Musso & Frank marked its 100th birthday this year with an appearance in Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
It takes a certain quality to make it in Hollywood, but sticking it out for an entire century requires something else altogether. On Friday, Musso & Frank Grill became the first restaurant in Hollywood to reach that milestone, celebrating 100 years of serving up their famed martinis.
Opened on 27 September 1919 by the eponymous Frank Toulet and Joseph Musso, Musso & Frank Grill was originally known as Francois until they adopted the current name in 1923. In those days the offices of the Screen Writers Guild were just across the street, and the restaurant and bar quickly proved popular with the city’s literary heavyweights. Regulars included John Fante, Dorothy Parker, Raymond Chandler and William Faulkner. The latter was said to have had a habit of mixing his own mint juleps behind the bar, something you probably shouldn’t try today.
Thanks to its prime location on Hollywood Boulevard, the restaurant soon began to attract actors as well as writers. Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe were all fans, and decades later when a young Johnny Depp first moved to Los Angeles he gave Musso & Frank’s phone number as his own before proceeding to take calls and meetings there.
The restaurant is so ingrained in LA movie lore that Quentin Tarantino chose it as one of the locations in his recent love letter to the city, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. It’s the bar where Leonardo Di Caprio’s leading actor Rick Dalton and Brad Pitt’s stuntman Cliff Booth meet an agent played by Al Pacino. Although Musso’s is rightly noted for its martinis, since the release of the film bar staff say they’ve noted an uptick in customers ordering whiskey sours and Bloody Marys - the preferred drinks of Di Caprio and Brad Pitt’s characters respectively.
The red-jacketed staff themselves are an inherent part of Musso & Frank’s storied mythology. Sadly, legendary bartender Ruben Rueda - who once threw out Steve McQueen for being too drunk - died in April this year after 50 years at Musso’s, but others have their own tales to tell. My own personal favourite bartender, Kenneth ‘Sonny Bones’ Donato, traded poetry with Musso’s regular Charles Bukowski and has since published his own book of beat verse, A Poet's Guide to the Bars.
At the birthday celebrations on Friday, Musso & Frank’s marked the exact date of their centenary by unveiling their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, conveniently located in their own doorway. It’s the first to be awarded to a restaurant, which seems like reason enough to raise a martini to it.