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Jim Hill here. I'm writing to you tonight from Berkeley, CA. Nancy and I are up in the Bay Area so that we can visit a few animation schools tomorrow as well as meet with a few JHM staffers (Roger Colton and David Gasior) tomorrow night in San Francisco.
Of course, given all the traveling that I've been doing this week, that hasn't left a whole lot of time for me to churn out many new pieces for the site. Which is why I'm so happy that AliKzam came through for me today. Maybe you remember the two pieces that A.K. did for JimHillMedia.com back in April about her experiences on the set of Disney's "Haunted Mansion" movie? Well, AliKzam has come through with another goodie from Hollywood: The inside story on one of the more intriguing dining spots in this cinematic city, the Tam O'Shanter.
Given this restaurant's strong ties to the Walt Disney Company, maybe a trip to the Tam is in order once I get to LA later this week. I'll let you know, okay?
In the meantime, enjoy AliKzam's column, okay?jrh
The Tam O' Shanter Inn was opened as the Montgomery Inn in 1922 on Los Feliz Blvd (then by a different name) in the Glendale area. It was opened by a Mr. Lawrence Frank, who later would be the owner of Lawry's foods and restaurants (you know that season salt with the maroon curly "L" on the container? Yep, that's the guy. He had married into the Van de Kamp family, owners of Van de Kamp baked goods.
In the late 1920s, the name of the restaurant changed to the Tam O' Shanter Inn. As the years progressed, the Tam went through many facelifts, many names (it was The Great Scott in the 1960s until the early 1980s), and many menu changes (food and price). But it has always had the same owners (now helmed by Richard Frank, Jr.), even though Lawry's Foods Inc. was sold off to Liptons.
Another interesting thing about the Tam O' Shanter is it was the first themed restaurant. It has always had a Scottish theme, with tartans for various clans all over the walls, three roaring fireplaces, and a pub! At Christmas time, carolers sing around the place. They celebrate Scottish poet Robbie Burns' birthday with hagas (mmm, yummy). And it's just a fun place. I myself am currently addicted to their made-from-scratch whipped cream horseradish for their prime rib, which is one of their signature items.
Okay, so how is this place slightly connected to Disney? Well, the Tam is an old (highly un-publicized) Hollywood restaurant. The Frank family is not exactly into promotion. But if you read the little brochures at the lobby, they say that the Disney animators used to eat there so often, it was dubbed "the studio commisary". Walt himself had a favorite table: table 31. It's right next to the fireplace in the main room. (John Wayne's table is table 15, located in the tartan room.)
There are some fascinating Disney-related rumors attached to the history of the Tam O'Shanter. Someone once told me that the houses around the Tam were built by Walt Disney for his employees to live in. I've also been told that the architecture of the Tam helped influence building design on the Pinnochio ride at Disneyland. Both lovely notions, but who can say. None of the info that I've uncovered while researching this piece backs up either of these stories.
But, I can say this: in the lobby are two sketches. The first one is of Lawrence Frank, in tam and tartan, surrounded by Mickey, Minnie, Goofey, Donald and Pluto in like garb. Written on the portrait is thanks by Walt Disney and company, and is autographed by Walt. The second has Mr. Richard Frank, Sr. (Lawrence's son) and Mr. Frank, Jr. at the head of a table of food. Seated at the table are Mickeys from all the decades he and the Tam have been around. It also thanks them from the Walt Disney company, but it was made after Walt's time. Up the stairs to the coworker's changing rooms is a frame with various photographs of Marc Davis, Ward Kimble, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston on one of their last visits to the Tam, together. They're photographed hamming it up for the camera, and it's autographed by all of them. It's very cute.
From what I've heard, folks from Disney still come in to eat. The gentleman who drew the pictures was in just last week, but I missed him. I've only seen a few people from the studios, but I can't say I recognize any of them.
Since you'll be in the area, I invite you and your crew to stop by and have a meal with us. Lunch is cheaper, but dinner is super yummy.
The Tam O' Shanter is located at 2980 Los Feliz Blvd. Los Angeles, and the zip code is 90039. There is usually valet parking, but it's always free. It just gives it that extra-classy feel. Be sure to check out their website for even more information.