau or fusion in sight?
You’ll start your dining experience as all customers do, with your linen-tablecloth adorned table being graced with a pitcher of water, ample real butter, and a plate of their ‘signature’ rye bread – tho the regular can be heard to ask for a “basket of butts” signifying to the waiter that 1) they have been here before, and 2) they prefer the ends of the loaf to the thick sliced slabs from the middle of the loaf.
The menu is lengthy. Entrees are separated into “ready to eat” and “cooked to order” categories. It’s noted that some entrees may take up to 40 minutes to prepare.
But you won’t care – you’ll just slam back another martini or perhaps a mint julep (William Faulkner used to get behind the bar and mix his own), while you are waiting; or perhaps you’ll doodle the outline of your next screenplay on a scrap of paper while you munch on a butt.
M&F is an assured “celebrity-spotting site” for tourists (I say tourists, because a native Los Angelean would never ‘bother’ a celebrity in public). The last time I dined there, I had Fred Willard and a lady friend on one side of me, Rip Torn and a friend/colleague on another. Willard was very gracious; Torn was very drunk.
And me? I emulated Willard and Torn both, and got graciously drunk….
M&F is open from 11-11 Tuesdays thru Saturdays at the corner of Hollywood and Cherokee.
If you’re a “regular” or a “regular wannabe,” you’ll enter thru the back door…
Musso and Frank Review