27 February 2014

Swedish Hors d'Oeuvres, Anyone?

I've posted in the past about old restaurants of many stripe: Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, steakhouses, chophouses, society joints, cafeterias, etc. Swedish restaurants, not so much.

A reader sent me this photograph of the Gripsholm Restaurant, which lived on E. 57th Street in midtown Manhattan. The postcard is from the 1930s. It looks pretty elegant. And I love the little bar set up for "Cocktail Hour" (which we see, by the hands of the clock, is 5 p.m.). I am intrigued that the most famous feature of the Gripsholm was its "Swedish Hors d'Oeuvres."

 "Swedish Hors d'Oeuvres" means smorgasbord. And Gripsholm was famous for theirs. "It goes without saying that an appetite for hors d'oeuvres is a prerequisite for true enjoyment of a Scandinavian meal." The same article says that the Gripsholm's smorgasbord featured, yes, pickled herring. Also, eel, salmon, fish canapes, cold cuts, head cheese, pig's feet and "the salads." Then, there were the "hot foods": boiled potatoes flavored with dill, egg and salmon, fish balls, etc. All this for $1.50. The restaurant was also famous for its crawfish, which were cultivated in the brooks of not Sweden, but Wisconsin.

Gripsholm was owned by Ragnar Asplund, formerly manager of the Swedish Rathskeller. It catered to a well-heeled, Sutton Place crowd. The Danish royal family dined here in 1939, after attending the World's Fair. And Ethel Merman, too, at some point. I don't know when it closed, but it was still around as late at 1978.

Mr. Chow occupies the space once held by Gripsholm.


upstate Johnny G said...

Hi Brooks,
Please pardon me for failing to immediately welcome you back after the holidays, and let me make amends by saying how good it is to see your latest pieces. Great stuff as always! I'll keep an eye out for a Longchamps doll for you! Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Back when I was a kid in the 60s, the Gripsholm was my favorite NY restaurant. I remember a big room with tables set on tiers and at the center: the huge smorgasbord table. My idea of heaven.

Mats Werner said...

Nice to find this piece just when I am writing about a special blend of Aquavite called "Gripsholm Blend" which was exclusively bottled by the Swedish Alcohol Monopoly for this restaurant in New York and for the restaurants on board the Swedish-American-Lines vessel MS GRIPSHOLM.
Further curiosity, the introduction of "smorgasbord" to the US market took place during the World Exhibition in NY 1939 when it was served from a rotating table. All organized by my grandfather. He was the founder and head of the Swedish Railway Museum but also Head Curator of the Swedish Pavillion and called "Marketing Director of Sweden" by his son-in-law who was deputy manager of the NK department store in Stockholm who was ordered to fly over the complete Smorgasbord for the exhibition). You can read about it here if you use a google-translation: http://matswerner.blogg.se/2008/september/min-farfar-sveriges-reklamchef-och-ickeroka.html