It was the kind of place where diners from Milton Berle and Bob Newhart to the Dixie Chicks and Celine Dion hung out. Legend has it that a conga line of Kennedys once danced past the table of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
The place? Jimmy's, the elegant Beverly Hills home-away-from-home, where the rich and famous dined for 21 years until January 2000. With fabric upholstered walls, continental cuisine and French turn-of-the-last-century decor, Jimmy's set the stage for deal-making and high-powered partying.
But when proprietor Jimmy Murphy was forced to close the restaurant when the building was sold, he auctioned everything and began a life of leisure.
"I can only play so much tennis and I found out I'm not so good at golf. I'm better at eatin' and drinkin', " he said in his Irish lilt. Now Murphy is back, having taken over the West Pico Boulevard space once occupied by Primi to create a restaurant and catering enterprise with his son, Sean, 36.
The restaurant won't open until early April, though the catering business has. The atmosphere at Jimmy's Tavern will be more casual than the original Moreno Drive location, but he's keeping some familiar fixtures -- the family crest along with a grand piano, fireplace and bar.
In the old days, the restaurant hosted charity galas, parties for Irish causes and dozens of post-awards show bashes. Executive chef David Fouts will turn out some of Jimmy's signature dishes such as French onion soup and chocolate and kiwi souffles, along with a new contemporary, international menu. Perhaps he can lure some Kennedys with the planned new menu, which includes Kobe steak and ganja Japanese mint leaves stuffed with spicy tuna, fried tempura-style.
Jacket required? Yes, if it's cold
Jimmy's was one of those places that used to require gentlemen to wear a coat -- not coat as in "ski jacket," but the tailored item most guys under the age of 25 haven't worn since prom.
Even the most formal restaurants (the few that are still in business) have lifted their once-strict dress codes to match changing times.
The Zagat Survey used to list restaurants under the "jackets required" category. But the 2003 Los Angeles book has dropped the category. And fewer listings appear in surveys for other cities.
The new Jimmy's Tavern won't have a dress code. Meanwhile, about a year ago, the elegant L'Orangerie in West Hollywood eased its dress code from "jackets and ties required" to "preferred." The staid Corona del Mar landmark, the Five Crowns, still suggests that gentlemen don jackets and ties, but they've tossed out the extra trousers that they used to hand to men who wore shorts.
And the dining room of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park -- which long demanded coats and ties of its dinner guests -- allows men to wear dressy sweaters and sport coats.
With nearly everyone in khakis and polo shirts, looking like some T.G.I. Friday's waiter, it's doubtful that restaurants with demanding dress policies could make a go of it today.
In the last few years since Xiomara Ardolina, chef/owner of Pasadena's Xiomara restaurant, began easing up on her jackets-required policy, she's stretched her limits. "We just want customers to show up, whatever they wear," said Ardolina.
Restaurants may be grateful for any business they can get, but when the appetizer tray is better dressed than your date, times have got to change. Somehow, that $50 entree just doesn't seem as special when some guy in a T-shirt and shorts is clouding your view.
-- Valli Herman-Cohen