Citadel of Taste

There is a certain kind of well-dressed woman who still wears nude stockings to lunch at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Penny De Los Santos

There is a certain kind of well-dressed woman who still wears nude stockings to lunch at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel. Quilted Chanel handbags will never go out of style here. Neither will celebrity spotting. One recent morning—at that hour when the early-riser power brokers have left and the women with expensive highlights and faraway husbands have not yet begun picking at their Santa Monica farmers' market salads—Diddy, Mark Wahlberg, and the former Paramount CEO Sherry Lansing were just a few of the faces in the crowd. Nearly a century after its opening, the Beverly Hills Hotel remains the most reliable place to dine quietly among movie stars and moguls, without the frenzy of autograph hounds and paparazzi, in the hands of professionals like Felix Olmedo (pictured), a waiter at the Polo Lounge since 1995. My first visit, when I was a high-school kid sneaking off the path of a charity walkathon, led me and a friend into a palm-lined wonderland, where we found ourselves drawn down a curved, carpeted stairway and onto a pair of bar stools at the swooping counter of the Fountain Coffee Room. We pooled our allowance money and ordered a hot fudge sundae from a waitress in a starched pink-and-white uniform. Beside us were two women, one middle-aged, the other much older, with a distant stare and a familiar face. When the younger woman overheard that my friend and I were walking for charity, she exchanged a word with her companion and exclaimed, "Miss Hayworth is very impressed with you both!" Miss Hayworth, as in Rita. I can't imagine another place where running into a golden-age screen goddess would feel like the most natural thing in the world. —Laurie Ochoa, cofounder of Slake, a quarterly journal about Los Angeles