Tail o’ the Cock

The photo above is of the Tail o’ the Cock at 44 S. La Cienega Boulevard, aka “Restaurant Row.”  There was another at 12950 Ventura Boulevard — both popular dinner joints famous for their America menus (steak, prime rib, etc.) and bar scene.  The Tail o’ the Cock claimed to be the first place in Los Angeles to serve Margaritas and it may well have been, I don’t know.

As one might gather from the name, the big selling point at Tail o’ the Cock wasn’t the food so much as the cocktails.  It was a popular place for people to meet for drinks, especially late in the afternoon.  An awful lot of Hollywood deals were consummated there over martinis.  It was where a voice actress named June Foray met with two animation producers — Jay Ward and Bill Scott — and they told her they wanted her to play a new character named Rocky the Flying Squirrel.  And there were probably less important roles cast there involving big Academy Award productions.

I ate once at the one on Ventura.  I recall the food being satisfactory but not much more.  I recall the room being somewhat dark and depressing.  I recall the service being quite friendly and efficient.  It was the kind of place where the servers and the bartenders had been there for a decade or more and had no intention of going anywhere else.  Then the two places closed down, one after the other.

Owner-founder Sheldon A. (Mac) McHenry sold the one on La Cienega in 1982 and it closed in 1985.  There’s an office building there now though it does have an Indian restaurant on the ground floor.

The one in the Valley closed a few days after New Year’s, 1987.  It was razed and a shopping mall was built in its place.  A lot of people still remember the two restaurants fondly.

68 Responses to Tail o’ the Cock

  • Jane says:

    My father worked at the tail of the cock from 1950 to probably 1953 He went on a competition in London with the gentleman they think made the margarita John Durlesser , if anyone has any information on this time. Would be great to hear from you thank you Jane ” Martin ” mcwilliams , my father’s name was Maxwell Martin

  • Christian A. says:

    The Ventura Blvd location can be seen in the background of The Bionic Woman episode “Mirror Image” (Season 1.) Two quick scenes are shot in this general location.

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos, NM says:

    No offense Gary, but was it at least half as exciting as these http://tinyurl.com/h52g555 …LOL… that us kids only got to see in the ’50s? In any event, Thanks for sharing!

  • Mike Petranek says:

    I always think of the Tail when I drive by the old Valley location (which isn’t that much anymore since I live out of state) in Studio City. I use to go there with my mom and dad (and brother) in the late 70’s/ early 80’s for special occasion dinners (always remember Christmas Eve dinners there). It was a great place and we always enjoyed it. The description of the place in this article makes it sound about right, but I never thought of it as depressing.

  • gary dark says:

    I met the actress Loretta Young there with my mother in 1960

  • Bob of the Village of Los Ranchos, NM says:

    Lest anyone is asking what does a ‘stride’ piano player do/play: Check out Johnny explaining and playing it here http://tinyurl.com/jhcfgkk

  • Karla says:

    My parents used to go to the Tail quite often, and became good friends with Johnny Guarnieri, and he used to come up to their house in La Cañada and play on one of their pianos. Dad would record him. His hands could really move, and it was mesmerizing to watch him. Also, Johnny Varro had a very smooth sound and was very personable.

  • Tevis Morrow says:

    In the early 70’s, I used to go to the Tail of the Cock on Ventura Blvd. regularly to listen to Johnny Guarnieri; the greatest living stride piano player alive. We would have a delicious dinner and listen to him play all evening. Often brought a small cassette recorder, and still have a bunch of cassettes of his live performances from that restaurant. Great memories. Met up with Johnny when he came to Denver many years ago; he loaned me a bunch of his piano transcriptions so I could make copies. He was a very kind man and such a phenomenal pianist!

  • Jill Schulman says:

    I had my sweet sixteen there

  • Amy Stoudt says:

    Bill Hanna (Hanna – Barbera) used to go there

  • Sherry White says:

    My grandparents met friends at Tail O’ The Cock every New Year’s Eve for many years. Apparently it was a very festive evening. I was only a little girl, but vividly remember Grandma getting dressed up in her pearls and mink stole and Grandpa in his best suit.

  • Barbara Benjamin Tadokoro says:

    I worked at the UCB on 3rd and La Cienega that became First Interest and saw everything change when Beverly Center was being built. The construction workers liked going to The Tail for the food and also for the drinks!!!! They would come in to cash their checks and drop money at The Tail!!! I loved the atmosphere there it had the feel that you were eating there because it was your birthday!!!

  • Argyle Nelson says:

    My grandfather and grandmother took us there every Christmas Eve from the late 1950’s to mid-60’s. The Tail o’ the Cock always had a great Santa Claus and even reindeer on the roof. As I recall, Santa would take notes and then visit the tables to confirm what you had requested (parents were within ear shot). Great memories.

  • Vera Jackson says:

    I remember eating lunch at the Ventura Blvd location back in the early 80’s. That is where I was introduced to the fabulous Monte Cristo and it became a lunchtime favorite of mine, that and a glass of Merlot! Those were the days you could have a drink (or two) at lunch and not lose your job :)

  • Terry G. Smith says:

    It’s OK if you do publish my email. I’d love to hear from some of the old patrons.

  • Terry G. Smith says:

    What wonderful memories. I was introduced to the Tail in 1954, when my high school best friends Dad celebrated his birthday here. By the 60’s, my wife and I went frequently. It was really old LA quality. We took our son there on Christmas Eve one year. We’re about to take our yearly vacation (our 22’nd year) to Monterey. It’s one of the few places where that kind of style still exists.

  • Kristen says:

    I remember my parents taking me to The Tail on Ventura Blvd. in the 60s when I was a girl. Sometimes my mom would take me for lunch after shopping at The Stardusters! For dessert I would order a puff pastry shaped like a swan swimming in chocolate sauce. Heaven.

  • Thomas Pflimlin says:

    Steve, I missed your father playing and singing at the Tail by a couple of years, but I shall always remember Charles LeVere’s superb vocal rendition of “Maybe You’ll Be There” with the Gordon Jenkins Orchestra and Singers. I can hear it now!

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