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.)


Ed said...

I was actually there a month ago, but of course had no idea about the history.

I guess its good news that as "old New York" disappears, bits and pieces of it have washed up in places like Raleigh. But this doesn't really help because the whole point of New York was having all this stuff concentrated in one place. Raleigh has some good restaurants, and, unlike New York at present, something of a live music scene, but frankly overall is still a dump. One excellent restaurant and bar such as the Capital Club can't change that. In New York you would have had half a dozen of these places in one neighborhood. That was the point.

upstate Johnny G said...

Ed, I agree with you. Now, what you have is half a dozen or more branches of Chase and Duane Reade in a neighborhood, and restaurants that are part of mini empires and are really all about branding, not authenticity. The way I see it, in earlier times restaurants and bars grew organically out of the fabric of the neighborhood. Sure, there were some that had "angels" that influenced where they located, like Luchows had Steinway. But all the little joints just sprouted from the neighborhoods they were in and served the food that the people of the neighborhood ate. There were exceptions, of course, such as all the steakhouses that used to be clustered on Steak Row (Brooks did an excellent piece on the Row a while back that's great reading), but you generally depend on finding German, Czech, Hungarian places up in Yorkville, for example. And Little Italy was real, not the tourist destination it is today, practically surrounded by Chinatown. The ethnic enclaves are just about gone now--but check Queens for diversity (wow!) - and the sons and grandsons of those folks who thought of themselves as German or Italian or Irish now think of themselves as Americans first. Maybe assimilation worked too well? And there aren't boatloads of new immigrants flooding into the City any more, either.
Instead it seems as though every new restaurant is planned with an eye firmly fixed on marketing buzz and demographics....basically the question being how to attract the biggest number of investment bankers or tourists to your establishment. Sad times indeed.

BrenMan said...

Hi there - I am a Luchow's buff and enjoyed reading about your Luchow's blog. I am interested in seeing photos of Luchow's - I have some - wondering if you have as well. Thanks! Brendan