It’s Been an Inn Place for More Than 60 Years
Its Old World-style interior decor and rustic, dark-beamed exterior are what you might expect from a restaurant called the Tam O’Shanter Inn--right down to the last hand-tinted portrait of the beloved bard Bobby Burns, and you can see four of these upon entering the foyer of the restaurant.
But the appearance is misleading. It was actually designed in 1922, not by a Scot, but by then-popular whimsical movie-set designer Harry Oliver.
And the atmosphere in the piano bar at the 66-year-old Tam O’Shanter on any given night is anything but Auld, Lang or Syne.
On Wednesdays, with veteran boogie-woogie man Fats Mizzell at the ivories and sit-in compadres guitarist Ronnie Mack and drummer Saul McCormack, the music cooks, as they say, with gas, not peat. On other nights of the week listeners can enjoy the piano playing of Malcom Langan and John Gilmore, and on the weekends Frank Day.
Established in 1922
The original restaurant--the country tavern facade fronting on Los Feliz Boulevard--was established at this location in 1922 by Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp, of Lawry’s Restaurants fame. The family still owns and operates the Tam O’Shanter, making it one of the oldest single-concern-owned restaurants in Los Angeles.
The restaurant has gone through several changes of name over the years. Originally it was called Montgomery’s Country Inn, becoming the Chanteclair about a year later. It became the Tam O’Shanter Inn in 1925. Then in 1967 the name was changed to Great Scot, but six years ago, it went back to Tam O’Shanter.
In its early years the bar and restaurant were popular hangouts for the stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age--John Wayne was a favored customer. Of course, back then the Atwater neighborhood was considerably more rural than it is now. In fact it was country and was popular as a filming location with the burgeoning Hollywood studios.
But even though the ever-growing metropolis of Los Angeles has engulfed the Tam O’Shanter, Wednesday nights still bring back some of that old rustic flavor. That’s when the Sierra Club hikers, fresh from their jaunts in the wilds of nearby Griffith Park, drop in for some conversation, relaxation and entertainment and sing-alongs.
The restaurant still serves half-yards of brew on request--an old Scots and English tradition wherein beer and ale are served in tall, slender glass tankards that resemble old-fashioned car horns sitting upright, the rubber balls on the bottom being replaced by glass globes. The round-bottomed half-yards are served in special racks.
A word of caution is in order here: Half-yards are deceptively voluminous. Originally, full yards of ale (literally a yard long) were used in drinking contests--no easy feat, for the last blast of beer in the globe invariably gushed out, drenching all but the really expert yard-drinker.
With four large dining rooms, a music room, bar with leather booths and lobby, the Tam O’Shanter can accommodate quite a crowd in comfort, and is so constructed as to minimize noise. The lushly appointed Bonnie Prince Charlie Room features a large fireplace, dark wood paneling and richly upholstered chairs.
The dinner menu concentrates on traditional British staples such as roasted sirloin of beef served with Yorkshire pudding, roasted duckling with lingonberry sauce, prime rib and “toad in the hole.” There are also special selections, which include curries and champagne chicken, as well as a pub menu of savory sandwiches.
More than 25 domestic and British brands of beer and ale are offered, and there’s a roster of fine Scotches.
Tam O’Shanter, 2980 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles. Lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily; dinner Sundays-Thursdays, 5-10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, 5-11 p.m. Sunday brunch, 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sandwich bar open daily, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Reservations required for dinner and brunch, (213) 664-0228.