It’s the oldest restaurant in Hollywood, yet it doesn’t seem to be as well-known as, say, Philippe’s; mentions of Musso and Frank to three friends brought blank looks. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Hollywood,” one said. I replied, “Have you been there since 1919?”
Like Philippe’s and Cole’s, Musso and Frank is steeped in L.A. history, numbering among the few holdovers from the era of Bogart and Chandler. Philip Marlowe would have frequented Musso’s, if he weren’t fictional, and Faulkner reportedly did. Musso’s has a reputation for surliness and a menu that hasn’t changed much from 90 years ago, dotted with bygone dishes like welsh rarebit, jellied consumme and diplomat pudding.
I was always intimidated about eating there. Once about 10 years ago a friend and I stopped in for Cokes in the middle of a Saturday afternoon. When we ordered our lowly soft drinks, the waiter snatched the menus out of our hands and banished us to the bar, despite the nearly empty dining room. Yikes.
Finally, after years of working up the nerve, I went in recently for dinner. Service was pleasant and professional, the steaks (from a coal-fired oven) excellent, the ambience thick. By golly, it’s my new favorite L.A. restaurant (this week). Some weekend I’m going back for lunch to sit at the counter and order welsh rarebit.
Photo: Wendy Leung