The Tam O'Shanter: The Story of an LA Icon

The dining room at Tam O'Shanter
Photo: Tam O'Shanter

Los Angeles is renowned for its modern, trendsetting restaurants. But there are several LA dining destinations that are more than 100 years old: Philippe The Original and Cole's French Dip opened in 1908; Grand Central Market (1917), and Musso & Frank Grill (1919). El Cholo will celebrate its centennial in 2023.

Only one member of this exclusive club has been owned and operated by the same family in the same location: The Tam O'Shanter.

Vintage photo of Montgomery's Country Inn
Montgomery's Country Inn | Photo: Tam O'Shanter

Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp opened Montgomery's Country Inn on June 26, 1922 along a dirt road that's now Los Feliz Boulevard in Atwater Village. In 1925, the eatery was renamed Tam O'Shanter Inn after a 1791 poem by Robert Burns. The brothers-in-law would later open Lawry's The Prime Rib on La Cienega in 1938. The landmark restaurants are still in the family - Ryan O'Melveny Wilson, the great-grandson of Lawrence Frank, is the CEO of Lawry's Restaurants Inc.

"The Tam" was designed in the Storybook architecture style by Harry Oliver, an Oscar-nominated art director (for the silent films 7th Heaven and Street Angel) who also designed the Spadena House, aka "The Witch's House" in Beverly Hills. Other prominent LA examples of this brief design trend include the Charlie Chaplin Studios on La Brea (now home of the Jim Henson Company) and the "Snow White Cottages," located a short walk from the original site of The Walt Disney Studio (see below).

Today the Tam's exterior is more like a Scottish country inn than a fairytale cottage, while the wood-paneled Old World interior is filled with family tartans, kilts, coats of arms, family crests and medieval weapons.

Walt Disney, Lawrence Frank, and Harry Oliver at the Tam O'Shanter in 1960
L to R: Walt Disney, Tam O'Shanter co-founder Lawrence Frank, and designer Harry Oliver at The Tam in 1960 | Photo: Tam O'Shanter

During the 1920s, the Tam was a hangout for Hollywood legends like Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford,  Douglas Fairbanks,  Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson and many others.

With The Walt Disney Studio (aka the Hyperion Studio) only a couple of miles away, Walt Disney and his staff became regulars at the Tam - so much so, it became known as "the Disney Studio Commissary."

Located near the fireplace, Table 31 was the Disney crew's favorite, as commemorated by a plaque and the signature Table 31 cocktail, made with High West Double Rye, elderflower liqueur, apple bitters and lemon juice. Disney himself was particularly fond of the patio, which reopened in 2018 after a long hiatus.

During the Hyperion Studio era, Mickey Mouse made his debut in Steamboat Willie (1928) and Disney released the first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). It's easy to see the Storybook influence of the Tam and the Snow White Cottages (which housed Disney employees) in the design of the Cottage of the Seven Dwarfs.

Mickey Mouse painting at the Tam O'Shanter
Painting by Chris Turner | Instagram: @waltdisneyimagineering
Caricature of Lawrence Frank at the Tam O'Shanter
Caricature of Lawrence Frank at the Tam | Instagram: @nieyaqin39

In October 2022, Imagineer and Executive Creative Designer, Chris Turner presented an original painting to the Tam that celebrates the restaurant's centennial and its long relationship with Disney. The piece was inspired by the Tam's unique interior, including the staff’s signature tartan uniforms.

A caricature of Lawrence Frank in full Scottish regalia - created by legendary Imagineer John Hench and signed by Disney in 1958 - is displayed in the reception area.

Prince Charlie Cut of Prime Rib at the Tam O'Shanter
Prince Charlie Cut | Photo: Tam O'Shanter

Like its fellow 100-year restaurants, the Tam O'Shanter has stood the test of time by eschewing food trends and serving up classics like Scotch Rarebit and Fish & Chips. Toad in the Hole (Yorkshire pudding filled with diced filet of beef, carrots, onions, kale, Guinness gravy) first appeared on the menu in 1959 and is still one of the Tam's most popular dishes. The Lawry's Prime Rib selections include the popular Tam O'Shanter Cut and the bone-in, extra thick Prince Charlie Cut. There's also a Pan-Seared Salmon and a veg-friendly entree of Herb-Roasted Root Vegetables with beets, parsnips, onions, carrots, arugula, and goat cheese.

The Tam was renamed The Great Scot in 1968 (it went back to its original name in 1982) and debuted the Ale & Sandwich Bar, which is open for lunch Monday to Friday. Sip a proper pint of one of the rotating local handles, and nosh on The Prime Rib on a kaiser roll, served with beets, pickles, and peanut coleslaw. Build your own sandwich with options like brisket, corned beef, turkey, or pork roast; and kaiser, brioche or rye bread.

The Great Wall O' Scotch decked out for the holidays at the Tam O'Shanter
The Great Wall O' Scotch decked out for the holidays | Instagram: @tamoshanterla

"Freedom an’ whisky gang thegither! Take aff your dram!" ~ Robert Burns

In the 1950s, the Tam installed the original Great Wall O’ Scotch to showcase bottles that Lawrence Frank and Walter Van de Kamp collected on their trips abroad. The wall has since grown to a renowned collection of more than 650 whiskies, including the exclusive Benromach 11-year, Tam O'Shanter Cask #938. Whisky Flights range from Superb Blends to Rare Whisky to Extremely Rare, which features a trio of closed distilleries: Cambus, Caperdonich, and Pittyvaich.

The Tam O'Shanter in "Mad Men" Season 7
The Tam O'Shanter in "Mad Men" | Photo: AMC

The Tam is a star in its own right, with appearances in TV shows like Mad Men (the Season 7 episode "New Business"), Dwight's bachelor party in The Office series finale, and "Dream On" from Season 1 of Glee, when Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and Bryan Ryan (Neil Patrick Harris) meet up for a drink and belt out Billy Joel’s "Piano Man."

The original neon lightning bolt at Tam O'Shanter
The original neon lightning bolt | Photo: Tam O'Shanter
The lightning bolt neon sign at Tam O'Shanter
The modern neon sign at Tam O'Shanter | Photo: Ryan Tanaka, YYES

In the 1930s, a large neon lightning bolt was installed above the Tam. According to the Tam's blog, the lightning bolt was a direct reference to the Burns poem - a farmer named Tam o' Shanter heads home from the pub and narrowly escapes a band of angry witches as “the lightnings flash from pole to pole / near and more near the thunders roll.”

As the Tam O'Shanter begins its second century, that lightning bolt continues to shine like a beacon, inviting locals and visitors alike to experience one of LA's most iconic restaurants.


Tam O'Shanter
2980 Los Feliz Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
(323) 664-0228