80 Years of Power Spots
The industry’s most legendary L.A. restaurateurs recount the names and nights that counted.
Mr. Chow (1974-present)
“On the night of the Beverly Hills opening in 1974, Olivia de Havilland, Eartha Kitt, Clint Eastwood and Robert Wise showed up. A week later, Fred Astaire and Groucho Marx. Groucho ordered a hamburger from another restaurant to be delivered to his table — he didn’t like Chinese food.”
— Michael Chow (in 1998 with daughter China)
Ma Maison (1973-85)
“Orson Welles got his mail there; Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly were regulars. Johnny Carson joked on The Tonight Show, ‘You just can’t get a table at Ma Maison.’ So I sent him a table. The next night on the show, he said, ‘Well, I finally got a table at Ma Maison.’ ”
— founder Patrick Terrail
“I was a chef at Ma Maison before opening Spago, which we wanted to be a quiet little restaurant for people to go out late. Ha! Billy Wilder brought a table of 10. Then we got Sidney Poitier and Kirk Douglas. Of course, we had Swifty Lazar’s Oscar parties with Madonna and Michael Jackson, and we’d stay up till 6 a.m.”
— Wolfgang Puck (in 1989 with Lazar and Dudley Moore)
Chateau Marmont (1931-present)
“It was always a place to be naughty and off the beaten path. When I bought the Chateau in 1990, it had no restaurant, not even a liquor license. I threw a big party for Sofia Coppola’s birthday 20 years ago, which Francis hosted. The real evolution of the restaurant has only been over the last 10 years.”
— owner Andre Balazs
“Mike Ovitz originated the power lunch at Matsuhisa. But I didn’t know who was who until, one night, my staff saw Bruce Springsteen sitting with Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone. Roland Joffe introduced me to De Niro — he wanted to be my business partner. I said no for four years until I finally realized who he was. Now we own over 20 Nobus.”
— Nobu Matsuhisa (in 2007 with De Niro)
Dan Tana’s (1964-present)
“One night, Elizabeth Taylor, Karl Malden and Robert Mitchum all show up for 8 p.m. reservations, and the seated tables won’t leave! In walked Wilt Chamberlain with four basketball players, all 7 feet tall. Wilt gets in the middle of the room and asks, ‘Did you all have your dinner and pay your checks?’ They all say yes. And then he yells, ‘Then why don’t you get the f--- out of here so we can all sit down and eat?’ ”
— Dan Tana
THE BEST TABLES OF ALL TIME
Musso and Frank, 1919-present
Raymond Chandler drinking at the bar; Rudolph Valentino tucking into a plate of spaghetti.
The Polo Lounge, 1926-present
Marlene Dietrich and Mia Farrow (later on) banned for wearing pants.
The Brown Derby, 1926-75
Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh dining a deux; Spencer Tracy showing up for co-owner Sally Wright Cobb’s original Cobb salad.
Charlie Chaplin making his own soda; Lana Turner not getting discovered here (the actress later said the legend was untrue).
Sinatra playing piano while staining it with martinis; Cole Porter writing a song on the back of a menu.
A pregnant Lana Turner fitting into a booth … after they saw off part of the table; Liz Taylor flying its famed chili to the set of Cleopatra.
Imperious Mike Romanoff keeping Sinatra, Van Johnson and Bob Hope waiting, and they keep coming back.
Le Dome, 1977-2007
Michael Ovitz, Barry Diller and Berry Gordy regularly power-lunching; co-owner Elton John on the scene.
The Ivy, 1980-present
Ashley Judd waiting tables early on; Bennifer canoodling; onscreen in Get Shorty.
The Grill on the Alley, 1984-Present
Bernie Brillstein in his element; Brad Pitt and Brad Grey discussing Benjamin Button.
Michael Eisner signing a young Eddie Murphy to a five-picture, $15 million deal; Ron Perelman meeting Ellen Barkin at Vanity Fair’s Oscar party.
Robin Williams with Al Pacino, while their agents eat at the next table; Mel Brooks lunching at noon every Friday with Carl Reiner.
Sunset Tower, 2006-present (under new ownership)
Maitre d’ Dimitri coddling Tom Ford, Bryan Lourd and Jennifer Aniston.
SoHo House, 2010-present
Screenwriters on laptops by day; young, hungry agents at night.