When you walk into Disneyland, it’s like stepping into a different world - one where the rules of reality don’t apply. It’s the same feeling we get walking into The Tam O’Shanter, the otherworldly Scottish pub in Atwater Village. Not only does Los Angeles feel a million miles away, the 21st century does, too. A visit to the Tam is like slipping down the rabbit hole and ending up in some sort of Scotch-soaked fairytale.
Located across from a Costco on a busy corner of Los Feliz Blvd., from the outside, the Tam feels like it’s been frozen in time since it opened in 1922 (Walt Disney was a regular, which means it was sort of Disneyland before there was a Disneyland). That feeling doesn’t really change inside, either. There are wrought-iron chandeliers, fireplaces in every room, about five miles of carpet, a glassed-in wall of hard-to-find Scotches, and a dizzying maze of dining rooms that makes it virtually impossible to find the bathrooms after you’ve been led to your table.
A place like this could just get by on backstory alone, so you might expect the menu to be an afterthought. And you’d be half-right. The food here is what we imagine Robert Louis Stevenson would eat in an Edinburgh pub - Scotch rarebit, Toad In The Hole, and four kinds of prime rib all appear on the menu. And those dishes are surprising good - and not in the way a turkey leg at Disneyland is good just because you were starving when you got off Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
The Scotch rarebit, a funky, creamy cheddar sauce, is so rich you expect it to tell you it just bought a house in the Palisades. The Toad In The Hole - a semi-stew of sautéed filet mignon, mushrooms, onions, and gravy - comes on a light, airy Yorkshire pudding, which is a good vehicle for soaking up the spare gravy. You’ll also notice a whole section of prime rib on the menu, not unlike what you’d see at Lawry’s (the two restaurants are corporate cousins). The main difference between the four options is the size, but the Tam Cut is what you’ll see on most tables. It’s a roughly inch-thick slab of prime rib, served on the bone, with meat so tender it melts onto your fork like you’re cutting into pie. We think it’s big enough to split two ways, but that’s your call.
That’s not say any of the food (maybe excluding the rarebit) is perfect, even the things we like. We’ve had some poorly carved cuts of prime rib, too thick in places and too thin in others, and there are always some chewy bits of filet in the Toad In The Hole. But honestly, we don’t expect perfection at a place with a novel-length Scotch list, servers wearing tartan, and a note at the top of the cocktail list instructing you to ask for a “Glasgow Kiss” (which is not a fun cocktail involving Drambuie, but rather, a euphemism for a head-butt to the face). The food is secondary to the experience, and in that regard, a meal at the Tam is unlike anything else in LA. They don’t play by the same rules as a modern restaurant, and that’s a good thing. We can see why Walt liked it here so much.
This piping-hot dish - basically just beer cheese with some Worcestershire sauce in it - is the only way to start your meal here. It comes with bread, but you’ll just end up eating it with a spoon.
Look, we’re not reinventing the wheel here. It’s a twice-baked potato. That doesn’t mean we’re not very excited to eat it alongside a large slab of beef.
Toad In The Hole
This sounds like something a British cabbie would shout at you if you’re in his way on Oxford Street. It’s not like you need extra motivation to order something called Toad In The Hole, but this gravy-soaked filet mignon and fixings is one of the best things here.
Tam O’Shanter Cut Prime Rib
Unlike Lawry’s, there are great reasons to come to the Tam besides the prime rib. That being said, the prime rib plate with potatoes, creamed spinach, and Yorkshire pudding is also a perfectly good reason to come here.
Roast Beef Sandwich
Available at the bar’s carving station, the thin-sliced roast beef sandwich is a massive, horseradish-y wonder. Get a side of the house-made potato chips while you’re at it.
Tam’s Tea Service
There’s a lot that’s fun about this place, and the tea service is at the top of the list. They bring out a fancy tea set straight out of The Favourite, and serve you extremely boozy cocktails out of it. Get it with the Pimm’s Cup, unless it’s around the holidays - then, the only acceptable move is to get it with eggnog.
This tastes like you’re eating air made of out eggs and chocolate. So it’s a good soufflé.