What did you see, my darling young one?
2008-08-23 00:33:00 ET

Divisive times call for divisive foods.

Another place I've been hearing a lot about: Musso and Frank's. It's real Hollywood history, more so than the Chinese Theater or the Walk of Fame. It's the place where golden age movie stars went to eat and writers went to drink. Remember that scene in "Ed Wood" when our cross-dressing talentless hero talked shop with Orson Welles? That was at Musso and Frank's. Well, I love history, food, and Orson Welles, so I'm intrigued.

Here's the problem, though. If you look this place up online, you'll find a torrent, a cavalcade, a galaxy of bad reviews. "My bread was hard!" "My sandwich was open faced and bad!" "My waiter was old!" That's not to say there aren't good reviews, but most of those just focus on the history and the fact that, like a cockroach, it was there before you were and will outlive you. I'll admit that I found this daunting. So much so that I almost didn't go. It's a long drive and the food is expensive (more on that later), and you drive RIGHT PAST Pink's on the way over. It was truly a Herculean task, but I'm nothing if not commited to ingesting something new and different.

Ironically, the closest thing I got to advice (aside from warning not to go in the first place) was the observation that the place opened in 1919 and had its heydey in the 20's. Therefore, eat like you would in the 20's. Forget the salads, erase modern nutrition from your mind, and God forbid you should be vegan. It's meat and potatoes all the way. Stick with this and you might do okay.

So the place itself is very nice. It's very, very subdued. No music, little in the way of color (outside of brown and red), but indefinably classy. The septuagenarian waitstaff wear red tuxes, and menus are printed up daily. There were very few people when I was there, but aside from that, it looks right. One can easily image Lauren Bacall finally getting her roast rabbit here. I was seated at "Famous Table 14." I asked what the story for my table was, and was told that, while Table 14 was pretty unremarkable, it was next to DiCaprio's table and catterwhompus (or diagonal, if you must) from Pacino and Deniro's table. I used to have a job where I regularly interacted with celebrities, and it didn't faze me much, but it's hard not to get a little caught up in the spirit of the thing. I heard about people who have been seated next to George Lucas or Huell Howser, and that's just AWESOME.

So the freshly printed menu beckons. There's a lot of food here. They actually have a subsection on cheeses. Presumably one can order a plate of jarlsberg if one feels the need. It was tempting, but not this time. I also noticed tongue sandwich and diplomat pudding, and was tempted to stray from my stated meat and potato mission, but I held true. Steak and baked potato it was. Also a Sapphire martini, because Bukowski, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway used to get sloshed here, and I didn't want to miss out on an essential part of the experience.

They brought me bread which, while rather crusty, was not at all bad. They brought me booze, which I don't particularly like, but it wasn't especially unpleasant and fit the mood. They brought me a potato, full of butter and sour cream. A borderline illegal delicacy from the days before heart attacks, and, mmm boy was it good! And then there was the steak. Say what you will about the rest of their menu, but they cook up a damn fine steak. I ordered mine medium rare, and it came out red and nearly mooing. It was borderline cattle sashimi, and anyone who likes rare meat knows how hard it is to come by without a sermon if at all. And it was juicy. You could almost drink the juices pooling in the plate like milk out of an otherwise empty bowl of Cap'n Crunch. Not that I did so, but the option was there. This was a Platonic ideal steak, and I don't expect to find one better.

All told, I thorougly enjoyed the experience, except for the price. It ended up running me fifty dollars, sitting there by myself. Although the bartender was idly singing "Manana Is Good Enough for Me" off and on, so maybe that counts as a floor show.

So I ended the day with a big dent in my wallet and full of excellent steak. Not something I'd do often, but I really can't complain. Also, Mashti Malone's was right on the way home, so I scored some rosewater ice cream, and got to watch the cute Iranian girl behind the counter rock out to "Purple Haze." So I have that going for me. Which is nice.

So yeah, Musso and Frank's. It's expensive, and most of the food probably isn't all that good, but they make a hell of a steak, and maybe you'll get to sit at Douglas Fairbanks' table.

2008-08-23 05:59:09 ET

i'm glad you have that going for you.

2008-08-23 07:43:26 ET

bleh you enjoyed yourself? I hate musso and franks.

2008-08-23 12:38:00 ET

That does seem to be the consensus, but it was a good steak.

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