By Dorte Lambert – Food Enthusiast
29983 Mulholland Hwy.
Cornell (aka Agoura), CA 91301 1
The Old Place
Nestled in the hills of Agoura is one of Los Angeles’ hidden treasures: The Old Place. Established more then 70 years ago by Tom Runyon, a hunter and fisherman who loved the Santa Monica Mountain range. Tom and his wife Barbara discovered an old dilapidated building in what was once a small town called Cornell, now known as Agoura. What was once Hank’s Country Store, Tom decided to open a restaurant with the concept of cooking in the 1870’s. The smell of steaks being cooked over red oak fire is the first thing that greets you as you pull up to park on the gravel road.
I recommend dining at The Old Place after a day of wine tasting in and around the hills of Mailbu. There are numerous wineries and tasting rooms all over this area. Here is a link to map out a fun excursion – Malibu Winery Map. The Old Place was recently featured on the cover of Los Angeles Magazines as one of LA’s hidden secrets.
When one arrives at The Old Place there is a feeling of stepping out of LA, out of present time, and kind of like being on a movie set. Years ago Paramount and other companies kept studios in this area and shows like M*A*S*H* and Dr. Quinn Medicine Women were filmed here. Some sets still stand and can be seen by the public. It’s also been a spot where locals such as Steve McQueen and Sam Peckinpaw were regulars and you can feel there is real history here.
The restaurant maintains its original menu featuring steaks, clams and big baked potatoes but have added dishes like grilled ceasar salad, calamari fries, pale ale chicken and stew on Sundays. There are delicious pan sauteed mushrooms served in cast iron skillet and “adult” mac and cheese, very creamy with gruyere, also served in cast iron. The sourdough bread is really tangy with a chewy satisfying crust and served with salted butter, almost unheard of these days.
There are huge wood tables and the low cabin ceiling makes you feel cozy and very comfortable. The long large oak bar is great to sit and dine as well. Tom Runyon’s son, Morgan, now operates the Old Place and has kept the same traditions his father created years ago. Make sure to visit the Cornell Winery & Tasting Room next door.
If all that I have mentioned isn’t reason enough to venture out into the wild, then go for the free roaming peacocks. At one time Peter Strauss, an actor famous for his role in “Rich Man, Poor Man”, owned a ranch here and later donated it to the National Parks System who now maintain the area. Mr. Strauss also owned peacocks there and decided to let them roam free. The peacocks continue to flourish there with the help of neighbors that add a chick or two to keep the population growing. A few rare albino peacocks can be seen from time to time and this beautiful bird is the official mascot of Cornell.