The Tam O’Shanter was opened by Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp in 1922, and originally was named Montgomery’s Country Inn until 1925, so after 101 years the Tam is L.A.’s oldest continuously operating, same-family-owned restaurant- going back 4 generations, in the same location in Atwater Village, California, right near Griffith Park on Los Feliz Blvd.
The Tam O’Shanter was named after a Robert Burns’ poem that recounts the story of farmer Tam who encounters a coven of witches. A beautiful witch, Nannie, wears a revealing ‘cutty sark’ or short dress and angrily pursues the spying Tam. He manages to narrowly escape but not before Nannie has ripped the tail from Tam’s poor horse, Maggie.
The Tam is world famous for its’ Scottish food like Prime Rib (see photo on left), and when in season: March and April- Corned beef and Cabbage, and of course on this special Saint Patrick’s Day: well over 1200 pounds of Corned beef, along with Beef Brisket and Green Beer! This traditional Irish dish is the centerpiece for St. Patrick’s Day. Corned beef and cabbage simmer with potatoes and carrots for a hearty dinner. At Tam’s the Corned beef just “melts in your mouth”, and the Prime Rib is “the best in world” !
The Tam is an off-the-radar industry enclave where it was not uncommon to spot John Wayne, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Walt Disney, Mary Pickford, Dorothy and Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, the Keystone Cops, Tom Mix in his leather chaps and ten-gallon hat, or Fatty Arbuckle in his suit and tie.
The Tam O’Shanter was used as a location for hit TV shows like “Glee” and “Mad Men”, but the restaurant’s history reaches back into the storied past of the Hollywood studio system. Nowadays many celebrities and “showbiz” people love to eat at the Tam, because they have more privacy since it is “off-the-radar” since it is out of the way from more of the regular “showbiz” – celebrity type of upscale locations like Hollywood and Beverly Hills. One of the greatest Directors of our time: Steven Spielberg enjoys going there when he likes to dine in an area where you wouldn’t expect to see him or other A-List Celebrities!
The 1940’s Disney boys’ club (and the few women among their ranks) had senior Disney animators that flocked to the Tam O’Shanter after hours, perhaps as much for its “tartan-clad waitresses” as for its cuisine. As the Disney boys aged into the studio’s venerable “Nine Old Men”, they kept eating and drinking at the Tam; and visited the restaurant so frequently over the years that it was dubbed the unofficial “studio commissary”. Walt himself favored the fireplace-adjacent Table 31, an inclination that the Tam O’Shanter now commemorates with the signature “Table 31” cocktail, as well as a plaque on the table itself.The original owners Frank and Van de Kamp, who went on to co-own Lawry’s Restaurants, made Tam’s the very first location for Lawry’s; and commissioned Street Angel and Ben Hur art director Harry Oliver for the restaurant’s architectural design. With some help from movie-studio carpenters, Oliver constructed the Tam in the distinctive Storybook style (also seen in his Beverly Hills “Witch House”), and the restaurant’s whimsical facade has persevered through 101 years and several remodels. The Tam O’Shanter is also considered to be one of the first themed restaurants in the country; in other words, we have Frank and Van de Kamp to thank for Medieval Times.
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