Tourist Traps That Are Worth It
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DAN TANA'S, WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA
Tourist trap cred: From the checkered tablecloths and Chianti bottles hung from the ceiling to the tuxedoed waiters and unapologetically dated menu of Italian standbys (veal milanese, shrimp fra diavolo), you'd be hard-pressed to find a restaurant that checks off more Italian clichés than Dan Tana's.
Why it's worth it: It may look like a Rat Pack–themed tourist trap, but this Old Hollywood landmark is a one-of-a-kind original that's been serving up martinis and red sauce since 1964. While other legendary restaurants (Peter Luger in New York, Joe's Stone Crab in Miami) are culinary pilgrimage sites, what keeps Dan Tana's on top isn't the (decent) food but rather its palpable, irreplaceable history. A baby Drew Barrymore had her diaper changed in one of the booths. The Eagles wrote the lyrics to "Best of My Love" here. Phil Spector left a $500 tip the night he committed murder. Of course, the storied who's-who list of patrons is no secret, and you might very well be seated next to saucer-eyed tourists craning their necks for a glimpse of a famous face. But it remains a hub for the industry's movers and shakers, and even the biggest stars, such as George Clooney and Brad Pitt, are known to drop in for a steak or the chicken parmigiana.
Insider tip: At the center of it all is Dan Tana himself—the real deal, and a great storyteller. If you're lucky and he stops by your table, the best way to engage him in conversation is to ask about his soccer career. While traveling in Belgium with the Red Star Belgrade football club in 1953, 17-year-old Tana, an up-and-coming striker, defected from Yugoslavia. He went on to help found the U.S. soccer league and is the current president of Red Star.