THIS YEAR WE PROUDLY celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the Tam O’Shanter in Los Angeles. Through a long, dynamic history, what began as a small, whimsically designed roadside diner on a dusty dirt road grew into a popular landmark for generations of loyal customers.
Its success would ultimately lead to the creation of multiple restaurants and an internationally known spice company.
With a prospering partnership firmly established between two families related by marriage, brothers-in-law Lawrence L. Frank and Walter Van de Kamp began their own “private venture” into the restaurant business in 1922, when they built Montgomery’s Country Inn. Three years later, they adopted a Scottish theme, changing the name to the Tam O’Shanter Inn, a reference to a famous Robbie Burns poem.
The emphasis was on serving the best hamburger in the world in sandwiches and on platters; the menu declared “HOOT MON! We grind and eat our own hamburger!” Customers would often choose counter seating where they could watch the old-fashioned hotcakes, omelets, and frankfurters being prepared.
Close to Hollywood’s movie studios and the easily accessible shooting location of Griffith Park, the Tam was an ideal lunch spot for the film stars of the day. Early on, silent movie greats like Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino and Fatty Arbuckle were all frequent guests.
began as a small, whimsically designed roadside diner on a dusty dirt road grew into a popular landmark for generations of loyal customers
The Disney studios were also only a stone’s throw away. Fond of its food and the Tam O’Shanter’s Storybook Style architecture, created by famed movie set designer Harry Oliver, Walt Disney and his employees dined there so often they jokingly called it their ”commissary.” Mr. Disney’s favorite spot from which he could see the entire room soon became known as the Disney Table.
The 1930s found the nation in the throes of the Great Depression. The Tam O’Shanter responded by building a patio for outdoor dining and, shortly thereafter, introduced one of the country’s first drive-ins, featuring “Car Service de luxe” made possible with special wooden trays, designed by the innovative Lawrence Frank, that enabled guests to dine in their cars.
“HOOT MON! We grind and eat our own hamburger!”
When World War II began in 1941, beef rationing dealt a blow to the Tam O’Shanter’s menu that featured 16 different hamburger dishes. As a result, Lawrence, who created the original Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, eventually came up with the “Tamburger”, a mixture of fresh ground beef and soy protein that customers ate with patriotic forbearance.
California was on the threshold of boom times after the war. Lawrence’s son, Richard Nathan, and his nephew, Ralph Frank Jr., were part of the new generation who would lead the restaurant into the future.
Toward the end of the sixties the Tam O’Shanter was remodeled and expanded to include the Ale & Sandwich Bar, still popular today. It was renamed The Great Scot, elaborating its Scottish theme, and soon became a destination dinner house for L.A.’s eastside and beyond.
In honor of its 60th birthday in 1982, the Great Scot became the Tam O’Shanter Inn once again. A new, more sophisticated cuisine concept, one that offered both classic signature dishes like prime rib and rotisserie chicken along with a variety of exciting new recipes featuring seasonal ingredients, garnered critical acclaim and became the conceptual basis for the restaurant’s menu to this day.
exciting new recipes featuring seasonal ingredients, garnered critical acclaim
Chef Ivan Harrison’s larger-than-life personality naturally complemented the Tam’s welcoming atmosphere. He was a customer favorite for years.
By the 1990’s, yet another generation had matured into leadership roles in the parent company. Richard Roger Frank, the founder’s grandson, was at the helm. Today, he is working with the fourth generation of the Frank and Van de Kamp families, all of whom share a deeply sentimental attachment to our unique and historic restaurant.
a long, dynamic history
As we enter our tenth decade, the Tam O’ Shanter is Los Angeles’ oldest family owned and operated restaurant in its original location.
We’re still going strong and looking forward to celebrating our anniversary with our guests, new and old, all year. See you soon at the Tam O’Shanter!
2980 Los Feliz Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039