City Guide: Los Angeles

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Seating the Stars at an Old-School Hollywood Institution
Being maître d' at Dan Tana's means texts from celebrities, constant entertainment, and honing the mind of a chess champion

A customer nicknamed The Rhinestone Cowboy was back, and due to “poor social skills,” someone needed to throw him out. It’s a typical logbook note for Christian Kneedler, 52-year-old maître d of Dan Tana’s (who usually works until 3:30am), a West Hollywood restaurant that’s commonly referred to as the most entertaining place without any entertainment. “Every day there’s something,” he says. One of those days, it was The Eagles, writing “Lyin’ Eyes” at the bar, inspired by a beautiful woman dining with an older, wealthy man, whom they suspected were having an affair. This red booth and checkered tablecloth Italian joint was first opened in 1964, and has been overbooked every night since. It’s drawn Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, and today you’re still likely to dine next to the chairman of Sony, a Laker or Cameron Diaz. Kneedler, who clocks sunlight hours as the owner of Olsons Scandinavian Delicatessen in Mid-City L.A. (he was born in Stockholm), has been the maître d at Dan Tana’s for almost 12 years. He dons a black tuxedo for the job and says that every night is like playing a game of abstract chess, making sure everyone gets the right table (there are only 17 of them) without having to wait too long. While the food is hardly the point of coming, the mozzarella-blanketed chicken parmigiana is a marquee dish, and the Caesar salad—tossed to order tableside—is actually quite stellar. The lamb chops are excellent. Mostly, people come to see their host, Kneedler, and to laugh with the gregarious, knowledgeable servers. They come for Michael Gotovac, the Croatian bartender who has worked here for 50 years, who has been known to host customers at his house for Thanksgiving. “People who haven’t been here in a year will come back and say, ‘Aww I feel like I came home,’ says Kneedler. “It's about having a good time. It's like a party everyday basically.”

Dan Tana's
Take a look
9071 California Route 2, West Hollywood, CA 90069
(310) 275-9444

“People who haven’t been here in a year will come back and say, ‘Aww I feel like I came home.’”