The Old Place
When I moved to Malibu in the early 1980’s Kanan Road was a sparsely developed, beautiful mountain pass and my main route to the Conejo Valley. When a longtime Malibu local told me tales of a famous restaurant located just off Kanan Rd. at a place called Malibou Lake my curiosity and sense of adventure led me there. The Old Place Restaurant, a rustic mining car with an old upright piano and a long wooden bar, was run by Barbara a salty woman with a long gray braid and no nonsense friendly personality. The only wine served was in big jugs choices, red and white. Barbara’s husband Tom was the cook and the menu consisted of steak or claims, a garnish consisting of a piece of lettuce, garbanzo beans and sour dough toast. The food was fantastic, the crowd an eclectic mix of celebrities, red necks and Malibu locals with many a would be talent playing the piano and breaking out in song. Legend has it that Jason Robards, Steve McQueen and Burgess Meredith were among the participants in all night poker games in the back room where they would take turns cooking on the 75 year old stove and occasionally breaking into a skirmish!
Flash forward to 2010, Tom has sadly passed on but his son has given the Old Place a new life as a still rustic but trendy bar and restaurant. The Saturday night my friends and I dined there we were surprised to find the establishment already crowded at 6 PM (reservations a must) as we waited for our table to clear! The room is composed of a 20’ long antique bar down the center of the restaurant that serves as a giant dining table where seating is on a first serve basis, and 5 booths, 2 tables which are reservation only for 4 or more people. The dinner menu is small and appealing with dishes like Oak grilled Black Angus Steak, Wild Rosemary Pale Ale Chicken and Special Dave’s Selection of exotic game (boar, elk, venison) and Fish of the Day. The famous “Old Place” steamed clams are a favorite on the Appetizer menu.
I enjoyed the Old Place beef stew which is delicious and reminiscent of Tom’s version which used to be served every Sunday. My friend Campbell enjoyed the Grilled Veggie salad and her husband Marty had the chicken so I got a taste of each, all delicious.
The only disappointment was the small wine list. Marty was puzzled as to why there were not more of the terrific wines from the Cornell Winery next door on the restaurant menu. I agree that an expanded wine list with some of the terrific wines from Cornell would greatly enhance the fine dining experience at the Old Place. As for the finish, there is a delectable but small selection for dessert, (if you have room), among them a Mixed Berry Cobbler with cinnamon whipped cream and an Apple Crisp with vanilla whipped cream. All said, our entire road trip to Cornell was a great deal of fun, food, wine and nostalgia! I speak for all of us when I say we will happily be back soon.
As a side note, those of you who enjoy weekend brunch, the Old Place is open Saturday and Sunday from 9AM-2PM serving goodies like Blue Corn Meal Flap Jacks and Rustic Thick Cut Sourdough French Toast. The Old Place is located at 29983 Mulholland Highway, Agoura Hills and serves dinner Thursday-Sunday from 5PM-10PM. Reservations required for parties of 4 or more 818-706-9001. If you would like to visit the Cornell Tasting Room first phone 818-735-3542 for the schedule.
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Note from the owner: We try to encourage people to visit Cornell Winery just next door, 30 steps door to door. We charge $5 corkage on all bottles purchased at Cornell and $20 from sources outside. We feel strongly about our local products and believe they hold up to more of the well known regions in the state. There are over 50 wines to choose from at Cornell and we have 15 additional wines on our wine list. I guess this was not made known to the author at the time of her visit.