If a Los Angeles restaurant could be a celebrity, The Musso & Frank Grill would be it. In addition to serving its signature steaks and chops since 1919, the Hollywood institution stars in films like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Swingers, and Chaplin.
Plus, the restaurant was a bastion for some of the biggest names during the golden age of Hollywood: Everyone from Marilyn Monroe to Frank Sinatra to F. Scott Fitzgerald has dined here. So it’s only natural that Musso & Frank is the only restaurant in LA with its own star on the Walk of Fame (more on that later).
Joseph Musso and Frank Toulet opened the restaurant 104 years ago before selling it to Joseph Carissimi and John Mosso [no relation to Musso] in 1927. The restaurant has stayed in the Carissimi and Mosso families through the generations and is run today by three of Mosso’s granddaughters and their children.
These days, servers in red jackets and bowties still hustle out plates of lobster thermidor and prime rib to a bustling dining room. Musso & Frank remains one of the ultimate places to slide into a curved red leather booth or sidle up to the gorgeous mirrored bar for an ice-cold, expertly prepared martini.
For our second edition of the Insider, we caught up with fourth generation owner Mark Echeverria who is here to tell you why Musso & Frank is still hopping a century on.
What do you think The Musso and Frank Grill’s X factor is?
Mark Echeverria: Our X factor is relationships. We have a lot of customers who have been coming in for a very, very long time and have developed relationships with our team members, whether it’s a server or a grill chef. We hold onto the tradition that when you walk into the restaurant, you’re part of our family.
What’s the one dish you’ll never remove from the menu?
The lamb kidneys with bacon, which was Charlie Chaplin’s favorite dish. We’re the only restaurant that can say that. Does it actually get ordered? Maybe a couple of times a month, but it’s so steeped in our history that out of respect, it will always stay on the menu.
What’s the underdog of the menu?
The underdog of the menu is my childhood favorite, the grenadine of beef. The name doesn’t really explain the dish, so people don’t understand what it is: It’s three filet medallions, simply pan-seared, then set over light brown gravy with Bearnaise sauce over the top. It’s served with a seasonal vegetable. It was the only way my parents got me to eat vegetables growing up.
What is the hidden gem on the wine list?
We have a very special relationship with the producers of Petrus [which is made from 100% merlot] in France. We’ve got one of the only verticals [the same wine made in different years from the same producer] that goes back to the mid-1970s on the West Coast. We’re able to serve very rare vintages and keep the prices relatively approachable.
What’s your favorite product at the restaurant for people to try at home?
Up until 2019, our centennial year, we had never once published or given out any recipes. But that year we put out a book, which told our history and included recipes, including the customer-favorite chicken pot pie. You can still buy the book at the restaurant.
Who’s your longest regular?
It’s really difficult to choose just one. It’s not uncommon to meet someone who’s been coming into Musso & Frank for 40, 50, 60 years, or someone who’s celebrating their 103rd birthday at the restaurant. As an example, I’ll choose a group of friends—Jimmy, Byron, Margaret, and Bob—who met at the restaurant 35 years ago and would come in once a week together. Margaret and Bob are now married. People really find each other in this restaurant.
Who’s your longest-serving staff member?
Interestingly, he’s not from a department you might think. It’s actually our maintenance man, Rafael Ochoa, who has been with us for 53 years. For all of those 53 years he’s been in charge of the physical aspects of the building, which is old and requires a lot of expertise.
What’s the most memorable request you’ve received from a customer?
There’s a telephone booth in the back corner of the room we call the Old Room, which is the room with a grill. It was the first public telephone in Hollywood, and maybe even in Los Angeles. A couple once wanted to get married in the booth and came in with a priest and full collar and had their ceremony at the restaurant.
What’s the best seat in the house?
The two seats right in front of the grill at the counter. You can watch the grillmaster cook some 80 pieces of meat over charcoal on any given night. The grill is from 1934, and the grates are 30 years old. It’s just a very unique experience.
When is the best time to find a reservation?
Three weeks out. We’re very fortunate to be busy, but three weeks out you’re guaranteed just about any time you’d like.
What’s been the biggest change at the restaurant since the opening?
In one word: growth. Throughout the century, we’ve tried to keep the menu as original as possible, and we haven’t changed our style of service. But we have had to grow. In 1934, we moved into what’s now the Old Room, and in 1955 we opened the New Room (the room with the bar). Just recently in 2021, we opened a private dining space next door.
What’s your favorite award you’ve won?
We’re very proud of our star on the Walk of Fame. We were awarded it on our 100th birthday in 2019. We’re the only restaurant on the Walk of Fame and were able to choose our insignia, which is a plate with a fork and knife.
Karen Palmer is a pizza- and pasta-obsessed food writer based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Instagram at @karenlpalmer.