30 August 2012

Lost City: Wisconsin Edition: Cape Cod Hotel

The Door County resort area of Wisconsin has suffered a great deal of overdevelopment in recent years, with unsightly condo villages popping up everywhere. But much of the region's old charm remains, including many restaurants, shops, hotels and motels that date the mid-20th century, when Wisconsinites and Illinois residents first discovered the scenic joys of the peninsula county, which juts out into Lake Michigan, and was settled in the 19th century by Icelandic and Norwegian immigrants.

There are a lot of similarities between Door County and Cape Cod—the climate and abundance of shoreline and beaches not the least of them. That must have been on the minds of the founders of the Cape Cod Motel when they named their small Egg Harbor residence. The motel has a classic, 1950s layout—a long, one-story line of rooms with a central, check-in structure. There are nine rooms, priced under $100 a night. The currently owner renovated the place about five years ago. I don't know exactly how old the place is, but judging by the classic sign, I'd say it's at least 50 or 60 years old.

28 August 2012

A Hint of Helen's Candy Shop

In the past, I've written about the Carroll Gardens Newsstand's former life as Helen's Candy Store. As Helen's, the tiny Smith Street storefront was a beloved local institution, known for its superlative egg creams. It was run by two sisters who lived upstairs, Helen Hanaway, who had a reddish-blonde beehive hairdo, and Georgia. Working the counter were the two women seen below. The one on the right is Josie. The woman on the left is Lilly, who was cross-eyed, and whom no one ever forgot once laying eyes on her.

27 August 2012

Marco Polo Loses Its Awning

The full-scale renovation of the Marco Polo Ristorante on Court Street in Carroll Gardens continues apace. The other day I happened to be there when the old awning was removed and hauled away by a truck. Will it be cleaned? Or replaced? Time will tell.

24 August 2012

Lost City Asks "Who Goes to Donovan's Pub"?

It's getting harder to cover the restaurants that belong in this column before they close. Lately, I've had to move some places up in the schedule after hearing that their death was imminent. Donovan's Pub in Woodside is one joint I thought I didn't have to hurry to. I expected it would be there forever. Alas, the owner, Joe Donovan, has put it up for sale. I've been there dozens of times. I went once more for this write-up. I hope it's not my last time.
Who Goes There? Donovan's Pub
Donovan's is, as far as I'm concerned, the heart of Woodside. In a neighborhood that once had hundreds of Irish pubs, and still holds on to a decent amount, it's the clear standout. Low-slung and sporting a faux-Tudor exterior, it sprawls over the corner of 58th Street and Roosevelt Avenue, just across from St. Sebastian's Church, presiding benevolently over the triangle known as Carl L. Sohncke Park. Of the two, I'd say the bar rates above the church in neighborhood influence. It has been there longer, after all.
A saloon has been on this corner at least since Prohibition was repealed, and probably before. It's been Donovan's since 1966, when Joe Donovan Sr. and his namesake son, Joe Jr., bought the business and turned it into a bustling success, serving nothing but beer, burgers, steaks and a bottomless tap of hospitality. Joe Jr. is still the owner, though he's rarely seen on the premises. The Donovan you will see at Donovan's is Jack, the general manager. Like Joe, Jack used to be a cop. He walked the mean streets of 1970s Harlem. You wouldn't peg him for a policeman. With his trim build, manicured silver hair and wire glasses, he looks more like an ex-stockbroker or news anchor.
Jack has no say over Joe's recent decision to put the iconic pub up for sale. Business hasn't been what it used to be, goes the lament. The Irish who once made up most of Woodside's population have moved away, and Joe's not getting any younger. Since word got out, however, trade has been up, with loyal regulars and newbies filing in for a well-poured Guinness and the joint's celebrated burger. Several years ago, Time Out New York named it the best burger in NYC. Since then, it's rarely been left off any list of top burgers in the city. It is, indeed, a good sandwich, and a bountiful one. Its virtue—and its drawback—is that the patty is not messed with. They just broil it. Don't touch it, don't flip it, don't season it. Just cook it. The result is satisfying, but I recommend a shake or salt and pepper before you launch in.
It's a good bet that the woman serving that burger will be blonde, have a thick Irish accent and will have worked at Donovan's for anywhere from ten to 30 years. A great number of New York eating institutions have career male waiters of the old school. Donovan's is one of the few I know of that have career female waitstaff.
The best room in the capacious tavern is the main dining hall, which is found at the end of the bar and down a few steps. It's the oldest of the several rooms, and has the character to show it. There's plenty of dark wood timbers, cozy booths, a high ceiling and a fireplace. Sitting by the fire on a chill winter evening is a lovely experience. Whether Donovan's will make it to this coming winter, and see that hearth lit again, is anyone's guess.

23 August 2012

Colony Music, Vestige of Bygone Times Square and Bygone Music World, to Close

Colony Music, one of the few remaining iconic Times Square independent businesses left, will close its doors on Oct. 1, it was reported. Business partner Richard Turk told Playbill.com the shuttering was due to "increased expenses, decreased sales," and the surfeit of online sellers of sheet music and recordings.

Colony has been in business since 1948, and was a vibrant reminder of a time when the Theatre District had not just theatre, but was also full of music venues featuring jazz and cabaret, and other businesses connected to the music industry. It's very location is a bit of music history: it occupies a corner of the fabled Brill Building at 49th Street and Broadway, where songwriters used to plug away at pianos, trying to hatch songs that might become the next hit record for the singing stars of the 1940s, '50s, '60s and '70s.

For years, Colony was recognized by passersby for its iconic neon sign of a mini-skirted girl on tip-toe, holding an outsized album aloft in ecstatic, vaguely erotic delight. The sign was removed a few years ago at the landlord's behest.

To a certain extent, Colony's fate has been sealed for some time. The store was born in a time when people went to actual physical stores to buy record albums and 45s and sheet music. That sort of music shopping has been dead for years. Still, it was beloved by music purists, and denizens of the theatre.

22 August 2012

Lafayette French Pastry Closes

I'd noticed recently that Greenwich Village's Lafayette French Pastry looked closed, but I thought perhaps the owners were on summer vacation. I learned today from Eater that the longstanding baker had shuttered for good. Taking over the space will be the irrepressible New York culinary world loudmouth Michael Bao.

This was actually Lafayette's second location in the Village. It used to be on Bleecker Street near Seventh Avenue. It moved about 15 years ago, replaced by a Burritoville which has since vanished. In that guise, it epitomized, for me, the Greenwich Village small business, full of effortless local character. Lafayette was around 85 years old, run by three generations of the same family, a real relic of the old Village. According to their Facebook page, the owners got a letter of eviction in June.

21 August 2012

Lost City: Milwaukee Edition: Sullivan's Cigar Store

The wonderful-looking Sullivan's Cigar Store is on S. Packard Avenue in Cudahy, Wisconsin, a small city just south of Milwaukee, so close it might as well be a suburb. I came upon it recently after getting lost following a detour in Milwaukee, and all but hit the brakes, so stunned was I by the beauty of the old storefront.

20 August 2012

Lost City: Upstate New York Edition:

By some strange set of circumstances, I recently found myself marooned for an hour in Garrison, New York, a small hamlet about an hour or so upstate, on the Hudson River, opposite West Point. It's a cute little place, a Washington Irving kind of 19th-century town. But there's not much there. While waiting for the next train back to Manhattan, I remembered a New York Times story from a few years back about an old Garrison tavern that had closed after many years in business. So I set out to find it.

16 August 2012

Eisenberg & Eisenberg

The first tux I ever rented in New York was as Eisenberg & Eisenberg. I don't recall who recommended it. Maybe no one. The store was located on an upper floor of a building on Fifth Avenue in the 20s. You had to climb up a set of stairs to get to a vast, unadorned hall lined with suit racks. This was a new experience for me, coming from the Midwest, where every stores is at street level. The salesman were middle-aged men who were in it for life.

Soon after, I bought a tux and never went back. But I was always glad to know they were there, and smiled whenever I passed their building. Recently, I noticed they had moved, to a ground floor space on W. 17th between Fifth and Sixth. It's still a fairly unadorned space, and they still rent tuxes.

Eisenberg & Eisenberg was founded in 1898. Who the two Eisenbergs were, I can not tell you. Brothers, I assume. On their website, they boast the Mickey Mantle used to shop there.

15 August 2012

Wooden Phone Booth Sighting: Station Cafe

I've been inside Woodside's old Station Cafe dive bar many times over the years. I don't know how I missed that they had an old wooden phone booth tucked in the back. The phone has been removed, as is the case with such booths all over town since Verizon started bringing the hammer down, charge-wise, on keeping phone booth phones. But they haven't removed the booth, thank God, or filled it with junk. Sorry about the quality of the photo. I only had my cell phone with me that night. And the Station Cafe was, as always, dark as night.

The Clock on Columbia Street

I've written about the large standing clock that used to adorn Columbia Street in Brooklyn before, but this photograph—the best I've seen to date—is the first I've posted on the blog. 

To recap, the intersection of Columbia Street and Union Street used to be one of the great commercial centers of South Brooklyn. Stores and pushcarts lined the streets. There were two movies theatres and plenty of bars and restaurants. The first Thom McAn shoe store and the original Citibank were located in the area. Then Robert Moses dug the BQE, cutting the neighborhood off from the rest of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn docks slowly died. And a big sewer dig throughout the '70s, designed to hurt the Mob, causes numerous buildings' foundations to crumble. The area died and has yet to fully recover today. 

One landmark oldtimers remember well is the clock. It stood outside a jewelry store run by Robert Corn on Columbia between Union and President Streets. It became an unofficial meeting place, as in "I'll meet you under the clock," and legend has it mobsters would convene there to hatch their criminal exploits. 

When the businesses began to leave and the buildings topple, the clock was uprooted and removed sometime in the 1970s. Nobody knows where it went, but some believe it still exists somewhere in somebody's basement or attic. 

I've never been able to find out anything about Robert Corn of his business. One would think he has ancestors out there somewhere who know something about that clock.

14 August 2012

More on the Brooklyn Deaconess Home

The former Brooklyn Deaconess Home of Simpson Methodist Episcopal Church on President Street in Carroll Gardens—now a lovingly kept up, three family home—has long been a favorite local building of mine, and an ongoing obsession. (I've been lucky enough to see the inside on one occasion. The bottom two floors are a veritable museum of 19th-century Brooklyn interiors.)

Recently, a reader sent me this passage from the Twenty-First Annual Report of the General Board of Managers of the Woman’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church for the Year 1901-1902. (Cincinnati: Western Methodist Book Concern Press, 1902 (p. 144).) Very interesting.

Brooklyn Deaconess Home.
238 President Street, Brooklyn, N. Y. 
Mrs. F. A. Fowler, Superintendent.
"The Brooklyn Deaconess Home of the Methodist Episcopal Church" is incorporated under the laws of the State of New York under the above title. The Home itself was deeded, however, some years since by the late Emira Christian, as a memorial to her husband, to theBrooklyn Church Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, this City Evangelization Society assuming the entire care of the property in consideration of a preference in the assignment of deaconesses to its fields of labor. Accordingly, all contributions given to this Home are used to place and keep the deaconesses in our own Home. During the past year fourteen deaconesses and probationers have been assigned to work, and (with the exception of one, who for several months worked in the interests of our Seney Hospital, under the direction of its superintendent) all were engaged in parish work in the several Churches with which they were connected. Nearly four thousand dollars was expended by the Treasurer of the Home for its support and the maintenance of the workers. This year a small debt of one thousand dollars, which has been outstanding for several years, is being paid. Most of the deaconesses are assigned to down-town missionary fields. A few more young women who feel called to this work may find admission to our Home.
Our Training-school is of a high order, the Faculty consisting of some of the most scholarly of our city clergymen, and the list of special lecturers includes the ablest preachers of several denominations.
Recently, by an amendment to the Constitution of the Board of Direction, which consists of representatives from the Woman's HomeMissionary Society, the Brooklyn Church Society, and the Conference Deaconess Board, a Board of Managers, consisting of two ladies from each Church in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and the pastor's wife (ex-officio) was constituted, and to it is delegated all matters pertaining to the raising of the funds needed for the support of the Home. Deaconess work in Brooklyn is growing in popularity, and ourHome, under the efficient superintendency of Mrs. Frances A. Fowler, is an essential factor in our local Church work.

13 August 2012

Esposito Pork Store Picks Up the Slack for Joe's Superette

I noticed this sign in the window of Esposito Pork Store on Court Street in Brooklyn the other day. It hadn't been there before. Obviously, the butcher is trying to fill in the prosciutto ball hole left in Carroll Gardens by the closure of Joe's Superette in spring 2011. The neighborhood institution was known citywide for the excellence of its prosciutto balls. Sure, those balls are now being made at Prince Street Pizza by an ex-employee of Joe's. But a Brooklynite doesn't want to have to have himself to SoHo every time he wants a deep-fried, hammy, cheesy treat. I haven't tried Esposito's prosciutto balls, but I plan to soon.

Meanwhile, here's what the former site of Joe's looks like now. The letters on the great old sign were taken away by relatives of the former owner, I was told. The space will be a Greek restaurant when it reopens. The renovation has revealed bit of very old brick, steel pillars and tin ceilings.

A Good Sign: Wolf Jewelers

Wolf Jewelers is on Myrtle Avenue in Glendale, Queens. I have read an account that it was founded in 1982. With that sign? With that awning? No way. I'd say 1950s, though I have no evidence to back that up.

11 August 2012

Lost City: New Orleans Edition: Rampart Food Store

As in New York, gustatory treasures in New Orleans can be found in the most unlikely places. What many people consider to be the best shrimp po' boy in New Orleans can be purchased inside this attractively bright-hued, yet sketchy corner deli that goes by the wonderfully rudimentary name of Rampart Food Store. (It's on N. Rampart Street, on the border between the French Quarter and the Marigny neighborhood.)

09 August 2012

Take a Look at Gage & Tollner's 1964 Menu

A reader, prompted by my recent bemoaning of the state of the old Gage & Tollner building, recently sent me images of the famous restaurant's 1964 menu. He found them reprinted inside a copy of Vincent and Mary Price's famous book "A Treasury of Great Recipes."

Note the guide to the signifying emblems the waiters wore. And the incredibly rich array of seafood options. The mutton chop! The Lobster Thermidor and Lobster Newberg! A whole section devoted to toast! The Stirred Eggs Dewey! Four kinds of Welsh Rarebit! I didn't know there was more than one. Long Island Rarebit? What could it be?

Marco Polo Gets a Facelift

Marco Polo Ristorante, the Carroll Gardens landmarks and reputed goodfella hangout, is getting a renovation. The 30-year-old institution will be closed through Sept. 17 while the interior is redone. I quick peek inside revealed that the entire place has been gutted save the murals on the wall. This does not upset me. The decor was the least of Marco Polo's charms. It was standard issue, red-sauce-joint gauche. It could do with a new look.

06 August 2012

Lost City Walking Tours?

Dear Readers: It's been a while since I did one of my impromptu walking tours of Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill and the Columbia Street area. I was thinking this weekend, Aug. 11 and/or Aug. 12, might be a good time for an informative job around the neighborhood.

Please write in to lostcitybrooks@gmail.com if you are interested. Say which date works for you and which neighborhood interests you. If we can get a good group together, we'll take a walk.

The Wacky Wondrousness of Roll-N-Roaster

I recently profiled Sheepshead Bay's Roll-N-Roaster in my "Who Goes There?" column for Eater. For those who have never been there, I wanted to share these photos to get across an idea of singular personality of the place. The above diner waitress is featured often on restaurant materials. Her figure is hourglass and her outfit skimpy in every depiction. Note: none of the real Roll-N-Roaster workers dress like this.

05 August 2012

A.I. Namm's Mysterious Friend

Most of the mercantile buildings that used to make up the fine reality that was once downtown Brooklyn's Fulton Street have long been obscured and blighting by the ugly signage that marks modern-day Fulton Street. But the handsome edifice that housed A. I. Namm & Son is still openly visible. It's even in pretty good shape, its rounded, many-windowed corner of Indiana limestone and bronze trim on display for anyone who cares to look up from the sidewalk. 

04 August 2012

Lost City Asks "Who Goes to Roll-N-Roaster?"

Sheepshead Bay has gotten some decent coverage in this column. Randazzo's Clam Bar, Brennan & Carr, and now B&C's longtime rival in roast beef, Roll-N-Roaster. I prefer Brennan, food- and atmosphere-wise. But, my, R-N-R is a lot of fun. If I lived nearby, I'd bring my son all the time. There's an air of both partytime and family reunion to the place.

Here's my Who Goes There? column:

03 August 2012

Lüchow’s Lives on in North Carolina

Over the years I've written fairly extensively about Lüchow’s, the German-American eating and drinking emporium on 14th Street that was one of the most famous and storied and beloved restaurants New York ever produced. (It closed in the 1980s after a century of business; the building was torn down in the 1990s; there's a P.C. Richard's there now.) At one point, I was in touch with a gentleman who had salvaged much of the interior, and had hoped to retrieve a tiny section of Lüchow’s from him. That never happened, but a husband and wife team of restaurateurs in Raleigh, NC, were more successful.

Shannon Wolf and her husband Jake are the owners of Capital Club 16 in Raleigh. For 13 years, they lived in the East Village. She was a freelance TV producer; he was the chef at Zum Schneider. After they signed a lease on a space in Raleigh, they began looking for pieces that would make the interior special. They found the salvage man of whom I spoke, who had a lot of Lüchow’s lumber and furniture in his basement. They built their bar and backbar out of salvaged Lüchow’s wood. You can see it in the picture above.

Wolf says that a good number of their customers have been to Lüchow’s and tell them stories about it. Capital Club also looks to Lucho Lüchow’s for inspiration for our seasonal festivities and overall energy, from our family style Sunday Suppers to Game Week in November to their 14-foot Christmas tree. (Luchow's famously had a 25-foot tree.)

02 August 2012

Arthur Miller Ate at Cafiero's, and Other Facts

One day I will write a book about Cafiero's, the Red Hook Italian restaurant that was a legend in its day, but is all but forgotten today. I have been slowly piecing together the history of this mysterious President Street eatery, which was a favorite of mobsters and judges, and today lives on only in the memories of the people who ate there before owner Sharkey Cafiero closed the place in the 1970s, refusing to sell the place to anyone else.

Over the years, I have heard from a few folks who told me they were relations of Shakey and Kate Cafiero, or regulars of the restaurant. To recap the history, Sharkey, who was born in Naples, owned the place. Wife Kate and Sharkey's sister Mamie (Marie) were waitresses. Sharkey's brother Frank was the cook, and apparently quite adept at flinging balls of dough at local kids with great accuracy. Everybody lived above the restaurant. The bill of fare would be based on what Frank could find at the markets that day. There were a few tables up front, but the real dining room for the locals was in back, back the open kitchen. The waiters were named John and Red.

So, recently I heard from Linda, who told me she is the granddaughter of Mamie. She wrote in to clarify a few points of Cafiero's history and also add some additional information. Sharkey's real name was Gaetano. He changed it to Anthony in the 1940s, though everyone called him Sharkey anyway. Linda believes there was indeed a menu, but it may have been added in the 1960s or 1970s. Sharkey closed the restaurant in 1975.

01 August 2012

Barrymore's, As It Was

One of the first closures I wrote about on this blog, back in 2006, was of Barrymore's, the Theatre District eatery. It was one of four longstanding, affordable bars on W. 45th Street and W. 46th Street that were needlessly and heartlessly torn down to make way for a luxury hotel plan that never happened. (Frankie & Johnnie's Steakhouse was the only survivor of that massacre.)

A reader recently sent me these photos of the lost theatre hangout. They're from 2000. Only 12 years ago, but seems like an age away.