First Stop – The Musso & Frank Grill
After hitting half a dozen iconic bars and stages in Los Angeles, what we needed was some amazing food, combined with historic atmosphere. We chose three places on our recent, short visit. You won’t be disappointed visiting them.
We found both at the legendary Musso & Frank’s Grill on Hollywood Boulevard (pictured above). It has been around since 1919 – so it marks its centennial this year – and all of the original artwork, seated bar and booths are a welcome reminder that some things just get better with age. The menu remains much as it did in the 1930s, with the accompanying increase in prices, but we found the prices reasonable and the food plentiful. In fact, there’s so much food it’s entirely possible to share meals.
If only the walls could talk. The history of Musso & Frank is intimately tied to the who’s who of Hollywood elite. Charlie Chaplin sat in the front booth to keep an eye on his horse. Mary Pickford, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Steve McQueen and dozens of others came to Musso & Frank for the food, the company and the discretion. In fact, in the corner of the bar by the front door, the chair that McQueen sat in is preserved, including the markings on the wall, made when he swivelled the chair around to go outside for a smoke. You are welcome to sit in any of the booths and soak up the ambience and imagine a star sitting there with you.
Ask the waiter for a quick tour. You’ll find the original menus on the walls, the phone booth where Johnny Depp got his career-making call to star in 21 Jump Street. Deals are still made in the restaurant. While we were there, a man came out of a back room with a script tucked under his arm. But spotting a star may be difficult. The restaurant is known for discretion. So highly prized is this that the Rolling Stones are said to have had waiter Sergio Gonzalez (on staff since 1972) on speed dial, knowing that the restaurant will take care of them – with discretion. Sadly, Sergio passed away this month, shortly after our visit. His presence will be sadly missed.
Next Stop – Barney’s Beanery
The restaurant on Sunset Blvd has retained its character from when it was opened in 1927. It is jammed with memorabilia – a motorcycle mounted on a low wall between sections, celebrity photos everywhere, typical diner-style booths, and plenty of food at reasonable prices. The menu is printed on newsprint. Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin hung out here. You can find a plaque on the bar that marked Morrison’s usual seat: “Here sat Jim Morrison: Poet, Artist, Legend”, it says, and Joplin engraved her name into a tabletop that is now hung from the ceiling and easily marked for identification because it’s very difficult to read. And we were told that Quentin Tarantino wrote Pulp Fiction there. Who knows whether all of the stories you hear about the place are true, but it’s one place we highly recommend visiting.
Don’t Miss Trejo’s Tacos
This one doesn’t fit into “historic”, but it proved to be interesting, given that Danny Trejo stops in from time to time. Stars opening their own restaurants is a trend we see often. Ryan Gosling and Robert De Niro, come to mind, as does Danny Wahlberg with his Wahlbergers hamburger shops. At Trejo’s Tacos, the food is plentiful and inexpensive. Definitely worth a stop. He also has his own donut shop. No, we didn’t see Trejo that day, unfortunately, but then, maybe there was someone in the back chopping meat with a machete.
Snow White Cafe
We’d heard about the Snow White Cafe but hadn’t seen it before. It’s a small place tucked away on Hollywood Blvd. Check out the original murals that line the walls, said to have been painted by Walt Disney. It’s said that Walt Disney and crew made this a regular stop while creating the famous characters for his animated films.
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