Why Musso & Frank Grill Was Beloved By Literary Greats

A legend in its own right, Musso & Frank Grill has been a pivotal part of the history of Hollywood. Since it first opened its doors in September 1919, the oldest restaurant in Hollywood has been a favorite of Hollywood's biggest stars: Charlie Chaplin has a booth named after him here — the only one in the restaurant with a window, where Chaplin used to sit to keep an eye on the horse that he would race to restaurant against Douglas Fairbanks with — and Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and Steve McQueen all had their preferred booths, tables, and seats, writes the Hollywood Reporter.

Musso's was beloved by more than just the stars that graced the big screens. In fact, as current owner Mark Echeverria notes to NPR, Musso's actually started out as a "writer's hangout." It was a second home to some of the biggest literary names of the 20th century, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, T.S. Elliot, Alduous Huxley, John Steinbeck, Dorothy Parker, Kurt Vonnegut, and Charles Bukowski, notes the restaurant's history page.

Timing and location, location, location

In the 1930s, in the new era of talkies, Hollywood studios actively recruited writers as they needed story and dialogue for movies and "every noteworthy literary figure came out West to write for films." At the time, the Screen Writers Guild was located across the street from Musso's, and writers started spending a lot of time at the restaurant. As Philippe Garnier, writer of "Scoundrels & Spitballers: Writers and Hollywood in the 1930s" notes to Criterion, Musso's Back Room was one of the few places that "a highly paid scriptwriter could not lord it over a barely published but talented novelist." Stanley Rose Bookshop, another popular literary hangout, was also right next door to Musso's.

And so it was at Musso's that F. Scott Fitzgerald would proofread his novels and Raymond Chandler would write parts of "The Big Sleep" over drinks in the Back Room. When the Back Room closed in 1955, the tradition carried on in the New Room with a new generation of writers, including Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, and Charles Bukowski. Today, bestselling author Michael Connelly goes to Musso & Frank "all the time for a great martini," noting to the Hollywood Reporter that, "those martinis are the cure for writer's block." Aspiring writers can still sit at the exact same bar that the literary greats did — when the Back Room closed, the bar was moved to the New Room — and enjoy a timeless martini with a sidecar on ice.