International School of Los Angeles

A new experience at one of the oldest restaurants in Hollywood

When I heard I was invited to dinner at Musso & Frank Grill, I wasn’t surprised that I had never heard of it. This is because I don’t often go out to eat unless it’s with my friend Gary, a lawyer and a philosophy professor.

Gary was driving slowly in early evening sunlit traffic, going west on Hollywood Blvd. I’ve lived in this area for 15 years. There are mostly tourist shops and crowds of people, looking down at the star’s names embedded in the sidewalk. My gaze was directed north. Behind a palm tree on Hollywood Blvd. I saw a large sign that I had never noticed. It said “Musso & Frank Grill, Oldest in Hollywood, Since 1919.”

We took a right onto Cherokee, a side street just by the Hollywood Costume Shop and pulled past local vagrants, through a metal fence to a valet parking with snappy attendants dressed in red coats. I noticed that everything behind the building was brick, which was much different from the flat white appearance out front. There was another large, vintage-looking billboard sized sign saying the name of the restaurant.

We got out of Gary’s Mercedes and walked toward the entrance. I noticed a line of luxurious cars, thinking that I had never seen so many nice cars in Hollywood in one place. Then I stepped under the restaurant name again on the green awning and descended the stairs.

We passed the kitchen on the left, it was very busy with hustle and bustle. We entered a large wood and red leather booth area with white tablecloths that was nearly full of people with a platoon of waiters milling around. One of them greeted us and sat us at a spacious semicircle booth and gave us the menu. I could tell it was a developed and complicated menu. It was quite large and absorbed my attention to the point that I didn’t even notice that complimentary bread and butter had arrived.

I finally decided on Crème of Tomato Soup, Salmon Fillet and for dessert Crème Bruleé. My order felt important, I don’t know to whom but it was a feeling in the air that if someone was going to write something, it might be me giving my John Hancock on the Declaration of Independence. That is how important placing your order feels at Musso & Frank.

My lemonade arrived and Gary got a Manhattan cocktail. As we waited, we talked about philosophy and the concept of what is a man. I looked around the large dimly lit room, illuminated on the south side by the sunset in large smoked glass windows that you cannot see in from the busy street. In fact, I noticed I couldn’t even hear the traffic at all. Gary expounded on the history of the place and writers who had eaten here: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and even Jack Kerouac. After having found that out, I took that time to look up who else had been here and it turns out that here they filmed for “Ocean’s Eleven,” and that Johhny Depp, Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Harrison Ford are known to go to the restaurant.

To me this would be the perfect place for a date. And if you are short on money, you can go in for dessert. I would also suggest it as a great place for celebrations of any kind, with family or friends to get a taste of the good life.

It goes without saying that the food was great and I couldn’t get enough of it. The soup was delicious and so was the salmon which came with potatoes wrapped in bacon. I was really full when the dessert arrived since I usually only eat a one-course meal.

The crème brûlée was just right and even had small red berries inside. It was like a work of art, the top was burnt just how it’s supposed to be and it was mouth-watering with all the flavors blending with the main course and also clearing the palette from fish into creamy brûlée sweetness. I wondered how many people had enjoyed these same dishes surrounded by the same ambiance over the decades. I had really been pulled into the old world elegance of it all.

Gary was on his second Manhattan and I’d lost track of lemonade refills. The bill came in a flash and it was surely more than$200. The charming restaurant and the good food wasn’t cheap! I was dropped off back in my known territory.

I was left with this question as I walked to the bus stop, “What is a man?” A man, I thought, eats at Musso & Frank’s.