16 July 2008

Frankie and Johnnie to Close

Ken Man of Greenwich Daily Photo, after reading a recent posting of mine about the unclear fate of Frankie and Johnnie Steakhouse on 45th Street (will it close and when?), went to visit the place and take a few shots. There he got the bad, sad word: "Frankie & Johnnie's is closing. I was up there taking pics this AM (inspired by your post), the proprietor invited me up and told me the whole block is being razed..."

I called to confirm, and the man on the phone said, yes, they were closing, but he had no idea exactly when. Through the end of the year might be a possibility. So the place could be around for a number of months still.

It was not unexpected, but it still hurts. Frankie and Johnnie's, a former speakeasy, opened in 1926, when Coolidge reigned, and is one of the oldest steak joints in the City. Certainly the oldest in Midtown. Babe Ruth ate here. Al Jolson, too. And many a Broadway star. In recent years, Shubert Theatre execs used the tiny, second-floor place to conduct meetings.

With it's long unattractive staircase entrance and the blinds drawn on the windows, it still feels like a speakeasy. According to the website, the name is derived from the old Jazz Age password. Speaking through a peephole, would-be patrons said "Frankie." If all was clear, the man behind the door said "Johnny." These days, it has one of the smallest and most secret bars in town. (To the right as you go up.)

Of course, Frankie & Johnnie's is a mini-chain, with locations on 37th Street and Rye, so it's not going away altogether. But still.


Ken Mac said...

get it while it's hot! (meet me there saturday night!) Ken

Anonymous said...

My first time there, my high school girlfriend and I skipped 'junior prom', caught THE PLAY called A Few Good Men and then ate at Frankie and Johnny's in 1989. A block away from the old McHale's. Sad.

Anonymous said...

You didn't mention their other location in Hoboken, on 14th street. Which recently announced a name change to 'Dino and Harry's'. According to Hoboken411 there was some strife between the brothers/cousins who own the operation.

Unknown said...

Mae West used to eat here before she would do her show Sex on Broadway. She could not digest a steak before performing--too nervous, perhaps--so she would chew the steak to get the blood and juice out, satisfying her need for protein, but not eat the steak itself.

I will miss this great place, one of the only places that I really liked dining in the theater district. Staff is lovely.