The Old Place Restaurant
Our story begins close to 70 years ago when Tom Runyon made the move from New York to Hollywood. Tom grew fond of the Santa Monica Mountains through his love of the outdoors. Tom was an avid hunter, trapper and fisherman, but as the surrounding areas rapidly developed, hunting and trapping were increasingly restricted and Tom looked for other ways to occupy his time. In the once established town of Cornell, Tom found a dilapidated old building that was once Hank’s Country Store and what would soon become The Old Place, a restaurant he and his wife Barbara operated for more than 40 years.
Tom, at 89 years of age, still ran the Old Place with his wife Barbara. The Old Place was as unique as it’s owners, serving a menu that Tom would say was developed back in 1870. Steaks, cooked over a Red Oak fire, Clams and baked potatoes with crusty sourdough from the family that founded Pioneer bread. The Old Place was home to a very unique crowd that consisted of colorful locals to the rich and famous, Steve McQueen, Jason Robards, Burgess Merideth, Sam Peckinpaw, and others. On July 17th, 2009 Tom passed away. After much reflection it has become obvious that The Old Place is what was motivating Tom to hang in there, his commitment to his customers and to his dream was a powerful force in his life.
The Old Place is rich with history which gives us deep roots in the community and will help to foster the next chapter in the Cornell story.
Malibou Lake (to the south) was the playground of the wealthy elite of Los Angeles during Hollywood's golden era in the 30s and 40s. Major movie companies like Paramount kept studios in the mountains where shows like M*A*S*H and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman were filmed. The sets still stand today and are a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike. The hills are also a great place for hiking and biking with vast networks of trails weaving through the mountains.
Across the street is the Peter Strauss Ranch. In the 40s the land was owned by a group of investors who created Lake Enchanto recreation area complete with amusement rides, petting zoos, and the largest pool in the country. At capacity, it could accommodate 2000 people complete with it’s own bandstand in the center of the pool. Peter Strauss, a film star best known for his portrayal of Rudy Jordache in the TV mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man bought the land and ended up donating it to the National Park System which maintains the nature trails and picnic spots for the public's enjoyment. Peter Strauss also owned the peacocks which live behind Cornell Winery. At one point he maintained an aviary but has since decided to let them roam free and live as they will. They have been propagating ever since with the addition of neighbors who occasionally add new chicks to the muster. There are even a few rare albinos in the muster; the peacock is the official mascot of Cornell and it is not unusual to see one or two sitting on the porch our out back.
Up the street is the famous Rock Store which was once a favorite place of action star Steve McQueen. Today it is frequented by Jay Leno and on Sunday you will find hundreds of motorcycles parked out front.
Tom Runyon's son, Morgan, now operates the Old Place and has held fast to the ideals his father instilled in him from a very young age. The restaurant pays tribute to what once was by featuring Tom’s original menu, Steaks, Clams and Baked potatoes, with stew on Sunday, but we have tripled the menu from 2 to six items with the addition of a Pale Ale Chicken and nightly specials. We also cater to the wine tasters that now fill the canyon in search of local wines by offering a selection of appetizers that fill the void and appetites from 4-6pm. The full dinner menu is available from 6pm-10pm.
Don’t forget to stop by and visit Cornell Winery & Tasting room just next door to find the perfect wine for your Old Place steak! www.cornellwinery.com