Musso & Frank Grill, 100 years later

Musso & Frank
Musso & Frank Grill hits the century mark this year.
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)
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Inside the doors of Musso & Frank Grill, change is a bad word.

The famed restaurant will celebrate its 100th year Friday. After all this time, owner Mark Echeverria says the restaurant remains proudly “unchanged,” except for a few minor updates.

The landmark restaurant is integral to the identity of Hollywood, which is perhaps why filmmaker Quentin Tarantino chose to feature it in his latest movie, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”

Musso & Frank has appeared in the pages of The Times regularly since it opened in 1919. Here’s a walk down memory lane, and some recollections of the place from its most die-hard regulars.

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Musso & Frank Grill by Lois Dwan

Musso & Frank
(Los Angeles Times)

In 1969, Lois Dwan wrote about the charm of Musso, which has hosted some of the biggest names in the literary and film industries.

The nearest thing Los Angeles has ever had to a writer’s restaurant is Musso & Frank, where the likes of Bertolt Brecht, Thomas Mann and John O’Hara were fed and fostered by Mr. Musso and chef Jean Rue. Today elegant food is still served.
Lois Dwan

A taste of the good old days at Musso by Rose Dosti

A bone-in rib-eye steak with a martini at Musso & Frank Grill
A bone-in rib-eye steak with a martini at Musso & Frank Grill.
(Calvin B. Alagot / Los Angeles Times)

Dosti, in her 1984 piece, wrote about her love affair with the restaurant, where she said even “waiting” at Musso is a pleasant experience.

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I go on Saturdays for the braised short ribs. Others would not miss Monday’s chicken and noodles. A true Musso fan will recite the roster of specials as others recite poetry.
Rose Dosti

Counter Intelligence: Elbow room by Jonathan Gold

In 1990, Jonathan Gold wrote a tribute to Musso in which he described it as the “oldest real restaurant” in Hollywood.

In a sense, it’s impossible to describe Musso & Frank as a restaurant, rather than one’s own relationship to Musso & Frank. Like the Griffith Park Observatory or Ramon Navarro’s star on Hollywood Boulevard, Musso’s just is, canned asparagus and crab Louie and all.
Jonathan Gold

The grill of it all: Hollywood may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, but Musso & Frank is here to stay by Ruth Reichl

Musso & Frank’s sign lights up the Hollywood sky
Musso & Frank’s sign lights up the Hollywood sky.
(Bret Hartman / Getty Images)

In 1993, Reichl wrote that Hollywood is losing its luster but that she considered a meal at Musso and & Frank Grill the “antidote.”

A restaurant that started out in an upscale area and continues to offer decent food and swell service as the neighborhood crumbles around it, Musso’s is our most democratic institution. You can’t categorize the customers here by age, race or social class, and if you’re looking for the American way as it is really celebrated in Southern California, you can do no better than lunch at Musso’s.
Ruth Reichl

Remembering Ruben Rueda: Musso & Frank bartender threw out Steve McQueen and got a guitar from Keith Richard by Carlos Valdez Lozano

Longtime Musso & Frank barman Ruben Rueda.
Longtime Musso & Frank barman Ruben Rueda.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Among the things that make Musso & Frank Grill special is the people who help run it. This year, after longtime bartender Ruben Rueda died, Carlos Valdez Lozano wrote about bartender Ruben Rueda, who threw out Steve McQueen and got a guitar from Keith Richards.

By all accounts, Rueda was a gentleman and a good listener who treated everyone the same, famous or not. As a bartender, he was full of wisdom, fantastic tales and hundred-proof charm. Even if he didn’t always remember a customer’s name, Echeverria said, he remembered their drink.
Carlos Valdez Lozano

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What do Musso’s regulars have to say?

Recently, we spoke with people who have been frequenting the Hollywood restaurant for decades. Here are some of their memories of the place:

James Pappas, 52, a fashion designer who is popularly known as the “mayor” of the “super regulars” at Musso, has been going to the restaurant for 30 years. He was at Rueda’s bedside when he died.

I was there so much I never had a cellphone and if somebody would want to call me or reach out to me, they would call Musso & Frank.
James Pappas

Classic martini at Musso & Frank
The classic martini at Musso & Frank is served in a smaller-than-normal glass, with the remainder of the cocktail poured into a sidecar and kept on ice.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Thomas McGough, 55, chief executive of Pongo Productions in Glendale, said his love affair with the restaurant began in his early 20s when he first tried the seafood chiffonade salad; it still remains his choice meal. But sometimes he veers off and orders a steak instead.

One of my favorite things to do on a cold winter’s evening is I’ll go and I’ll sit at the counter right on the other side of the steak grill. And I feel the warmth of the grill while I am sitting there all by myself and ordering a steak and that is my singular pleasure.
Thomas McGough

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Byron Greco, 65, general manager of Stampede Studios, has been frequenting the restaurant since 1994. He recalls celebrating some of his memorable moments on a bar stool at Musso.

It might sound clichéd but for me going to Musso is like going to church.
Byron Greco

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Stephen Randall, 69, who worked for Playboy magazine, went to the restaurant every Saturday and enjoyed a drink in the warmly lit red booths.

In a sense it’s like a museum, it captures a very cool era ... the Raymond Chandler era of Los Angeles. The interesting thing about the restaurant is how unchanging it has been. Most places don’t last as long and other places are always reinventing themselves. There has been a consistency to Musso that is very comforting.
Stephen Randall

Musso & Frank Grill

Prices: Appetizers and salads, $7-$21; entrees, $10-$55.

Details: Credit cards accepted. Lot parking. Wheelchair-accessible.

Location: 6667 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 467-7788, mussoandfrank.com




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Bharbi Hazarika is a 2019 lifestyle intern at the Los Angeles Times.