This post- on a restaurant I’ve never been to, on the total opposite side of the country- began with a less than satisfying visit to a diner (I won’t get into it but will just say it wasn’t Retro Roadmap-worthy). As I drove away with a weight in my tummy, I began to question myself, “What IS Retro Roadmap worthy? Exterior? Interior? Food? Ambiance? Why do some places make the cut, and others don’t cut it?”
As I was trying to articulate this in my head, to myself, a story came on the radio about Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood California. The restaurant has just had its 90th birthday and is going stronger than ever (you can listen to the story yourself, on NPR right here )
Suddenly I was hearing phrases like:
Musso’s has thrived by remaining faithful to its traditions.
Step into this red leather and mahogany interior, and you step into another world, another era.
You walk into Musso’s, and it embraces you. Musso’s is historical serenity.
It was then I realized that I was hearing some of the definitions of Retro Roadmap worthiness coming out of my very own car radio, as if a voice from another sphere knew what I wanted to hear!
I knew at that moment I had to get on the Retro Roadmap hotline to our West Coast Correspondent Anna B, who has been a fan of “Musso’s” since she has lived in L.A. From her new digs in San Fran she was kind enough to articulate in her own way what makes this place so wonderful:
The Three ways to appreciate Musso and Frank Grill
I’ll start with breakfast, best enjoyed on a Saturday (they don’t open until 11AM, so no need to rise and shine too early. They are not open Sunday.) Solo or coupled diners may enjoy sitting at the counter. It’s old, it’s wood, and it slopes precariously, so hold on to your coffee cup!
Wait for your sourdough bread, then order from Broiler Chef Indolfo, don’t wait for a waiter. If you are sitting too far from the cook, you may be lucky enough to have Manny as your server. He’ll be quick with a slightly dirty joke or a magic trick if he senses you are game. And you ARE game, aren’t you? (OF COURSE YOU ARE! says Mod Betty! Manny has been there for AGES!) The flannel cakes are a must (served only until 3PM.)
(flannel cake photo courtesy of that marvelous wealth of info LATimeMachines.com)
If you crave something in your omelet that isn’t on the menu, they can probably accommodate it. I like a little avocado in mine, but splurge big, get lobster! Your coffee will come with a little metal pot so you needn’t wait for refills. Enjoy the conversations around you, I guarantee at least 3 screenwriters and several union grips will be sitting around shooting the bull.
(thanks to Chris Bertram on flickr for his fab photos!)
Appreciation method two involves making a mid-week lunch visit. Thursday is really day to go, the special is Chicken Pot Pie and it’s uniquely out of this world. The lunch crowd usually includes a table or two of old-school Hollywood writers, actors, and comedians. Maybe you won’t recognize them, maybe you will, but just know that the walls of Musso and Frank store more dirty jokes per square inch than any other locale in the world. Try to get a booth near the loudest group of old men and eavesdrop to your heart’s content.
(photo courtesy of the swell folks at LATimeMachines.com)
Method Three involves a bit of prep, but it’s well worth it if you’ve had a rough week, or a great week. Even a mediocre week, really.
Step one involves making a reservation. The “old” room has the dark wood and red leather booths, it’s much preferred BUT, the “new” room has the bar. It’s also louder and a little brighter.
Step two is dress up. You may feel surrounded by tourists in fanny packs, but you will always find a few swanky kindred spirits, and any excuse to dress up is a good one. Park in the back (it’s validated, ignore the signs proclaiming wacky Hollywood pricing of up to $30 per car.)
Step three will have you arriving approximately 30 minutes before your reservation so you can sit at the bar and have a real martini made by Ruben, a master of his craft. Go ahead, order the most retro, fabulous cocktail you can imagine. He will make it with a flourish and won’t consult the Bartender’s Friend. Folks at the bar are generally locals and usually friendly.
Step four is all about forgetting any budget concerns and having a big splurgy meal. I like to start with a champagne cocktail, then I move on to another martini. I’m a big fan of the lamb, they serve it with green mint jelly! Everything is a la carte, so be prepared for a large and detailed bill, but take it in stride.
You have just become a part of history in a town that rarely recognizes how important an institution like Musso and Frank Grill is.
Thank you Anna B for the handy hints for visiting Musso & Frank – I’m completely kicking myself that Retro Roadhusband and I did not know about this place last time we visited La La Land!)
And if that weren’t enough to convince you, the wonderful folks at Los Angeles Time Machines have given Musso and Frank’s their top award:
“Best Restaurant in the World” This is really not subject to debate – where else in the world can you find a place that combines so much history of the movies and TV, Hollywood, including the history of many of the world’s greatest musicians, directors, actors and writers. This in conjunction with great service (taking into account the unique and unparalleled personalities of the staff), a perfect “time machine” interior, nice and enlightened owners, and fantastic food. A totally non-controversial decision!
Update 5/2010 – Still on the fence? Click here to read WHAT MAKES THE MUSSO AND FRANK GRILL THE “WORLD’S GREATEST RESTAURANT AND BAR” according to L.A. Time Machines!
AND ULTIMATE HOLLYWOOD EXPERIENCE?
I’m convinced- Hollywood here I come!
UPDATE MAY 18,2012 -
Retro Roadhusband and Mod Betty celebrate their/ our 10 year wedding anniversary here!
Click here to see our photos!
Musso & Frank Grill
6667 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
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