The Tam O’ Shanter in Los Angeles, California was a popular dining spot for Walt Disney, his animators, and Imagineers. This restaurant is a must-do in Los Angeles not for its cuisine (although the food is above average), but for its rich history. In this post, we’ll take a tour of the Tam O ‘Shanter, and offer some thoughts on the food.
The Tam O’ Shanter is Los Angeles’ oldest operating restaurant, and it has remained in the same location, run by the same family since 1922 (originally as the Montgomery Inn). Although located in Los Angeles, its on the north side of the city, near Burbank and Glendale. The Tam O’ Shanter was founded by Lawrence Frank, who went on to found Lawry’s, which is a successful restaurant and (more notably) seasoning company.
In addition to being Los Angeles’ oldest operating restaurant, one of its other claims to fame is that it’s the world’s first themed themed restaurant. Or, so they claim; this is the kind of status that it’s difficult to corroborate. The Tam O’ Shanter has a Scottish theme, with tartans for various clans on the walls, three fireplaces, a pub, and stylized design. Then there’s the Disney connection…
Thanks to a combination of its location, design, and menu, it became a favorite low-key dining spot for Walt Disney and Disney animators. In fact, they dined at ‘The Tam’ so often, that it was dubbed “the Studio Commissary.”
Walt Disney even had a favorite table, which has since been enshrined as a functional tribute to him. This table (#31) is located next to the fireplace in the main dining room.
Walt Disney is otherwise known to be a man of simple tastes (most notably eating a regular diet of canned chili), the Tam O’ Shanter is known as the one restaurant where Walt Disney dined with regularity.
Even after the Disney Studios moved from Hyperion, Walt Disney remained a regular patron of the Tam O’ Shanter.
We haven’t had a chance to dine at Table 31, but I do know there is “graffiti” of dinosaurs and other doodles on the table by Disney artists/Imagineers. This table can be requested, and should be done at the time you make reservations. If you wait until you arrive to make the request, you may not have it fulfilled.
There are numerous rumors that further connect the Tam O’ Shanter to Disney. The most famous of these is that the design of the building was used for Snow White’s cottage. A variation of this same rumor says it was used for Pinocchio’s Daring Journey at Disneyland. Maybe it inspired both, maybe neither.
Other rumors concern dealmaking and decisions that were made at the Tam, none of which could probably never be proven or disproven. Based on photos on display at the restaurant, what is clear is that a lot of Disney Legends dined at the Tam O’ Shanter, including Walt Disney himself…many, many times.
There are also photos and doodles of other celebrities on display, so it was clearly not just a Disney thing. Even if I were not interested in Disney, I’d find this to be a fascinating restaurant because it’s quite clearly a vestige of “Old Hollywood.”
The kind of place where those in the show-business ducked into for a nice meal while working; a quiet spot that does not have the celebrity cachet of today’s flashy “see and be seen” restaurants.
As for the food, it’s above average. The Tam is known for its prime rib, and this is what I’d recommend ordering. The cut of meat is sizable and pretty good, but not the best cut. The flavor is good but not great, although the house-made horseradish is excellent.
Other dishes we’ve tried were less memorable, so we have a tough time recommending anything but the prime rib. The sides are also generally somewhere between so-so and good (I like the mashed potatoes quite a bit, but I’m a sucker for mac & cheese).
My other recommendations when it comes to the Tam O’ Shanter, if you want the full Disney experience, is to visit Griffith Park. This is where the merry-go-round is located where Walt had the inspiration for Disneyland.
It’s also where you can visit Walt’s Barn (open the third Sunday of every month) before your meal, or head up to Burbank for a drive-by the studio (it’s not open to the general public). We’d also recommend finding free street parking at the Tam, which is readily available within a 5 minute walk.
Honestly, though, without the accompanying history and interesting environment, the Tam O’ Shanter wouldn’t be a place on my radar. Los Angeles is one of the best food cities in the world, and the Tam O’ Shanter is too expensive to be viewed as a good hole in the wall value, and not high-quality enough to be viewed as one of the city’s premier restaurants.
Overall, the Tam O’ Shanter is a good option if you’re looking for a good prime rib and other traditional American or pub fare (or if you get a deal during DineLA), but you could do better for the price. With that said, the ambiance and its connection to Walt Disney and Hollywood history definitely elevates it a notch or two, making it a restaurant to visit at least once.
If you’re planning a California road trip or vacation, check out my California category of posts for other things to see and do. If you enjoyed this post, please use the sharing buttons above to help spread the word via social media. I greatly appreciate it!
Have you dined at the Tam O’ Shanter? If so, what did you think of experience? What did you order? Would you dine there again, or do you think it was a ‘one and done’? Was it worth doing for the Walt Disney connection? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!