The followed are past edition of the "Recipes of the Lost City" column. As stated at the beginning of each edition, in this column "I rummage through my library of old New York restaurant histories and cookbooks and dig up the prime dishes the denizens of the five boroughs dined on in years gone by."
Gage & Tollner's Crabmeat a la Dewey
Hampshire House's Veal Steak Saute Provencale
Grotto Azzurra's Meatballs
Baked Bean Rarebit
Longchamps Chicken Manhattan House
Trader Vic's Mai Tai
Recipes of the Lost City: Stork Club Punch
Luchow's Wiener Schnitzel
Tavern on the Green's Tavern Chestnut Dressing
Braised Striped Bass Pavillon
Klube's Bavarian Potatoes
Town and Country's Main Blueberry Griddle Cakes
Luchow's Potato Dumplings
Ye Olde Chop House's Corned Beef and Cabbage
The Colony's Veloute of Whitebait Colony
31 January 2009
The followed are past edition of the "Recipes of the Lost City" column. As stated at the beginning of each edition, in this column "I rummage through my library of old New York restaurant histories and cookbooks and dig up the prime dishes the denizens of the five boroughs dined on in years gone by."
30 January 2009
Here's an interesting section from early on in James Lieber's cover story in this week's Village Voice, about how and why the world economy tanked:
Credit derivatives—those securities that few have ever seen—are one reason why this crisis is so different from 1929.
Derivatives weren't initially evil. They began as insurance policies on large loans. A bank that wished to lend money to a big, but shaky, venture, like what Ford or GM have become, could hedge its bet by buying a credit derivative to cover losses if the debtor defaulted. Derivatives weren't cheap, but in the era of globalization and declining American competitiveness, they were prudent. Interestingly, the company that put the basic hardware and software together for pricing and clearing derivatives was Bloomberg. It was quite expensive for a financial institution—say, a bank—to get a Bloomberg machine and receive the specialized training required to certify analysts who would figure out the terms of the insurance. These Bloomberg terminals, originally called Market Masters, were first installed at Merrill Lynch in the late 1980s.
Subsequently, thousands of units have been placed in trading and financial institutions; they became the cornerstone of Michael Bloomberg's wealth, marrying his skills as a securities trader and an electrical engineer.
It's an open question when or if he or his company knew how they would be misused over time to devastate the world's economy.
Bloomberg–he's the guy who's trying to convince us to elect him for a third term, because he's the only mayor who can handle things during a financial crisis like this one, right? Is that because, since he helped create the crisis, it's only right that he should clean it up?
Oh, and for all of you out there who are saying right now, "You can't blame Bloomberg for the recession! He just invented the machines. He didn't tell people to abuse them!"—Yeah, good reasoning. I bet Oppenheimer said the same thing.
Ah, Le Veau d'Or, unsung time machine of French haute cuisine! It was a pleasure to visit the tiny place—ever masked from the public in scaffolding and a colorless facade—for my latest "Who Goes There?" column for Eater.
Unlike almost every other restaurant I've written up for this series, I actually had been there before visiting this time. A couple years ago, I was spurred on by the book "The United States of Arugula," a history of the U.S. culinary revolution, to check the restaurant out, as it is the last vestige of the fine-French-food invasion that blanketed New York after World War II. There I found owner Robert Treboux, living landmark and keeper of information about everything that's gone on in the New York food world over the past half century. He plays host every night.
I urge everyone reading this to go and dine at this wonderful little bistro. For it will only remain as long as 85-year-old Treboux is willing and able to get up every morning and unlock the door.
Here is the item:
Who Goes There? Le Veau d’Or
Midtown East: La Pavillon is gone. La Caravelle, Le Cote Basque, Lutece—all the post-WWII palaces of haute French cuisine—gone. But Le Veau d’Or remains. It was never as important as those other restaurants, but, unlike most of the places I visit for this column, it was actually a significant destination at one time, packing in the likes of Oleg Cassini, Truman Capote, Princess Grace and Craig Claiborne. They’re all gone, and Le Veau d’Or endures only because of the stubborn determination of Frenchman Robert Treboux, who once worked at La Pavillon in the 1950s with the legendary Henri Soule and bought the 50-seat restaurant in 1985.
He never changed a thing about the décor (red banquettes, French street signs) or menu (Coq au Vin, Tripe a la mode De Caen) of the eatery, which opened way back in 1937. Bald-headed, somewhat grouchy and ever dressed in a suit and vest, the 85-year-old Treboux usually hangs out near the front booth, where Orson Welles used to sit. He lives upstairs and owns the small building.
No one under 50 goes to Le Veau d’Or. Most know Treboux well and love him and the old traditions he upholds. They hobble down the few steps from E. 60th Street into the most tightly sealed culinary time-capsule in New York. With lace curtains on the windows, French music piped through the speakers, and an old-fashioned Table d'hôte menu, the space betrays no evidence of the events of the last eight Presidential administrations.
A single, aged waiter handled the six or so parties that paid homage to the place on a recent Wednesday night. Most of the couples greeted him by name; one lady was brought her regular drink before she sat down. Two octogenarian married with matching canes occupied a back table. A self-important, starchy UES duo talked of just having come back from the Inaugural and gossiped about facelifts, legal motions and Elaine Stritch. (For whatever reason, Le Veau d’Or has always attracted a theatrical element.) Many spoke French with the owner and waiter. One aged French coquette came in and thrilled at the sight of Treboux, proclaiming that they had know each other 40 years ago. Treboux did not remember, but nonetheless visited the table several times to chat.
The wine list is French, of course. It’s not very long, and not very specific, identifying only the Bordeaux winemakers. (A half century ago, they were the only vintners that mattered, right?) Dinners costs from $28 to $38 and the menu includes every saucy, heavy French classic you can think of. Most dishes are quite satisfactory, if not exactly inspiring. The most expensive entrée is the Carre d’Agneau Roti, the Rack of Lamb, and it is worth the price if only because is affords the buyer one of the last examples of old-world table service available in the city. The lamb is shown to the customer and then carved and prepared in front of them. No one does this anymore. It’s like watching a butter-churning exhibition. Fascinating. The lady seated next to me, a regular for decades, preferred her lamb served in a particular way and the waiter executed her desires without asking.
If you’re bored easily, you don’t want to come here. But if you want a little respite from the madding crowd, want to hear not the restaurant’s soundtrack but what your companion has to say, crave the abiding comfort of constancy and tradition, and expect to leave full, Le Veau d’Or will cradle you into happiness as surely as mother’s arms.
—Brooks of Sheffield
29 January 2009
How do you tell a true dive?
A true dive doesn't waste a dime on upkeep or decor. A true dive opens early. A true dive has an arcane juke box repertoire. A true dive doesn't go around trolling for new customers; it's content to soak the same aging boozehounds day after day.
If such are the criteria for a true dive, than Timboo's is a true dive. The storefront on Fifth Avenue in the South Slope has always looked promising to me: the mirrored black glass facade with the faded white lettering, and the badly drawn Martini glasses; the glass bricks; the sun-bleached awning; the very name itself—Timboo's. What kind of name is that?
I grabbed a Sam Adams there the other day. The aged customers clung close to the bar. They were mostly men, but women were represented. All were in a sodden state, some looking rather mournfully out the window as the passing parade, other boisterously telling stories to whomever who listen. Among the younger barflies buzzcuts were the rule. If Park Slope used to be a rough neighborhood, as they say, this crowd proved the case.
If I had to name one thing that defines Timboo's, I would say human body odor. It knocks you down when you walk in. Years and years of soaked-in sweat, in the wood, in the stools, in the walls. I doubt any of the regulars of staff notice. It's like cat owners who are oblivious to the fact that their homes reek of kitty litter.
The juke box played Irish ballads and Dexy's Midnight Runners while I was there. Timboo's is big. There a roomy pool area in the back, with a sloping roof above it. On one side of the table is a picture and memorabilia collage devoted to Elvis. On the other wall, is an equally big collage of Beatles junk. A old gun is mounted on the wall next to a plaque identifying it as the gun that won the west. There are the remnants of what looks like a kitchen in the back; many of these ancient bars used to serve food.
Timboo's has been on this corner since 1969. I think the people inside have been there just as long.
A visit to the Macy's in downtown Brooklyn is generally a dispiriting experience. It's usually empty and devoid of life, and the interior has been dully done up to look like the faceless inside of any department store in American.
One section of the ground floor, however, retains its grace and charm: the elevators. Located in the center of the store, this bank of Art Deco lifts appears to have been untouched since the store's days as Abraham & Strauss. The main building was built in the 1920s and 1930s, when Art Deco was king. The detail is quite amazing (but not matched inside the elevator cars, unfortunately). The Macy's people don't do much right, but they're kept this bit of glory up nicely.
The clock hanging overhead is smart, too. And it works.
28 January 2009
I've previously kvetched about the inappropriateness of a Starbuck's branch being inside the glorious Waldorf=Astoria. Well, now it's not only inappropriate—it's illegal!
On a Monday visit to the storied hotel, a Department of Health notice told all who cared to know that the coffee joint had been shut down for "operating without a permit." What's that about? It may have reopened by now. But I hope not.
No doubt wishing not to seem too stuffy, and to appear "hip" to what the "kids" are thinking these days, The New York Times soft-pedaled the whole "21" Club tie policy brouhaha. Glenn Collins penned an article all but yawns at the development, opening with "THE earth held firm in its orbit. The continents did not founder. Martial law was not imposed. This, despite the fact that the “21” Club has loosened its tie for the first time since it opened at 21 West 52d Street 79 years ago."
There are the requisite interviews with patrons, some disappointed in the dip in etiquette, some thinking it a fine thing.
Yours truly is mentioned. None of my fulminations are quoted. Instead, Collins acts on one of my hope-against-hope suggestions:
After the new tie policy was announced, one blog, Lost City (which describes itself as “a running Jeremiad on the vestiges of Old New York as they are steamrolled under”) asked: “Couldn’t we get the old-school La Grenouille to uphold the old ways and begin requiring ties again?”
Not likely, said Charles Masson, general manager of the 47-year-old restaurant that abandoned its tie-only policy in 2003 (but not its jacket requirement). “There used to be a time when men wore white wigs, too,” he said.
Ha, ha. One day, Masson'll be saying "There used to be a time when men wore pants, too." It's a slippery slope.
Also interviewed was the king of Four Seasons, who was his usual debonair, flip self:
Julian Niccolini, a partner at The Four Seasons restaurant, asked simply, “Why should I tell people how to dress?”
Funny, coming from a restaurant that's all about style and elegance and how things look.
27 January 2009
To many, the realtor-hatched neighborhood names of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens mean little. "What's the difference? It's all South Brooklyn in the end." Indeed, the nabes are so small and so close together, they might as well be categorized under one name. Still, over the years, I've discerned enough differences between the two areas that I think they deserve separate handles. Cobble Hill is tonier, its average street more architecturally beautiful; Carroll Gardens a bit more scruffy, closer to the highways and the docks. CG retains a stronger ethnic, Italian-American edge, while CH is more blandly heterogeneous. And CG, in my opinion, has more mercantile personality than CG, which just has, you know, a lot of nice shops.
Another way of saying that is there's just not as much living history on hand in Cobble Hill. Still, the area is a joy to walk through and there's enough to talk about. And so I will, in this, Lost City's fourth such guide to New York neighborhoods.
FORMER INDEPENDENCE BANK: Let's start on Court Street, Cobble Hill's main artery, as it is Carroll Gardens'. At the corner of Court and Atlantic is the former Independence Bank, now a Trader Joe's. Take a look, because the 1922 building, with its mighty white bricks and mightier arched windows, is impressive—but also because of the plaque honoring George Washington outside. Want to know why it's called Cobble Hill? Because a conical hill topped with a fort once stood roughly on this spot. Washington used it to spy the approaching British and watch his forces duke it out in nearby Gowanus. The British didn't like that. When they got here, they razed the hill to the ground. Thus, Cobble Hill has no hill.
METROPOLITAN ROD AND GUN CLUB: Take a brief detour to the right on Pacific Street. The name of this institution itself screams 19th century. Actually, the club was incorporated only in 1934. They bought the Pacific Street building in 1939. Inside, you'll find an indoor pistol and smallbore rifle range and archery range.
STAUBITZ MARKET: Back to Court. This butcher, the last holdout of what used to be a strong German enclave, has been near Warren Street since 1917. The McFadden family, which has owned the business for more than 40 years, has retained the old time feel of the place, and sells about every kind of meat you can think of. It—along with the 1960-founded PAISANOS MEAT MARKET a block over on Smith Street—are the last, best butchers in the area.
JIM & ANDY'S: An old-school green grocer, run by a family whose patriarch used to help sell vegetables from a horse-drawn cart and who recently died. Wall-to-wall produce, Sinatra on the radio, a big metal scale, paper bags, vague prices. Nice place.
SAM'S PIZZERIA: An old family eatery near Kane Street with faded decor and peculiar ways. Don't tell them how to serve you, they're going to do it their way regardless. The old man of the family still makes the pizzas, as he has done for the last 58 years. There's a wooden phone booth that doesn't work and a cocktail menu that apparently does. It's never busy.
KANE STREET SYNAGOGUE: As you pass Kane Street, glance to the right. The somewhat drab, but still majestic building on the south side of the street is the Kane Street Synagogue. It's real name is Baith Israel-Anshei Emeth, but no one really calls it that. At 152 years, it is the oldest Jewish congregation that still serves the Brooklyn neighborhood in which it was founded. The congregation has been in the current building since 1905, and was for a while called the Harrison Street Synagogue, during those early years when Kane Street was Harrison Street. The edifice was built in 1855 as a Middle Reformed Protestant Dutch Church. Aaron Copland had his Bar Mitzvah here in 1913.
COURT PASTRY SHOP: Some think this bakery near Degraw makes the best Italian pastries in the area. I'll vouch for the Svingi, apple turnovers and the unshowy, timeless interior. Anytime a Catholic holiday is on the way, look for specialized cakes and treats.
DEGRAW STREET FIREHOUSE: Walk east of Degraw a hundred feet and see the defunct Engine 204, which was shut down by the City amid much protest in 2003. It's a beautiful 19th-century structure, redolent of the days when firehouses were more private men's clubs than public institutions.
THE STREETS: Almost any block in Cobble Hill—which runs from Atlantic up north to Degraw in the south, and Smith Street at the western point to the BQE—is gorgeous. The trees are tall and old. Most of the brownstones have been well kept up, and were handsome to begin with. Churches, small and grand and old, pop up regularly. The grid is nicely interrupted by picturesque one-block streets like Strong Place (rich people), Tompkins Place (more rich people) and Cheever Place (some rich and some oldtimers). There are good patches of old bluestone left on the ground. The run up Clinton Street from Degraw to Atlantic always lifts my spirits. Try it on a bike; there's a lane.
CHRIST CHURCH: At the corner of Clinton and Kane is a Gothic masterpiece built in 1840 by Richard Upjohn, the guy who did Trinity Church across the river. The Upjohns lived nearby and were congregants. There are Tiffany windows inside, though it's hard to tell them apart from the fakes put in after a fire in 1939. Take a look.
CONVENT WALL: Turn left on Kane and walk to Henry. Lining this corner is a particularly ancient-looking wall, covered with wines, crumbling and with a metal door near the center. If it seems out of place, it's because the convent it once encircled is now gone. The Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor order was started in France. They left sometime before the 1960s.
COBBLE HILL PARK: Thank tenacious residents that the church that used to stand on Clinton between Congress Street and Verandah Place wasn't replaced by a supermarket. If it had, we wouldn't have this lovely vest-pocket park, which—combined with the quaint nearby corner coffee shop and Verandah's exquisite alley of former carriage houses—has the quiet elegance of a piece of Parisian urban greenery. It's easy to forget that you work and have bills here.
DEGRAW MANSION: Walk further up Clinton to the southeast corner of Clinton and Amity. Freestanding homes are rare in South Brooklyn. You had to be super rich to demand an unattached swelling. The Degraws were and they lived here at 219 Clinton. It was built in 1844, and was later home to the first private elevator in all of Brooklyn. As recently as 1988, the house had had only three owners. Don't know if that's still the case.
LICH BUILDINGS: Walk west over to Henry Street. Long Island College Hospital has been busy lately trying to knock down or sell off all its magnificent old buildings. They're still stubbornly hanging on, though, including the 105-year-old Lamm Institute building at 110 Amity Street and the Pholemus building across the street. Gaze while you can.
WARREN PLACE: Walk west on Warren. Don't walk too fast, though. You'll miss the tiny, gated Warren Place on the left, a narrow alley of miniature brick "Workingman's Cottages." They were built by Alfred Treadway White, the 19th-century developer-with-a-soul, who thought laborers should live in dignity. A more beautiful mews you won't find. They go for millions there days. The gate's usually open. Go in and walk around. Just do it quietly.
TOWER BUILDINGS AND HOME BUILDINGS: Two magnificent, and magnificently red apartment complexes overlooking the BQE. They were built as tenements by that self-same White. Everything about the sturdy, yet appealing architecture is wonderful, from the outside recessed apartment entrances to the peekaboo stairwells to the castle-like turrets.
LONG ISLAND RESTAURANT: Walk back to Henry and up to Atlantic. The Long Island Restaurant at this corner hasn't been open for a year and a half. But it remains as is inside and the distinctive neon sign still hangs over the street. Gaze inside and sigh at the half-century old mainstay that has been lost.
ORIENTAL PASTRY AND GROCERY: Walk east on Atlantic to this small, crowded shop, one of the better exemplars of Middle Eastern foodstuffs on this avenue. Sacks of nuts, dried fruit, spices, everything. Sweets are in the back and worth sampling, including various pistachio and honey-based goodies. You can find a good many treasures here, if you know where to look.
LOST CITY'S GUIDE TO THE LOWER EAST SIDE
LOST CITY'S GUIDE TO CARROLL GARDENS
LOST CITY'S GUIDE TO TIMES SQUARE
26 January 2009
Ask a politician what he stands for, and he'll say education. We gotta help our kids! We gotta improve our schools! Check out a politician's record, however, and you'll find education is pretty low on his/her list of priorities. American politics has always had everything ass-backwards. Teachers, policemen, firemen, artists—the selfless people that make life livable—are paid squat, and people even complain of paying them that. Corporate CEOS, lawyers, parasitic real estate barons, stockbrokers—the people who make the lives of 99% of Americans miserable—are rewarded and protected.
Why, City Hall doesn't even take care of our old schools. Check this our for symbolism. The original Erasmus Hall building, which sits in the courtyard of the larger, more familiar Flatbush building called Erasmus Hall High School, is in danger of falling down. The building, a dignified but weatherbeaten two-story affair that was erected in 1786, when all our Founding Fathers were still alive (some of whom were founders of the school), is not included in the multi-million dollar renovation of Eramus that is now going on. Go figure that one out.
"The boards are falling off. They're rotting. The roof has a hole in it. And there's water leaking in. The glass is damaged. The shutters are falling off," said Terry Kaplan, Erasmus Hall Alumni Association.
Well, you say, they should landmark the building! They did. It is both a federal and city landmark. But, of course, we all know that means nothing. Landmarking body bestow titles on things all the time, then walk away, as if the structures are going to take care of themselves.
"How I dislike everything that keeps me back, or retards me," Desiderius Erasmus once wrote. I know how he feels.
The good news: The Holland Bar, dives of dives, will reopen Wednesday.
The bad news: All that stuff they scraped off the walls when they gutted the place last summer is gone for good. "The photographs of customers who had died years before, the posters for shows at the dear, departed CBGB — is gone, too. [Owner Gary] Kelly sent many framed pictures home with regulars as farewell gifts, other memorabilia went into storage. One of the relics of the Holland’s lore — an urn containing the ashes of Charlie O’Connor, a former bartender — had gone missing."
The news news: The Times reports that the reason the Ninth Avenue dive closed in the first place were the villainous dreams of the greedy landlord, Ebeden Wong. "According to Mr. Kelly, who has owned the bar since 1998, the landlord refused to renew the lease in the hopes that he could make more money converting the building for residential use or selling it off. But such plans apparently did not work out, and the landlord offered Mr. Kelly his old space back starting Jan. 1, albeit at a 20 percent increase in the rent."
The article also tells us where Holland's devoted barflies have been these past months. Rudy's mainly, a few blocks north. Others went to the Bull Moose Saloon. They followed the Holland bartenders. "Bill Leary, known as Dr. Bill, took over the Monday and Tuesday shifts at the Bull Moose Saloon, on 44th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, and Steve Bibko has been serving free hot dogs along with Jameson shots and Budweiser back at Rudy’s Bar and Grill, at 44th and Ninth."
A well-placed source at the "21" Club—which, it was revealed last week, has abandoned a strict tie requirement at dinner—tell us that almost everyone seated at lunch today is wearing a necktie, even though such accessories have not been demanded at lunch for a decade. A quiet show of solidarity among the civilized? It's nice to think so.
The Berkley concern of fine outerwear no longer serves the South Slope, Brooklyn. The building is closed and gutted. But the sign still sits on high on Fifth Avenue, around 14th Street. Actually, Berkley hasn't been there for a while. The space was most recently a deli. No one's ever bothered to take the sign down.
24 January 2009
The City's news organs piled on yesterday's startling report that the "21" Club, one of the last bastions of style and formality in New York, had thrown out its requirement that men wear jackets and ties at dinner. (It's still encouraged, but not a must.)
The New York Post ran a lengthy article, with people weighing in on both sides of the issue. (Big surprise: old people deplore the development; young people think its swell.) Of course, the sloppy daily got the main points wrong, calling "21" "one of the very last eateries in New York that still required male customers to wear a jacket and tie." It was the last one, dumbasses!
Also weighing in were NY Magazine's Grub Street; the Albany Times Union; and the Zagat blog. (Nothing at the sleepy NY Times or Daily News yet.)
Speaking of Zagat, it will no longer need to indicate in its New York guides restaurants which require a tie. There are none. As for ones that still require a jacket, there are a mere 13 in the 2009 guide: "21" Club, Four Seasons, Le Cirque, Daniel, Per Se, The Modern, Le Perigord, Le Grenouille, Jean George, Carlyle, Le Bernadin, River Cafe, and Rainbow Room (which isn't really functioning right now).
Couldn't we get the old-school Le Grenouille to uphold the old ways and begin requiring ties again?
23 January 2009
Eater reports today that it received notice of a dining deal from the "21" Club, which included this line:
"...we have (somewhat) relaxed our dress code in the lounge and bar areas, as well as the dining rooms. Ties are still preferred and greatly appreciated, but they are no longer a must."
Uh. This news upsets me, much more than it really should. It's more of an involuntary, visceral response. I feel physically ill.
I love "21." It's historic and alive and unique and cozy and convivial. Every visit is a celebration of what makes New York different from all other cities. The food is good, the wine list fantastic, the grasp of tradition firm, and the decor a riotous delight for the eye and mind (Remingtons on the walls, toys and things hanging from the ceiling, plaques, pictures, framed cartoons poking decades of fun at the place). It's a restaurant, a club, a haven and a landmark.
But this decision I must deplore. "21" has always rather marched to its own tune, not keeping up with the times, but adhering to its individual, somewhat formal way of doing things. It does not go around whoring after trends and tourists. When you go to "21," you dine "21" style. That doesn't mean they'll treat you haughtily or shabbily; quite the contrary, you'll be treated like a king. But there are rules of decorum. The place is worthy of respect and a little effort on the part of its patrons.
"21" was the last restaurant in New York City to demand that gentlemen wear a jacket and tie. Think of that. Thousands of places to eat in this town and the hoi polloi's penchant for sloppiness has become so enveloping that only one eatery has the guts to tells its patron to look decent when they go out to eat. It's truly discouraging. There were many more restaurants that required ties only a decade ago, but one by one they dropped the rule because too many affronted losers felt importuned and inconvenienced. San Domenico, for instance, abandoned the dress code because fat old Met Opera conductor James Levine liked to wear polo shirts!
Some while back, "21" caved in on lunch; no tie needed. But it held firm on dinner. I talked to a manager a year ago and he expressed his wish to get ties back for the lunch hour. But instead the reverse has happened. Open collars all around! Men really are children these days. "I like to be comfortable." "I feel strangled by a tie." "I hate dressing up." Why don't you just unbutton your pants, take off your shoes and prop your stocking feet up on the checkered tablecloth while you're at it? Grow up.
Do not give in "21." Reverse your decision! Times are tough, but you will prevail.
As I had hoped and expected, the Holland Bar dive of Ninth Avenue, the Holland Bar, is not gone for good. EV Grieve (via Eater) reports:
"The sign is still on the wall. And! The fellow at East West Grocery right next door emphatically told me the Holland was reopening -- 'in two weeks.' Really? 'Yes, it is reopening.' After that, I stood out front and waited for the lone construction worker...Is the bar reopening? 'Yes.' Do you know when it will reopen? 'No.'"
Good news. Always knew that sign on the wall boded well for the place.
22 January 2009
Last week you got to lay your peepers on Sharkey and Kate Cafiero, the owners of Cafiero's, legendary South Brooklyn Italian eatery, courtesy of a photo sent to me by Anne, the granddaughter of Katie's brother. The pictures captured them in retirement, after they had closed the President Street restaurant once beloved by judges, celebrities and gangsters.
This week we get to see the Cafieros when they were young and newly married, courtesy of a picture sent by another family descendant—Tom, Anna's cousin! Look at them! Look at that snazzy tie. Look at that stylish hat. Look at the utterly dignified darkness of the photograph's composition.
Tom tells me that "Sharkey would see Aunt Kate on Columbia street, with her flowing red hair tucked under her hat and would quote to his friends 'That's the girl I am going to marry,'"
Eater is replete with upsetting news today about some of the City's most classic and simple eateries.
Worst of the bulletins is the report that Di Fara has temporarily closed because "Dom DeMarco's daughter...and Mr. DeMarco were in a car accident on Monday evening—black ice on the road. Maggie's OK, but Dom broke his knee cap, she said... 'Post-surgery requires about 4 to 6 weeks rehabilitation...'" An injury in a man as old as Dom is never good news.
Then they inform us that "Just last month a Gray's Papaya imitator Clinton Papaya shuttered, now Papaya King on 7th and 14th is on the market. Meanwhile, back down at the authentic Gray's on 8th and 6th, a Qdoba is opening next store (possibly even with a DJ) to try to snatch up the late night drunken market. Not a good time to be a Papaya?"
I thought those places were economy-proof. Can you imagine a New York without the weirdness that is the hot-dog-and-papaya-juice phenom? I can't.
Finally, Chinatown is feeling the brunt of the downturn, losing longstanding businesses.
What next? Will the various Original Ray's Pizzas in town begin to resemble a production of "Ten Little Indians"?
The same descendant of the Cafiero's Restaurant clan who recently shared so much information about the bygone South Brooklyn eatery has now sent an image of the menu of the vanished Fulton Street Woolworth's, circa 1950s. They kept it pretty simple back then. Nine different sandwiches to choose from, and nine different desserts. That 40 cents "Super-Deluxe Ham Sandwich" sounds good to me. And I like how all the malts, ice cream sodas and shakes are made in "popular flavors."
And remember: "Woolworth Coffee—Always Good."
21 January 2009
It's impossible to know every little chapter in New York history. Hence, readers sometimes inform me of people and places past that I have never heard tell of. Such was the case a year and a half ago when, in response to an item I posted about the Red Hook Ballfield food vendors, a man who called himself Upstate Johnny G asked me out of the blue if I knew anything about a legendary-at-the-time gourmet restaurant on E. 81st Street called Mr. and Mrs. Foster's Place.
I did not.
But others did. Five months later, one Upstate Steve answered Upstate Johnny, saying Mr. and Mrs. Foster's took "no walk-ins. You'd call for a reservation, they'd tell you the menu and you'd order your dinner. When you arrived it was much like have a dinner in someones home. While you did not share tables with other guests there was a certain style that made you feel that way, not the least that Mrs. Foster would come a sit with you awhile to welcome and entertain. The food was fresh, excellent and expensive and a special time was had by all."
Intriguing. But it didn't end there. People keep writing in every few months, with big gaps of time in between comments. Then, on Jan. 18—18 months after the original posting—a Thomas wrote in to say he was the grand-nephew of the restaurant's chef, Pearl Byrd Foster, and that she "was one of the worlds renowned chefs during the 50's and 60's and early 70's—respected worldwide for her culinary genius in the genre of American Cooking. I remember spending summers helping her in the restaurant, meeting famous people (David Frost, Walter Cronkite, Dick Cavett come to mind immediately) dining there...I remember shopping with her in the mornings, for hours she would shop and inspect each item of produce...Mr. and Mrs. Fosters place was a black tie and jacket affair; if you didn't arrive with either she had both for you to wear before you were seated."
Jesus Christ! The woman was a marvel, the restaurant a miracle! How is it all this is new to me?
So I did some more research to garner some harder facts. The restaurant existed only from 1969 to 1980—a relatively short time for it to have become so famous and beloved. Pearl was, indeed, a master of simple American foods, and was a favorite of gourmets. Perhaps her most famous dish was her key lime pie. And, sadly, she died Oct. 12, 1984, soon after she closed the restaurant, after suffering several strokes. Another reader just told me he believed Mr. Foster died only recently.
Posted by Brooks of Sheffield at 9:31 PM
No, not that one. A sign in the window says this place on 54th and Seventh Avenue is "The World Famous Oyster Bar." But we all know that one is in Grand Central Terminal. I've never been inside this place, and don't know what it's deal is. It's supposedly been open since 1959, but something about it arouses my suspicions. All that aside, the sign is fantastic!
20 January 2009
New York isn't kind to famous restaurants, bars and clubs. When they die, they die. No funeral, no mourning, no plaque. But hot spots that reigned mid-century, when Midtown was king, suffered especially ignominious deaths. Not only were they kicked to the curb, but the building they were kicked out of was torn down, and the curb repaved.
I'm thinking of the temples of pre- and post-WWII Cafe Society. Rarely has a culture so dominated the City and then been so thoroughly erased from the streets. I'm talking El Morocco, The Stork Club, The Colony. Don't look for El Morocco on E. 54th Street, or The Stork on E. 53rd Street, or The Colony on E. 61st Street. Not a trace! In most cases, the grave of the haunt in question lies under the tons of steel and concrete of a towering office building.
I am brought to these thoughts by Toots Shor. I've been thinking of Toots a lot lately, mainly because I recently picked up the 1951 book-length John Bainbridge profile of the salt-of-the-earth "saloonkeeper" and read it through. Celebrities went everywhere they could get a free meal and some attention, but Toots Shor's place was known for particularly attracting the stars of the sporting world and the journalists who wrote about them. It's was an almost exclusively male dominion, a place of steaks and bear hugs and heavy drinking and maudlin male bonding. Toots was a mountain: 6'1" and heavy, he began his career as a highly popular bouncer. (Imagine that.) He worshiped athletes and was friends with most of the big ones; Joe DiMaggio was a close friend.
His original joint was on 51 E. 51st Street. (There were two subsequent reincarnations, before Shor's finances tanked in 1971. Big on loaning dough to his pals, he wasn't so big on paying government taxes.) There's nothing there now, just a hulking gray office building and a measly plaque (though that's more than the Stork has going for it). Not due respect for a man who dominated New York society in the 1940s and 1950s like few others.
A good part of me knows I wouldn't fit in at Shor's even if it were in business today and the big man were still alive. I pace my drinking, am not fanatically devoted to the sports scene, enjoy visiting a variety of restaurants, don't really care for being called a "crumb bum" and am likely to balk if someone suddenly hit me up for a $25,000 loan—all personal traits that would cause Shor to loathe my very presence. But I still wish the place was around, or at least vaguely remembered. Anything but completely airbrushed from the City's face.
That Grand Street on the Lower East Side was once known as a sort of Hosiery Row, I did not know. But a reader writes in to say it was so, and that one of the old hands in the business, Friedman Hosiery, has just closed, and they are tearing the building down.
Above is a picture of Ideal Hosiery, which sits across the street from the late Friedman, and is still doing business.
But here's a big of weirdness. According to a New York Times article from 1996, the owner of Ideal is one Len Friedman, whose family has run the shop since 1950. So maybe the Friedmans are not so out of business as it would appear.
Posted by Brooks of Sheffield at 4:48 PM
Sunday's snowfall was one of the most beautiful I have ever experiences in 20 years of New York life. The precipitation began before breakfast and didn't cease until well after dinner. There was little wind and the flakes were appealingly fluffy, which made for pleasurable, peaceful strolling. The snow clung to the branches of trees and the arches of lampposts for any unusually long time, making for some very pretty pictures. Once on the ground, my son and I found the snow easily packable into snowballs.
Days like Sunday are why winter is a great season. We need them to calm the City's fevered brow. And for excuses to bake cookies and drink scotch.
Posted by Brooks of Sheffield at 12:48 PM
19 January 2009
Better take this tour quick. Anything that even resembles history in the Lower East Side is disappearing faster that Bloomberg's scruples. Some destinations, like Gertel's Bakery and the First Roumanian-American Congregation Synagogue, were lost only recently. Start on Houston Street, the northern border of the LES. Strangely enough, some of the best things left in the neighborhood are on this busy strip.
YONAH SCHIMMEL KNISHES: Amazing this place is still here, given it rents, not owns. Only joint in Manhattan that I know that specializes in the ur-NY delicacy, the knish. And they're pretty good, if you get them on a good day. The store's been here since 1910 and given the grumpiness of the help, it seems like they've been working straight since then. Check out the dumb waiter; it leads to a basement brick oven where the knishes are baked.
RUSS & DAUGHTERS: Two blocks east and four years younger, this "appetizing" store is as sleek and clean as Schimmel is creaky and dusty. An apt business model on how to honor tradition and stay contemporary simultaneously. The place gleams white with mouth-watering promise. For smoked fish and other bagel toppings, lower Manhattan has no match. But most anything's a good bet here.
KATZ'S DELI: The third business in the Olde Lower East Triumvirate completed by Yonah and Russ. The sprawling, byzantine, wondrous 121-year-old Katz's isn't just a good Jewish deli; it's a place like no other on the planet. The ticket-taking payment system is used by no one else in the City. The walls are living histories of ancient signage, past celebrity visitations and aged decor. Each counterman is a character with a sense of pride and a way of doing things. The meats are expensive, but a dog, fries and a Dr. Brown's will get you out cheaply. And whatever you do, Don't Lose Your Ticket!
ECONOMY CANDY: Turn down Essex Street, walk to Rivington and turn right. Wonder where all the candy in the world comes from? It comes from this place! Bursting with every sort of treat ever invented, from the low brow to the high end, and many you've probably forgotten about. In business since 1937.
STREIT'S MATZO FACTORY: Turn around and walk west a couple blocks. One of the older holdouts of what was once a Jewish stronghold, the Streit's factory and store at Rivington and Suffolk Streets has been here since 1925. (Shapiro's used to be right next door.) Most Streit's matzo are produced elsewhere, but this factory still turns out a fraction of the output, kept on mainly for tradition's sake. The factory's been put on the market, so don't depend of the matzo makers to be here forever. While you're here, look across the street at the imposing neo-Gothic P.S. 160 and imagine being an immigrant kid going there 100 years ago. Intimidating much?
ESSEX MARKET: Return to Essex Street. One of the last of the working indoor markets that were created in New York during the Depression. It's still a vibrant place of business with old-time green grocers alongside hoity-toity artisanal cheesemongers, as well as ancient kosher winemaker Shapiro's last foothold in the nabe. Plus a nook to house chef Kenny Shopsin's eccentricities. Roam, browse, eat.
KOSSAR'S BIALYS: Turn south on Essex and walk to Grand. Like Schimmel, Kossar's is a relic of a specialist. Bialys? Who does that anymore? They make bagels, too, but the onion-flecked bialys are works of art. The interior is just this side of a working factory (which it is), with wooden palettes, metal racks and flour everywhere. Too bad about the new character-free awning.
MIKVAH: Walk further west down Grand to where the street meets East Broadway. Here there is a Dutch-style building. Inside is a Mikvah, a ritualized bath used by Orthodox Jewish women once a month—one of the few such in the City.
BIALYSTOKER SYNAGOGUE: On your way back to Essex, turn right up Willet to take in this ancient, roughly beautiful 1928 house of worship, once a Methodist Episcopal Church. It looks so old, it might have been deposited here by a glacier millions of years ago.
FORWARD BUILDING: Walk all the way down Essex to East Broadway and gaze up at the majesty of the old Jewish Daily Forward newspaper building. The towering structure used to be a mess, but has now been shined up due to a condo conversion.
ELDRIDGE STREET SYNAGOGUE: Jog a few blocks east to Eldridge, between Division and Canal. There is arguably no house of worship more impressive than the flamboyant Moorish structure colloquially known as the Eldridge Street Synagogue. Built in 1886, it is slowly, bit by bit, being restored. Even in its half-finished state, it is awe inspiring, particular the large circular stained-glass window in the facade. It's open to the public most days; check times beforehand.
GUSS' PICKLES: Skip two blocks west to Orchard, and walk north towards Broome Street to find one of the last, and the oldest, picklemonger in the area. The old business used to be on Essex, and its story used to be a lot simpler. Now there's a war between this shop and one of Long Island as to who truly carries on the torch of the original Guss. Nevermind that. This Guss' is here, not in (ahem) Cederhurst, and the pickles barrels are filled with treats.
LOWER EAST SIDE TENAMENT MUSEUM: Walk up Orchard near Delancey to get an idea how life was (hard, punishing, many steps) for the original LES immigrants with a tour of this fine and compact museum.
MAX FISH/PINK PONY/THE HAT RESTAURANT: For the final block before getting back to Houston, use Ludlow Street, where, for a trip back to more recent LES history—the 1980s and 1990s—you'll find the well-preserved trio of the good-time bar Max Fish, cafe The Pink Pony and cheapo Mexican eatery El Sombrero ("The Hat"). Squint your eyes and you can easily imagine how the nabe's first wave of boho hipsters lived before they were priced out.
Lost City's Guide to Carroll Gardens
Lost City's Guide to Times Square
Here's how the gateway to Red Hook, at Van Brunt and Hamilton, used to look. Multiple strings of red Christmas lights proclaimed the neighborhood's pride.
Here's how it looks today. Time to buy some new lights, guys. I hear they're on sale at the Winn Discount.
16 January 2009
City Room reports the sad news that Vincent Cincotta, also known as Jimmy, the "Jim" of Jim & Andy's green grocer in Cobble Hill, passed away last Thursday. He was 82.
In a world of cookie cutter vendors, Jim & Andy's had a real family feeling. A narrow place with vegetables and fruits piled up in boxes on either side of a narrow aisle, it was worked by Andy and his son Carmine. Frank Sinatra seemed to be on the radio at all times. Sometimes the produce was a little worse for wear, but you never questioned whether it was overprocessed.
Jimmy used be be an old horse-and-cart peddler, like his father before him. As such, he was a living link to Brooklyn's humbler past. Buying at Jim & Andy's, which he opened in 1970, you could sense his background. He'd briefly weigh your choices, make up a generalized price, put the stuff in a brown paper bag and give you back something close to correct change. It was a very human experience, visiting that shop. I hope Carmine plans on keeping it going.
15 January 2009
The new Blarney Stone sign just isn't as good. [EV Grieve]
Ephemeral New York notices the narrowest house in Greenwich Village, once home to Edna St. Vincent Millay, who was also narrow.
Bloomberg screwed NYC over the Yankee Stadium deal and everyone pissed about it. [City Room]
Surprise! Con Ed is corrupt! [Gothamist] And, of course, the MTA sucks. [Queens Crap] Welcome to Bloomberg's New York!
Old, falling-down Smith Street building spruced up, but looks worse anyway. [Gowanus Lounge]
A righteous slam of the eternally horrid "Metronome" building on Union Square. Worst. Building. In. New. York. [Restless]
Nice pictures of the Subway Inn. [Greenwich Village Daily Photo]
I stumbled up this fascinated news article from 1959 recently. It details the eating and drinking choices around the theatre district, naming many vaunted restaurants of New York history. Fun reading. I have count only five places that still exist: Sardi's, Frankie & Johnnie's, Gallagher's, the Stage Deli and Barbetta. (Note that the Lindy's mentioned has nothing to do with the present incarnation.)
New York City - The Broadway Beat
( Originally Published 1959 )
BOTH ON AND OFF THE GAY WHITE WAY, WHERE SHOWFOLKS LIKE TO DINE AND PLAY
TOO well known to expand upon—primarily because they are as familiar to the average tourist as his favorite home town haunts�would be:
Lindy's, at Broadway and 51st St., noted for its place in the life of Damon Runyon, whose characters still frequent the spot; its cheesecake; and its very independent waiters who have their own notion of what you should eat and don't hesitate to tell you. No longer an all-night spot, as in the past.
Toots Shor, 51 W. 51st St., where the big, burly owner-host may greet you as a "crum bum," but would give you the heave-ho should you dress like one. (Toots' first experience was as a bouncer.)
Reuben's, at 6 E. 58th St., which originated the "celebrity sandwich" (and many of the sandwiches have outlasted the celebrities for whom they are named).
Bleeck's, also known as the ARTIST & WRITERS' CLUB, at 213 W. 40th St., a former speakeasy glorified in print by Lucius Beebe, Westbrook Pegler and other "celebrity" writers, still a favorite hangout for newspapermen and TV newscasters.
And Max Asnas' Stage Delicatessen, at 834 7th Ave., which, percentagewise, gets more celebrities than any other spot in town. Max serves the thickest sandwiches anywhere�many are a meal in themselves�and he has launched even more "profound" statements than Sam Goldwyn.
Sardi's, at 2 34 W. 44th St., is New York's leading theatrical haunt and practically the second home of every major stage and screen star. The restaurant, now 37 years old, was started by Vincent Sardi, Sr., who retired in 1947, turning over its management to Vin-cent Sardi, Jr.
Mister Sardi, as everyone addresses the senior Sardi, was born in Canelli, Italy, and served the usual apprenticeship as a waiter in London and New York. A friend, Mario Cremona, persuaded Sardi to buy a tiny spot at 246 W. 44th St. because he (Cremona) wanted to expand uptown. So Sardi and his wife Jenny took over the Little Restaurant, as it was known (because of its size and also because it was next door to Winthrop Ames' Little Theatre). But after a time it be-came known as just SARDI'S and after five years it was moved to its present location at 234 W. 44th St.
SARDI'S is adorned with caricatures by Zito of actors and actresses, hundreds of them. In fact, anybody who is anybody in the theatre finds his face, slightly distorted, on the walls, and to be left out is considered something of a snub. Actors foregather there after an opening to read the critics' notices, which are rushed there the moment the morning papers come out.
For several years "Luncheon at Sardi's" was a daily radio feature, and several TV shows have emanated from the upstairs room. The American Theatre Wing some time ago presented one of its Tony Awards with the inscription: "To Vincent Sardi, for providing a transient home and comfort for theatre folks at SARDI'S for 20 years."
Last year, Vincent Sardi, Jr. took over 123 E. 54th St. and opened an East Side SARDI'S where patrons could dine or lunch in a quieter atmosphere than the usual hurly-burly of a theatrical hangout, and also to provide a Sunday nite rendezvous when the West Side
SARDI'S is closed.
Leone's, at 239 W. 48th St. (West of Broadway), is the largest all-Italian restaurant in New York and possibly the largest anywhere. In fact, it now rivals LUCHOW'S in size, with nine rooms, four large dining areas and a capacity of 1,500. The restaurant has a staff of 250, a payroll of $500,000 a year and is said to gross more annually than any other spot in the city. It is by all odds one of the most popular eating establishments in New York, frequently with a waiting line half a block long on 48th St.
LEONE'S began humbly enough as Mother Leone's, in the upstairs back room of the Leone household at z09 W. 38th St. Gene Leone was only 6 when Papa pulled up stakes in Asti, Italy, and brought his wife and four sons to the States. After traveling about the country seeking a good location for a wine shop, he settled right in New York at the above address. Papa loved grand opera, frequently visited the Metropolitan, a block away, and got to know Caruso and other great singers of the day. Opera singers traditionally love good cooking and, from dining as guests at the Leone apartment, became patrons of Mother Leone's first experimental restaurant there, starting with room for only 6 customers.
Gene at 8 served as kitchen helper and waiter, serving dinners that cost in those days 35 cents. That was in 1906. Papa Leone died in 1914 but Mother Leone carried on, with her four boys as helpers, and three years later bought a small piece of property at the present location of LEONE'S. After Mother Leone's death in 1944, Gene bought out the interest of his brothers, who became restaurateurs in California, Florida and Long Island, and today operates his establishment with the aid of his Irish wife and their two sons-in-law, one of whom, Tom Mesereau, is a former all-American football player from West Point.
Gene says his hobbies are flying, farming and horse-raising at his country place, and "feeding his friends."
His personality as a host and his real knowledge of the culinary arts, especially as concerns Italian dishes, would alone explain the success of LEONE'S.
Jim Downey's Steakhouse, at 49th St. and Eighth Ave., located in the heart of the theatrical district, naturally attracts showfolks, so two of the rooms of the restaurant (which seats about 200) are named the Theatrical Lounge and the Backstage Room.
Jim came over from Ireland for the express purpose of some day owning a restaurant. He worked as bar-tender, steward and manager, but after a number of years he found he hadn't saved enough to open a lunch counter. So he went to Belmont, placed his wad on the longest shot of the afternoon, and sat back and prayed. His horse came in and Jim had his restaurant.
His fondness for horse players led him to establish several years ago, as a gag, the Society for the Rehabilitation of Broken-Down Horse Players, and to open a room in his restaurant called the Last Chance Room. Today, more than a million membership cards have been issued to the S.R.B.D.H.P., and the Last Chance Room is papered with a half-million dollars' worth of unsuccessful pari-mutuel tickets.
Jim Downey is still owner, with Jim Downey, Jr., and Archie Downey (his two sons) acting as co-hosts.
The Famous Kitchen, 318 W. 45th St., though not in a class with SARDI'S or DOWNEY'S, draws almost as many theatrical customers and has long been a popular drop-in restaurant for actors employed in the neighborhood theatres. Good Italian dinners and definitely inexpensive.
Joe Marsh's Spindletop, 269 W. 95th St., in the heart of the theatrical district, also draws a first-niter crowd. Operated by Joe Marsh, who for years was associated with Ben Marden's famous Riviera over in New Jersey.
Rattazzi's, 9 E. 48th St., got its name as a result of a contest run by a newspaper advertising man. After rejecting hundreds of suggestions the choice came down to the name of the man who was going to run it—Richard (Dick) Rattazzi (pronounced Rat-tat-zi). It opened under his name in May, 1956, and has flourished since.
Dick comes by his restaurant know-how naturally. He was brought up in the business, introduced to it by his uncle, Steve Rattazzi, former maitre d'hotel at the Ritz Carlton. Dick joined the staff at SARDI's as a bar-tender, became headwaiter, then night manager. During World War II he ran the commissary at the Marine base at Cherry Point, N.C., and after the war returned to SARDI'S. In 1948, he opened CHERIO's on E. 51st St., in partnership with Aldo Ceria, but two years later, after much prodding, he sold out his interest and left-taking along practically the entire staff with him—to open his present spot.
Dick's patrons include celebrities of the radio, TV, theatre and advertising worlds, and perhaps due to their influence, features a king-size cocktail.
Blair House, at 30 West 56th Street, is operated by Nicky Blair, whose earlier career amounts to a saga of the Prohibition days. Nicky began with Tommy Guinan, Texas Guinan's brother, and at one time or an-other was associated with every major speakeasy proprietor in New York. He was the man most responsible for Helen Morgan's night club success. After repeal, Nicky managed two of Broadway's major night clubs, the Hollywood and Paradise, and was affiliated later with Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe. He regards Billy Rose as the smartest operator of them all. Nicky says what canceled out these and the other big nite clubs of the post-Prohibition era were the "three T's"—Television, Taxes and Transportation.
BLAIR HOUSE, now in its seventh year, is one of the town's top steak houses, particularly popular with the Broadway crowd.
Gallagher's, at 228 West 52nd St., has been one of the Broadway favorites since its opening in 1933. Operated by Jack Solomon, it was named GALLAGHER'S in honor of Mr. Solomon's late wife, Helen Gallagher, who had previously been married to comedian Ed Gallagher of the famous "Mister Gallagher and Mister Sheen" comedy team. Solomon was a former breeder of Black Angus champion cattle, so steak—charcoal broiled, in view of the customers—is naturally GALLAGHER'S Specialty. The oak-panelled dining rooms are lined with pictures of celebrities of the stage and sports world. For the past 17 years the restaurant has been managed by Dave Levy.
Dinty Moore's, at 216 West 46th St., another Broad-way landmark, was immortalized by the creator of the world famous comic strip, "Bringing Up Father," featuring Jiggs and Maggie. If you remember, Jiggs was constantly sneaking away from home to enjoy the corned beef and cabbage at DINTY MOORE'S.
Michael's Pub, at 3 E. 48th St., takes its name from the operator, Michael Pearman—a Bermuda gentleman whose sole previous restaurant experience was as host for three years at the BARBERRY Room. Up to then he had been associated with the film industry in Europe and Hollywood. The PUB was a success from the day it opened, especially with the Madison Ave. advertising people, and reservations are usually necessary for lunch two or three days in advance. In both atmosphere and cuisine it suggests one of the better London pubs, which, as many travelers can tell you, is much more than a saloon. As in its British counterparts, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is a specialty.
Brown's, at 132 E. 61st St., might be called a splinter of MICHAEL'S PUB, having been opened by Gloria Safier, a highly successful actor's agent who was one of the original backers of MICHAEL'S and still owns a piece of it. BROWN'S, on the site of the recently vacated Le Vouvray, is also suggested by a London pub of that name. Its tasteful decorations are by Irene Sharaff, theatrical designer (The King and I, etc.), who is making her bow in this department.
The Coat of Arms, at 140 E. 53rd St., is also a Johnnycome-lately among the town's restaurants, presided over by another novice, Bob Smith in association with Gus Becker, formerly of the STORK CLUB. Before becoming a restaurant, the building had housed an antique shop and before that, a private carriage house. And before becoming a restaurant man, Bob Smith had also been several other things—law student, film actor for RKO, Army Intelligence officer (he was decorated on the beachhead at Normandy), world track star, and badminton champ at the New York Athletic Club. All this is fitting preparation for becoming an actor of romantic roles, first in Brigadoon and then in Auntie Mame, where Bob impersonated Beauregard Burnside opposite three "Mames," respectively Rosalind Russell, Greer Garson and Beatrice Lillie.
The partnership of Bob and Gus stems from the time Gus took care of Bob at the STORK CLUB when the latter was one of the collegiate "jelly beans" (see F. Scott Fitzgerald for definition of "jelly bean") at the STORK during the 1930's.
The COAT OF ARMS, which adds a little quiet piano music to its attractions, naturally is favored by Bob's associates in the theatre.
Absinthe House, at 130 W. 48th St., gets its name from a famous old New Orleans institution, though there is no connection. It does feature New Orleans decoration and some French Creole dishes. Operated and co-hosted by Marc Reuben and his pretty wife Edith, who strikingly resembles Lauren Bacall. Favorite hangout for showfolks and newspapermen, TV executives, etc. Originally across the street, it became necessary to seek another location, so Marc financed it, as many Broadway shows are financed, with a group of 90 backers, all clients.
Barbetta's, at 321 W. 46th St., one of the larger and more popular Italian restaurants, handy to Madison Square Garden and a favorite of performers when the circus is in town. BARBETTA'S survived the speakeasy period and has been in its present location for 50 years.
Frankie & Johnnie's, at 269 W. 45th St., is a one-flight-up (and watch your head) hangout for the younger theatrical and sporting element. Unless you have a reservation before 6:30 P.M., prepare to wait in line upstairs or along the stair well. Features charcoal-broiled steak and a special coleslaw. FRANKIE & JOHNNIE'S was a former speakeasy.
Patsy & Carl's Theatre Bar, at 263 W. 45th St., a few doors away from FRANKIE & JOHNNIE'S, has for years been called "the poor actor's SARDI'S."
Cafe Brio, at 136 W. 49th St., caters to the family trade, specializing most in Italian food and Italian opera lovers. Inexpensive.
Champlain, at 115 W. 49th St., as French as its name implies and studded with French Tourist Board travel posters to add a touch of Paris. Caters to family trade. Inexpensive.
Du Midi, at 311 W. 48th St., intimate and tiny French restaurant catering to families as well as show-folks, operated by Odette and John Pujol, who also own LES PYRENEES, 234 W. 48th St., which is a larger rendezvous.
Cortile, at 27 W. 43d St. and 36 W. 44th St. Twin-entranced restaurant on the street level of an office building. From a sandwich to a full-course dinner and its moderate prices make a hit with secretaries, sight-seers, shoppers and showgoers.
The Lobster, at 145 West 45th St., is a favorite rendezvous for Broadwayites and other showfolks who like seafood. The original restaurant was opened across the street in 1919 by Simon Linz and Max Fuchs and the present one is operated by their respective sons, Mike Linz and Stan Fuchs. Service at the LOBSTER has been uninterrupted, despite the change in location and de-spite a kitchen fire during which the roof burned off. In its 39-year history, the restaurant expanded from 60 seats to 450.
Last year the co-proprietors, with an assist from Loris Troup, turned out an exceptionally well-written book of seafood recipes under the title The Lobster's Kettle of Fish, published by The Citadel Press.
Maisel's restaurants, named after the States (CALIFORNIAN, FLORIDIAN, GEORGIAN, TEXAN, NEW YORKAN, etc.), are rapidly becoming as popular as Childs was twenty years ago. There are seven Maisel's in New York City, three on Broadway, and there is no end in sight. Budget snacks, quick hamburgers, bargain steaks and such for people in a hurry. A Britisher must have had Maisel's in mind when he observed that whereas in London everything shuts up tighter than a clam around midnight, New Yorkers could always get something to eat.
Horn & Hardart's Automats, 50 of which are scattered throughout the city, should get a passing mention. Quite a few operate on a 24-hour-a-day basis and impress foreign visitors almost more than any form of restaurant operation. There are still nickel slots, though many of them now call for quarters. The AUTOMATS' baked beans are still rated the best.