For decades, until it died in the 1970s, Ye Olde Chop Shop on Cedar Street was the oldest restaurant in New York City. It was founded in 1800 as Old Tom's Chop Shop. No eatery ever came close in age.
Nothing remains of the place—not even that many memories. Or so I thought, until yesterday. A reader wrote in saying a friend of his, Billy Ahearn, the owner of the downtown bar Suspenders Restaurant and Bar, was in possession of the original sign for Ye Olde Chop Shop.
What? Could this be true? The way the reader told the story, Ahearn, a retired NYC fire lieutenant, was beginning construction on Suspenders, which is located at 111 Broadway, nearly opposite the end of Pine Street, when he discovered the wooden sign, along with an old Chop House menu. I asked the reader if she could convince Ahearn to take a photo of the sign, which now hangs in his basement. He did. There it is above.
The story would seem to pan out. Ye Olde Chop House began life at 108 Cedar, then moved to 118 Cedar. But the last leg of its life was spent at 111 Broadway. And what other sign is going to say "Established 1800"? It's hard to tell how old the sign is. It could have been made as recently as 40 years ago, and fashioned to look old. But I don't know—it looks damned old to me. And whatever it's age, it's a bonafide artifact of one of the most famous restaurants to ever grace New York.