When Musso and Frank opened for business in 1919, Hollywood was young and fresh and Hollywood Boulevard was a magic address. The boulevard went to honkytonk hell in a handbasket and is now trying to rebirth itself with entertainment complexes and shopping malls competing for attention with cheap souvenirs and hookers’ wig shops, but the moment you step inside Hollywood’s oldest restaurant, the battle of the lifestyles is left behind.
In a swivel chair at the old long counter with its view of the grill or ensconced in a plush leather booth, you are taken back to a world of old-fashioned meat-and-potatoes comfort food served by jacketed waiters, some of whom look like they’ve been here almost since the beginning.
The menu is huge, a legacy of the days deluxe restaurants offered hundreds of things to boast of their kitchen skills: a few dozen hot and cold hors d’oeuvre, sixteen omelets, ten kinds of potato (Julienne? Lyonnaise? Au gratin? Hash browns? Cottage fries? Et cetera.) Immemorial daily specials include corned beef and cabbage Tuesday, sauerbraten Wednesday, chicken pot pie Thursday, boullaibasse Friday, and braised short ribs Saturday. There’s all kinds of fish and a bunch of really retro entrees such as “spaghetti Italianene” and seafood chiffonade; but the truly great thing to eat at Musso’s is anything from the broiler: steaks, lamb chops (better yet, French-cut lamb chops), a profoundly flavorful liver steak, even a grill of kidneys and bacon. Many people eat the simplest possible lunch of flannel cakes (wafer-thin, plate-wide pancakes), which can also be had on the side of other things (but only until 3pm).
As you sip a Martini, Manhattan, Gibson, or Rob Roy in this wood-paneled Tudor enclave, chances are good you’ll spot some of the show biz celebrities who still come to Musso’s. Perhaps even more than you and us, they crave the powerful sense of normalcy this old grill radiates.