09 May 2007

Meet You at Longchamps


Longchamps was a chain of restaurants that was highly popular with Ladies Who Lunch in the post-WW II years in New York. There were a number around town, mainly situated around Madison and Fifth. When cheating Fred McMurray's secretary Edie Adams rats him out to his wife in Billy Wilder's "The Apartment," the two women meet at Longchamps. The places were elegant, smart and very Deco. They boasted plenty of mirrors and murals.

They're all gone now, but this sign high about Madison and 49th intrigued me. Sure enough, the address—423 Madison—was once a Longchamps location. It's now a Pax chicken joint.

I found this about designer Winold Reiss, who created many of the stylish Longchamps locations:

The exterior of Reiss's 1941 design proposal for a new bar and roof garden at the 49th Street and Madison Avenue Longchamps displays the chain's trademark vermillion coloring and lettering, including the falling "S," while the undulating lines that enliven its canopy and bronze wall panels recall the early borders of the M.A.C. The entire effect is not dissimilar to that of the Barricini candy box already illustrated: the name or sign identifying the product or establishment has been completely integrated into its design; the fa├žade has become a sign rather than simply providing a place for one.


In 1969, the unctuous, tacky Riese Company—despoiler of classy New York restaurants chains such as Child's and Schrafft's—gobbled up Longchamp's nine locations. But why complain? They gave us Charley O's and Tequilaville in exchange.

13 comments:

Jack Womack said...

Two of this building's previous tenants still have signage up -- walking downtown you can see the sign for Larmen Dosanko, a small 1980s Japanese fast-food chain on the side of the building; that followed Longchamps and preceded Pax.

dubarry said...

omg. i almost forgot about dosanko. it was the first place i ever ate gyoza.

Cynthia said...

I've been reading letters written by my father in 1944 and came upon this: "I think I'll mail her a good box of candy from Longchamps." My search for Longchamps led me here. What a find! I am always on the look-out for vestiges of New York's past that have somehow survived. How wonderful to know there is an entire blog dedicated to this quest! Thank you! I look forward to exploring further.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Sounds like an interesting batch of letter, Cynthia.

richard said...

i grew up in the 50's and loved longchamps. my father took us for dinner many times, and i recall that the food was very good, and the prices were reasonable. it was a real treat. could anyone post a menu from the early 50's?

Richard said...

Mr. Dad, Angel Luis Torres was the Head Bartender at the City Hall restaurant and it is idelibly cemented in my memory the elegance and classic nature of this iconic restaurant. Longchamps will live forever as one of the most outstanding restaurants in New York lore. Richard

Julia said...

I grew up in New Jersey in the '50s and my grandmother would bring us into the city every fall to buy new school clothes. I am visiting from the west coast with my daughter and granddaughter and was so disappointed to find that Longchamps is no longer and I cannot treat them, as promised, to one of their wonderful lunches.

Paul said...

I dont know why, but I was remembering my visits to relatives in New York as a child and how some of my aunts would like to take my parents and my little brother and me to Longchamp's. It was quite a treat!

Anonymous said...

In the book True Compass from Eduard Kennedy, it says in page 62 that on Sunday's in a caravan of two cars; after church they went to Manhattan for lunch at the Longchamps and after that to Radio city for movies. This was when they were little.

Anonymous said...

I have a menu inherited from my grandmother -

Watercress Salad...60 cents
Large Lobster...$2.75
Fresh Calves Liver...$1.15
Baked Oysters...$1.10
Glass of Chablis...50 cents
Chocolate Eclair...25 cents

Dozens of menu items, nothing costing more than $2.75!

Kathleen said...

I was recently helping an elderly friend (96 years ago) pack up her belongings before she moved back to Ireland. I came across a striped black and white dress and she told me it was her uniform when she was a waitress at Longchamps on 34th and 5th Ave. She had to wear a tiny white apron on the dress. It is still in perfect shape.

Bill in Phoenix said...

Growing up in Queens during the 40s and 50s I listened to semi-classical music from WPAT in Paterson, NJ. Longchamps was one of their regular advertisers. Although our family were diner patrons on those rare occasions we ate out, my fevered imagination had me in Longchamps for a "Petite Baba au Rhum" many times.

Emily Wiseman said...

My father was one of the chefs for Longchamp's. He worked there from around 1940 to 1952, where he had a heart attack and was disable after that. I believe he worked mainly at the one on 79th street in NYC, however, I seem to remember him going to help out at 34th and 59th street. It is a little vague since I was born in 1940. His name was John Motta. I do remember when I was about 8 or 10 he had come home one day and said he had been promoted to head chef. He had created several recipes for the restaurant and one I would like to get my hands on was for a special vinegeret sauce, thick with finely chopped peppers, onion, garlic and basil.
On my birthday, he would buy and bring me home their special Hazelnut cake with the mocha iceing and of course once or twice I got one of their dolls that the restaurant sold for a birthday or Christmas. Reading about this brings back memories. He sang opera at home and loved Enrico Caruso and even tried out at the Metropolitan Opera. We will never know after all this time, but I would not be surprised if he had something to do with that Spaghetti recipe. He did know Mr. Mitchell, because I remember he would tell me when he was coming in to the restaurant.I still have the tools he used to make the roses out of the radishes and fancy melon balls, etc. etc.
Emily Motta Wiseman
2270 N. Highland Avenue
Tarpon Springs, Fl 34688
727-946-0303
ewise101@aol.com