R.I.P. Kate Mantilini: Beverly Hills Haven For Oscar Voters And So Many Others

AN APPRECIATION: It not only was perhaps the most consistently popular and cool restaurant in Beverly Hills, Kate Mantilini which is located at mantilinithe corner of Wilshire Blvd and Doheny and just two blocks from the headquarters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, has in recent years become a key part of Oscar campaigning.  Sadly, due to a dispute over higher rent with a greedy landlord more interested in lining their pockets than in pleasing Hollywood,  Kate’s is closing its doors tonight after 27 years in the key BH location. The other Kate’s located in Woodland Hills remains open, but frankly it isn’t the same. This one was special.

6106528389_87d11b7f81The restaurant, founded in 1987 and owned by the Lewis family (Marilyn and Harry who also founded the famed Hamburger Hamlet chain and sons David, and Adam who has been running it since 2010) which is open late unlike just about every other place of its type in the area, became a real watering hole  for many Hollywood types like Mel Brooks  who has written his own obit for the place, and so many others.  It was almost impossible to go in there and not run into someone you know. It was really a hopping place, both at lunch , dinner and late night.  And it not only has been host to numerous premiere parties (including several for Matt Weiner and Mad Men, a Marilyn Lewis obsession) it was also prominently featured in the movie Heat with a key scene between stars Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, now memorialized on the walls of Kate’s. I was even in there after the Oscars and a winner with his brand new shiny statuette came in passing up the Vanity Fair party in favor of a late night snack at Kate’s.

63011_454216571374110_1400399578_nEven more importantly Oscar campaigners themselves discovered the value of Kate’s which often was swarming with Academy members and brass who frequented it either before, after or in between screenings and events at the neighboring Academy.  The only reason tonight’s closing won’t be more of a wake is because the Academy itself is shut down until October for remodeling so all their screenings have moved temporarily to Hollywood. Despite publicity about the closing some Academy Kate regulars may not even be aware. But when Awards Season rolls around this Fall –and Kate’s is gone–  there will be grieving among the membership, I guarantee you. With another popular spot, The Beverly Hills Hotel now the subject of a Hollywood boycott over social policies of its owner the Sultan Of Brunei, the Bev Hills industry crowd will be overcome by nostalgia for the way it was, especially for this place. And it won’t be all about just the hash browns, the sand dabs or the tortilla soup.

The high walls are lined with blow-up photos in its final days of the Mad Men cast as both that show and this restaurant hit the end of their run. The first time I remember seeing those giant photos was for the after-premiere party for Unstrung Heroes in 1995 which is why diners have, to this day, always had its star Andie McDowell looking down on them. But during the recent Oscar season Theimage Weinstein Company, which has its LA headquarters across the street, took over those large prized spots hovering above the dining booths for all of its contending movies, just as Universal and Focus did the year before that for Les Mis and Anna Karenina, as have others in the past. And like any campaign advertising they were charged a premium by the restaurant which certainly came to realize that there probably wasn’t a better place to reach Oscar voters in big numbers than having some sort of presence at Kate’s.  It’s illegal, according to Academy rules to send out lavish brochures of contenders to 628x471their members, but as some crafty consultants realized it wasn’t illegal just to put a few up at the entrance desk where everyone waits to be seated. Also there have been plenty of copies of Deadline’s Awardsline, Variety and other awards season publications allowed on the restaurant counter right next to the candy jar to lure advertising and Academy eyes. And members of the Writers Guild who frequented their own theatre right there on Doheny also were a constant presence at Kate’s.  In fact, I do a winter screening series for UCLA Extension Sneak Preview at the WGA and so many of the 400 or so who took  the Wednesday night class would first have dinner at Kate’s.  I always checked with Lisa Glucksman, a Kate’s  hostess, to find out what mood they were in before facing them for the Q&A following the film. Like so many who work at Kate’s Lisa became a friend. She’s also an actress and we saw some of her shows over the years including Frankie And Johnny At The Clair De Lune.

ReservationsSince word got out in mid-May about tonight’s closing, the place has been jammed with stars, producers, directors and industryites looking for one last “Kate’s fix”.  There has been a sense of disbelief, sadness and tears all around from the regulars to the staff who so many knew by name (a real rarity in this era and this town). It was like a family. It certainly had that atmosphere. One of the waiters, who joined just a few years ago, after working 30 years at the now also-vanished Hamlet at the end of the Sunset Strip told me about all the stars he has gotten to know over the years. You don’t realize it until they are gone, but these watering holes have meaning even for the biggest names.  Jim Laurer remembered serving Dean Martin2010-0225-Kate-Mantilini-00700 who hit the Hamlet alone just about nightly in his final years. And other legends like Bette Davis, Eve Arden, the Sinatra clan etc.  Kate’s had the same feel, and he felt at home there too. It was a special place where the famous and the non-famous were all treated like family.  On a personal note my wife Madelyn and I will certainly miss Kate’s.  She was there all the time doing what came to be known as “Job Whisperer” sessions, offering tough love and resume help for industry members who were out of work.

1450064_10151858743212252_271481717_nSo here’s a toast to the Kate’s Beverly Hills family, and I apologize in advance if I have left anyone out:  Brenda, Meg, Jason, Kerry, Joe, Brian, Alex, Martha, Tyrone, Robert, Jim, Melanie, Marielle,  Carmella, Steve, Isaac, Lisa and Tom. We feel your loss  — as does everyone, including those multitudes of Oscar voters, who all got to know and love Kate Mantilini in Beverly Hills.

    1. Mantilini’s was and always will be a legend in its own time.
      Thanks for the memories! RIP.

  1. Wow….like Henry’s Taco stand in Studio City another greedy landlord strikes!

    Kate’s WHills is nothing like Wilshire… Maybe Hollywood Film migration is really about retarded landlords starving old school Hollywood into GA, and Louisiana for better GRUB???

  2. Aw that sucks. Used to go there quite often when I worked in West Hollywood. Trying to call back the Deniro & Pacino “Heat” scene verbatim with movie geek buds when stopping by for coffee, pie, and a side of the awesome “Those Potatoes” stacked & stuffed hash browns.

  3. I feel like an old friend has died. Who are these ingrates jacking the rent of this sweet spot and putting it out of business?

  4. Was there last week and the waitress told us the bad news. Such a shame and a great bunch of people.

  5. I had my first ever Hollywood breakfast with my first ever agent there, and many other breakfasts since.

    1. Me too. The beginning of my Hollywood career was in 1987 and it was like Kate’s had always been there.

      How can I be posting too quickly? This is the only thing I’ve posted.

  6. Why is it assumed that it is a greedy landlord instead of the area rental value? If you had a mortgage due, the taxes kept increasing, there were landlord obligated expenditures, and a thriving business told you they could not afford to pay as much as others offer to rent the location, is that greed, or is demanding that the landlord subsidize your business closer to “greedy” behavior?

    Running a business is not easy, but neither is being a landlord, and I have had to move a business because I could not afford the rent increase, so I know the feeling of the business, but people, don’t assume that landlord equals greedy, or that a business deserves subsidy because you like it.

    Think.

    1. I don’t live in LA area any more, but here in the Puget Sound area in my town two landlords raised the rent a year ago and the tenants vacated one a restaurant the other a car repair shop two different locations but those locations are STILL vacant. Some times when a landlord raises the rent it comes back to bite him in the ass.

    2. “Greedy” would not be a word I would have used. Your reply is also full of assumptions intended to induce sympathy for the owner. For example, why would the property owner underwater on the lot?

      It is a valuable corner — though I always wondered why the northeast corner was vacant in the 90s. It’s income property and we generally, with such things and within the terms of agreements we sign, will choose an option which offer a greater upside.

      We are not parties to the negotiation, we only know both parties said no to every offer and counter-offer. Even if it had to do more with personalities than business, who are we to say keeping the thing we like overrides who somebody else chooses to be in business with.

      Kate Mantillini will join Chasen’s, Morton’s, and a lot of places from 1940s-1990s Sunset Strip, etc., as a show-biz spot to be remembered.

    3. Well Said. There are real economic factors at stake.

      If Hollywood is in love with this restaurant so much they should band together and save it themselves. Being serious.

  7. Well said, although i will miss my $20 bowl of chili. Btw, anyone remember when they also had a michael richards poster from Unstrung?

  8. Mourn “losing” Kate Mantilini? Not me, my family or friends. And talk about “greed?” No simple and unexceptional diner ever pushed the nevelope in “how much we can rip off the customers” than Kate Mantilini. When they lost expense account-ridden ICM to Century City whose agents didn’t care how outrageous the check might be, you would think that would give the owners pause to reflect on realistic pricing on their troubled menu. How ’bout those $9.50 onion rings? Even upscale money-is-no-object joints won’t go above $5.00. Google KM’s last menu if you can. It’s shameless. R.I.P.? No. Rot in hell.

    1. those onion rings were the best in town… even Akasha (which is polled to have the best ORs) doesn’t even come close.

      this is a tragedy….

    2. Beg to differ…check out the onion rings at the Grill. Bargains are in the eye of the beholder.

  9. I do as well love this tribute, except for one piece. The part of the article in which the producers feel affected by the “greedy landlord.” THOUSANDS of jobs have been lost by the affects of greedy studios and producers. some of those academy awards that have been won, were on the backs of the now unemployed. How can we want to keep the Hollywood history, if we have no desire to want to keep the Hollywood for which that history came. We may as well take down the sign and give it to foreign markets, all of which claim to be the Hollywood of New York, the Hollywood of Louisiana, The Hollywood of Georgia, Bollywood. we may as well send the sign there. Their governments will give them a “B” for free just in tax incentives. Stop the greed Hollywood.

  10. Another piece of California changing because of foreign real estate investors — yes, this property is owned buy creeps from the Middle East — jut like 75% of BH is. I grew up here, it’s not the BH I grew up in 35 years ago. My brother died in Iraq, it’s hard to even watch some of our neighbors. Times change, greed never does.

  11. The phrase “a greedy landlord more interested in lining their pockets than in pleasing Hollywood” is a classic, classic statement. Lord knows that landlord should know better than to put his finances above pleasing Hollywood!

    1. Amen, bruddah!

      The arrogance and stupidity of that statement is astonishing. If it was meant facetiously or as satire – epic frail.

  12. So the one business (the developer landlord) is greedy for wanting the market value of the rent, but another business (the restaurant) is not greedy for wanting to keep their money instead of paying the market value?

    Do you really think small business people are “lining their pockets”? Do you have any idea, beyond paying the zero expenses of your blog, what it costs to do business – taxes, regulations, licenses in this city?

    Do you really

    1. You all voted in a 75% Democrat legislature who raised those taxes through the roof and are enacting more laws and regulations than we can keep up with. Businesses are fleeing California by the thousands each year to places like Texas, Arizona and Florida, and taking their jobs with them. And they’re not coming back. One restaurant chain said it takes 2 years just to go through the approval process for a new location, so they won’t be opening any new ones, and will slowly be closing the ones they have.

  13. Couldn’t they just open up down the street there are so many empty buildings at great locations, one on Beverly blvd. , across from Stella mcartnry shop near to the Beverly center
    and doheny dr. What about Burton dr, lots of buildings vacant.

  14. Sad.
    I had my first real office across the street on Wilshire and often went to Kate’s because there was virtually noplace else to eat within walking distance. I was also broke at the time, so I fell in love with the mac and cheese. Not only was if affordable but delicious. Glad I had a nice meal last week, complete with martinis….
    Memories…

  15. I loved Kate Mantilini but it’s a bit hypocritical of anyone to use the word “greedy” when defending a restaurant that charges $13 for a bowl if soup and nearly $20 for a burger. In these trying economic times, it would be smarter for these restaurants to lower the prices of their menu items to attract more regular business. Otherwise, more “greedy landlords” are bound to keep closing our favorite eateries.

  16. Ben Franks. Hamburger Hamlet on Sunset. Chasen’s. Kate’s. Just had what I guess was my last San Dabs after “A Night In the Writer’s Room” at the WGA. Didn’t even realize it was closing. Would have savored that and the Grilled Artichoke more. Thanks, KM, for the memories.

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