Last week I talked about our visits to the Loveless Café and Vingenzo’s Restaurants (see post here.) While we were near Nashville we also went to the historic town of Franklin, Tennessee. The first house in Franklin was built by an emigrant from Balgalkan, Ferintosh, Scotland. His descendants have lived there continuously since 1798. Franklin has a nice old-fashioned downtown.
Click on collage then click on individual photo to enlargeWe walked a bit in town. Some of the windows were decorated in honor of the upcoming royal wedding of Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton.
Then we ate lunch at the Battle Ground Brewery and Restaurant. It was established in the historic Franklin jailhouse built in 1909. It is an interesting place. I had a mug of their Soldiers Joy IPA - (India Pale Ale) and enjoyed it as IPA is my favorite type of beer.
The jailhouse is historic but not the restaurant which was established about 1 ½ years ago. Now miles from here, in California, is another restaurant where we ate in February, and that restaurant is historic. It is located at 6667 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California.
I don’t have to explain Hollywood.
This past February 2011 after our trip to Hawai’i we stayed several days with our daughter who lives in Long Beach. Fortunately my cousin was back in Hollywood and we, again, decided to meet at Musso and Frank Grill for lunch. I had asked him to bring some old photos from the family since I have so few from my father’s side (his mother was my father’s only sister.) He did bring several and I have to read all the good explanations he also provided. He brought two pictures of me from the first time I went to Cairo to visit my aunt and her family.
In June 2010 we were supposed to have lunch at this historic restaurant called Musso and Frank Grill but could not. I have a first cousin who lives in Cairo, Egypt, and he also has an apartment in Hollywood. I do not see him often as he is always traveling to see his son in Singapore or his other children in Egypt. I had read a 3-part review of Musso and Frank Grill in Naomi’s Here in the Hills’ Blog (see here Musso Part One is dated Sept. 4, 2009 and is at the bottom of the page.) I was much intrigued by the place after reading this great report by Naomi and asked my cousin to meet us there. Unfortunately it was a Monday and the restaurant is closed on that day. We ate at a Lebanese restaurant near by – my cousin was happy to make all the selections for us since his wife is an Armenian from Lebanon and he knows the cuisine well. I did take some pictures of the American Cinémathèque across from the restaurant.
The pictures are not too clear, but my old-fashioned hair style can be seen, unfortunately. One picture he gave me is of my grand-mother’s sister (I think.) She lived in Istanbul and looks pretty with her long hair – her name was Seranouche or Siranush I am not sure (it is an Armenian name.) I had never seen her picture before or even knew of her.
So we had a booth at Musso and Frank Grill and it was perfect for a leisurely lunch where we all could talk and look at vintage family photographs. Please read Naomi’s account of this restaurant as she explains its history so well. The restaurant is located off Las Palmas and Cherokee, just east of Highland Avenue and has been there since 1919.
As you enter the restaurant you can feel the old world atmosphere – it is like a nostalgic walk back in time, to the old Hollywood. I would love to be, just for a moment, in this restaurant in the 20s, 30s or even 40s and observe the Hollywood Elite coming here. I understand that some of the regulars included Mary Pickford, Bette Davis, Orson Welles, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper, Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen and nowadays stars such as Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Madonna, Sean Penn, Johnny Depp and so many others.
Even though the restaurant is a breath from the past, it is still popular now. I read that in Season One, Episode 7 of the popular Mad Men TV Drama, the bar and old room of Musso’s is prominently featured. They use this restaurant also in Season 2, Episode 5, as a substitute for Sardi’s in New York. It is also featured in Greenberg, Ben Stiller’s movie. So the celebrities still patronize this nostalgic place. As we entered from the back we passed the counter lining the grill and sat in a cozy booth in the old room, under the oak-beamed high ceiling.
We were there early and the first patrons in this room, some other clients were sitting by the counter. It certainly was a different ambience from the Hollywood strip outside. The restaurant was opened in 1919 by Frank Toulet, an immigrant from France and originally called “Frank's François Café,” then, around 1923 he was joined by another immigrant, from Italy, Giuseppe Musso. The restaurant is still owned by descendants of the original owners.
The staff stays working at Musso and Frank for years as for them it is not just a restaurant but a family. One of the chefs, Jean Rue, a Frenchman, was employed there for 53 years, starting in 1922. He created the old fashioned menu of "comfort" food such as the flannel cakes for breakfast, chicken potpie (just like mom used to make – or even better), the bouillabaisse with a varieties of fish and chunks of lobster, clams and shrimp. There is a strong following for more of the old standards from another era: the braised short ribs, sand dabs and the corned beef and cabbage. All the dishes on their voluminous à la carte menu are very satisfying. The Martinis are said to be the best in town, but I had a glass of wine.
Martini photo (left) courtesy Paige PhotographyOur lunch was relaxed and our conversation was a long one but the staff never rushed us. Our waiter was unobtrusive but attentive. This was a moment in time to be enjoyed, savoured really. It is not a “hip” restaurant with chi-chi nouvelle cuisine, but a venerable institution with retro-glamour and understated old Hollywood patina – a piece of Hollywood history if you wish.
We left through the front door and we said goodbye to my cousin. I carried away a bag of old family photographs he let me borrow. I also carried away a bit of Hollywood’s past in my memory and hope that Musso and Frank Grill will also be part of its future.
Before going back to our car I took some pictures of the brass stars embedded in the sidewalk.
Then it was time to drive up into the Hollywood hills to visit Naomi, the Lady in the Hills – but that will be another post.