If I told you there was a secret restaurant somewhere on Mulholland that hadn't changed its rustic interior since the 1920's and was surrounded by uncaged live peacocks, would you believe me?
Pay up, bitchez: it's called The Old Place, way out in Agoura Hills, which I always assumed was one of those far-flung LA suburbs where you move when you're rich as hell and deeply afraid of people with a higher melanin content than you. Trust me: this spot is worth every mile of the drive.
Formerly the post office of Cornell, CA, The Old Place looks like a saloon, with its unvarnished exterior and animal horns hanging over the door. Full-grown peacocks from a neighboring farm run past as you make for the door. Inside, it's all buffed wood that seems to glow in the afternoon light, walls crowded with 90-year-old pitchforks and sawblades and spurs (leaving you with the feeling that this place is going to turn into the opening scene of a Final Destination movie if there's ever an earthquake.) The crowd is an incongruous mix of dust-trailing ranch hands and well-dressed foodies. There's a reason for that...
When you walk in, you'll notice the dining room smells a bit like a campfire -- that's from the oak grill they cook everything on. That same smoked-wood pungency works its way into almost everything on the menu, from the so-tender-you-barely-have-to-chew-it ribeye sandwich, to the eye-wateringly flavorful grilled arthichoke, to the hand-cut bacon that's thick enough to deflect small arms fire. You'll never want to eat anything cooked over straight charcoal again. And while I'm not a dessert guy (despite my conviction that my innermost self probably looks and acts a lot like Cookie Monster), I ordered the fresh-baked cookie, and it was the greatest decision I ever made. This thing comes out still steaming in a cast iron skillet, topped with a slowly melting cumulonimbus of whipped cream, each bite gooey with chocolate and crunching with walnuts and emanating smoky-buttery goodness.
Then it hits me: this is the reason people move to Agoura Hills.