At the northwest corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Cherokee Avenue (between Highland and Vine), you'll find an old-fashioned restaurant which has become a Tinseltown landmark. Musso & Frank Grill is almost 80 years old, allowing it to lay claim to the title of "the oldest restaurant in Hollywood" - and it's still one of the most popular.
Virtually all of the other legendary restaurants of Old Hollywood have vanished from the scene: The Brown Derby, the original Chasen's, Ciro's, Romanoff's, the Trocadero... But Musso & Frank has survived and prospered, right in the center of downtown Hollywood.
Established in 1919, the first restaurant in Hollywood, Musso & Frank's has long been a hangout for screenwriters and assorted celebrities. Since the Writer's Guild was located nearby on Cherokee, it became a favorite watering hole of writers such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner (who mixed his own mint julips here), John O'Hara, Dorothy Parker, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler - even Ernest Hemingway. "Sadly, most of these legendary authors were lured to Hollywood by studio money, and out of their element, many of them ended up drinking their lives away at the bar here.
Actors from the nearby studios also dropped by, starting as far back as the 1930's. Silent-movie star Tom Mix used to dine next to a window here, so his fans could see him. Charlie Chaplin liked their martinis; he and Paulette Goddard were regulars. Humphrey Bogart, the Warner brothers, Jack Webb and Peter Lawford also frequented the restaurant...
Even today, spotting a famous face at Musso & Frank isn't hard to do. Tom Selleck likes table 24. Al Pacino prefers table 28.
Rolling Stones drop
by when they're in town (in fact, the Stones' guitarist Keith Richards
dined there with 14 pals during their '97 concert stop here).
In August of 2001, Woody Allen threw a party there for the opening of his film "Curse of the Jade Scorpion". Guests included Helen Hunt, Charlize Theron, David Ogden Stiers, DreamWorks' Jeffrey Katzenberg and Elizabeth Berkley.
Some customers have been coming in for over 50 years. The restaurant offers a rare sense of permanence and continuity on the ever-changing Hollywood Boulevard.
And the Musso & Frank Grill looks like the kind of dimly-lit place where Humphrey Bogart and Raymond Chandler would have hung out - the ultimate film noir setting. It's a clubby atmosphere, with wood-paneled walls, a place where the career waiters wear bright red jackets that match the red leather inside those high-sided mahogany booths. Chandler wrote "The Big Sleep" here.
And the restaurant was briefly seen in the 2001 hit "Oceans 11", in a scene where George Clooney and Brad Pitt first discuss the Vegas heist in one of the booths.
Musso & Frank serves old-fashioned American/Continental food. The menu harkens back to years gone by; they serve Postum, but not expresso. Corn beef and cabbage (on Tuesdays), but no risotto. Coffee comes in small, individual pots. It's a place where you can still find shrimp cocktails, Welsh rarebit and jellied consommé on the menu. The restaurant's extensive choices include fine grilled meats and oyster stew for dinner, their famous flannel cakes for breakfast, and luncheon specials such as chicken pot pie (on Thursdays). Steaks, chops and grilled liver are always good here.
Prices can be fairly high for this kind of fare. They're open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM - 11 PM (closed on Sundays and Mondays). Breakfast is served all day - except for those flannel cakes (ultra-thin pancakes0), which are only served until 3 PM. Parking is in a fee lot in the back.
(Curious about the
name? Well, the restaurant was originally owned by John Musso and Frank
Hollywood & Vine, just go west on Hollywood Boulevard (seven blocks)
to Cherokee. The restaurant will be on your right (north) side. Enter through
the back door.
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Copyright © 2014-Gary Wayne
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