On the milestone birthday of the fabled Tinseltown joint, we toast its iconic history and new celebratory book
Words by ANUSH J. BENLIYAN
In 1919, an entrepreneur named Frank Toulet opened the doors to a modest French eatery on Hollywood Boulevard — back then just a lonely dirt road — and in short time, after a partnership with restaurateur Joseph Musso, the Musso & Frank Grill became a mainstay for Tinseltown stars and L.A.’s culturati. Over the decades, it earned the patronage of entertainment icons, including Alfred Hitchcock, Rita Hayworth, Steve McQueen, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra; and literary legends, among them Ernest Hemingway and T.S. Eliot, who, in the years after Prohibition, would congregate in the back room to down a few stiff drinks.
A century later, not much has changed — from the celebrity draw and no-photos policy to the seasoned open-fire grill; not even the wallpaper. “It’s got Humphrey Bogart’s cigar smoke up there,” says Mark Echeverria, the CFO/COO and fourth-generation proprietor, whose great-grandfather took over the restaurant in 1927. “How can you possibly take that down?”
Echeverria takes the preservation of Musso & Frank seriously, bringing in, for instance, a Warner Bros. prop master once a year to treat the original wood paneling. The ’30s-era bar where F. Scott Fitzgerald would make his own mint juleps remains intact, and the menu still offers 1920s staples like lamb kidneys (Charlie Chaplin’s favorite); the ever-popular filet mignon; and the famous house martini, of which they served about 53,000 last year.
Now, the establishment honors its 100-year history with the October release of The Musso & Frank Grill: Some Place to Eat (Story Farm, $40), a book by author Michael Callahan that chronicles the landmark’s storied past and thriving present (including a nod to its many cameos in film and television) and features recipes for its cult classics, like the chicken potpie.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce also marked the centennial this fall with a star-shaped Award of Excellence on the boulevard, a distinction no other eatery can claim. “Running [Musso & Frank] is so much more than running a restaurant,” Echeverria says. “People know they could always come here and get that same meal that they’ve had for decades, that same dish that their grandfather had decades prior. … We’ve always given it to them, and we’re not going to change.”
6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323-467-7788.
Feature image: The house martini is often lauded as the best in L.A. Photo by Tina Whatcott-Echeverria. All photos from The Musso & Frank Grill: Some Place to Eat (Story Farm).
This story originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2019 Men’s Edition of C Magazine.
Discover more FOOD news.