What Were The Best New York City Restaurants In 1929?

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Columnist Rian James Shares His Picks For The Best Restaurants in New York City in 1929

Rian James (1899-1953) may not be a well known name today, but back in the 1920s and 30s, he was a widely read journalist and  “man about town.”

In 1933 James took a stab at writing for the movies. He wrote the screenplay for 42nd Street, one of the most successful and popular films of the 1930s. James would go on to write over three dozen screenplays.

As a columnist for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from 1928-1935, James rambled all around New York City. Along the way James hobnobbed with everyone: the well-to-do, the hoi-polloi, actors,  and bohemians, in the process, hitting all the night spots. The stories James gathered made for a widely read column about the city he loved.

Four times a year the Eagle published a small guide Going Places With Rian James casting his top picks in New York City food and entertainment.

For the Summer 1929 Going Places, a good portion of  James’ 32 page booklet is devoted to dining. Unlike the modern Zagat restaurant guides or Yelp, consensus was not considered. The only thing that mattered was James’ opinion. James knew all the “in” places, the haunts of celebs, the exclusive, the ribald and the popular.

Proving he’s no snob, the best New York restaurant according to James is not at a high class hotel or Madison Avenue establishment. It’s Feltman’s, originator of the hotdog, in Coney Island that wins the prize.  James writes, “The best all-round food in all New York, excluding no place.”

This is a New York booklet written for New Yorkers.

James offers a unique slice of the New York dining scene just prior to the October 1929 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression. The good times were to end soon after.

While there were a ton of contemporary guidebooks published about New York City, very few delved into the restaurant scene. James’ punchy one line descriptions tell you a lot more than many a detailed review.

The writing has some jazz age jargon such as “Beeway” for Broadway and “black and tan” for an establishment that has race mingling between Blacks and Caucasians. Sometimes there’s an “inside”, long forgotten, or even a risque reference such as this one:

BARNEY’S – 85 W. 3rd St.
The best bet for whoopee in the Village.

In other words, where you have the best chance of hooking up.

James later wrote several full length books about New York City: a full guidebook All About New York An Intimate Guide; John Day (1931) and another not surprisingly titled, Dining in New York; John Day (1934).

While you peruse this list, you may recognize some names long gone from New York’s glorious culinary past. Other eateries you never heard of just sound like they would have been a blast to visit.

What is stunning in the transient world of dining, is that there are a small number of restaurants that are still in business nearly 90 years later.

We have left Rian James’ spelling, grammar and punctuation as it is written in the booklet.

So with that, here is Rian James’ New York City’s restaurant recommendations for the summer of 1929, divided into his appropriate section headings in bold.

Restaurants of All Nations

Name      Address       Nation

L’AIGLON – 55th, E. of Fifth Ave. French
Complete French Cuisine.LUCHOWS – 110 E. 14th St. German
Complete German Cuisine. Try the German Rye Bread.

MAXL’S – 86th St. near 3rd Ave. Tyrolean
Sausage and Sauer Kraut and Tyrolean high jinks after theatre.

THE BLUE RIBBON-145 W. 44th St. German
German Cuisine, and plenty of German Celebs.

HOME HUNGARIAN – 79th St., near 2nd Ave. Hungarian
Goulash, Chicken Paprika.

HENRY’S – 69 W. 36th St. Swedish
Roll your own Hors d’oeuvres, from a huge center table.

SCANDINAVIAN ARMS -128 E. 45th St. Scandinavian
Smorgasbord.

RUMANIAN RATHSKELLAR-158 E. Houston St. Rumanian
Pastrami, Black Radishes, 11 kinds of herring, smoked goose.

Note-Between 8th and 15th Street, on 2nd Avenue, Manhattan,
there are several dozen Rumanian, Armenian, Russian
and Jewish Restaurants, specializing in exceedingly low couverts,
native specialties, and fairly un-dressed cabarets. Any one of
them is worth a visit. Many of them are just East or West
of 2nd Avenue.

THE ACTOR’S INN – East 7th St. Jewish
The Sardi’s of the East Side. Good show, and good, unpronounceable
food.

THE RUSSIAN KRETCHMA – 244 E. 14th St.   Russian
Grand Entertainment, and try a Kretchma Special Sandwich,

THE RUSSIAN ART – 41th St. at 2nd Ave Russian
Roomy, and here the Russian Art Sandwich is worth the trip too,
to say nothing of the arty atmosphere.

THE RUSSIAN TEA ROOM – Next to Carnegie Hall
Rendezvous of the hi-hat Russian singers and musicians.

SARDI’s – 234 West 44th St. Ital-American
Where the who’s who of the theater, press and publicity world
meet. Specialties daily.

BARBETTO’S-46th St. bet. 8th and 9th Aves. Italian
Marv. Italian food, and surprisingly reasonable.

MORI’S – 144 Bleecker St.. Italian
Zahaglioni, Chicory Salad and Intelligentsia, with music.

MONETTA’S – 32 Mulberry St. Italian
Scallopini, Ravioli and an occasional genuine Celeb.

OLD DUTCH TAVERN – 15 John St. Dutch
Beef Mode. Potato Pancakes.

THE BOSPOROUS – 30th St. east of 5th. Turkish
Shish Kebab, Dahlma, and they’ll explain all you want to know.
Well worth the effort. CLEAN.

CONSTANTINOPLE – 12 E. 30th St.. Armenian
“Unpronounceables” and try the stuffed lamb. Bring your own
soda-mint and, rhubarb tonic.

BAMBOO FORREST – 127 MacDougal St. Chinese
But genuine Chinese. Phone in advance, and have ’em prepare
some Fried Shrimp and Pineapple.

THE ORIENTAL – 4 Pell St. Chinese
In the heart of Chinatown. Atmosphere galore, and good
Unusual Chinese dishes.

DARUMA – 781 Sixth Ave. Japanese
Beef or Chicken Sukayaki, made at your elbow.

CEYLON INDIA – 148 W. 49th St. East Indian
Curried dishes that are hotter than a Sophie Tucker finale.

HENRI’s – 46th St. west of 5th Ave. French
Crepe Suzettes; marv. scallops.

LONGCHAMPS-55 Fifth Ave. French
LONGCHAMPs-423 Madison Ave. French
LONGCHAMPs-4O E. 49th St. French
LONGCHAMPS-19 W. 57th St. French
French Cuisine, and Fresh Vegetables have made ’em rightly
famous. Marv. pastries.

CHARLES – 6th Ave. near 11th St. French
Typically French, and inexpensive. Grand Blue Plates.

CHICO’S – Sullivan and 3rd Sts. Spanish
Arroz Con Pollo, which means chicken with rice. Dancing.

BEEFSTEAK CHARLIES –216 W. 50th St. Early American
Note the photos of race-track spills, on the 2nd floor. Try
their steak sandwiches.

DINTY MOORE’S-46th St. west of Beeway. Irish
Corned Beef And. Marv. lemon pies and giant Baked potatoes.
Favorite of Ziegfeld, Berlin, Will Rogers, et al.

YE OLDE CHOP HOUSE – 118 Cedar St. Early American
Going since 1800.

FRAUNCES TAVERN – 54 Pearl St. Early American
Once Washington’s Headquarters. A veritable museum.

EL RANCHO – 47th St. and 7th Ave. Mexican
Chili, Tortillas, and taxi chauffeurs.

HOTEL LAFAYETTE – 9th St. and University French
Best French cuisine in N. Y.

BREVOORT – Fifth Ave. at 9th St. French
Ditto, and throw in a heap of celebs. to boot.

HAWAIIAN TEA ROOM-56 W. 51st St.. Hawaiian
Phone Circle 0980 first. Curried specialties, in grand atmosphere.

THE PHOENIX – 163 W. 48th St.. Swedish
Northland delicacies.

WHITE HORSE TAVERN – 114 W. 45th St.. English
Kidney pies, meat pies, Yorkshire puddings and watery soup.

MAISON DE WINTER – 36 W. 48th St. French
Good, and one of the least expensive table d’hoterys.

MIYAKO – 34O W. 58th St. Japanese
A regular Japanese dinner that will save you time and puzzlement.

FORNOS – 228 W. 52nd St. Spanish
And hot!! At least the chili and the peppers are.

GIRARD – 115 Fulton St. Swiss
Their cheese pie is a synonym for Heaven.

THE LOBSTER – 45th St. bet. 6th and 7th Aves.
Sea food, and get there early if you want a seat.

GAGE & TOLLNER’S – 374 Fulton St., Bklyn.
Sea Food, and then some. Try the sword-fish in season.

HOTEL ALGONQUIN – 44th St. bet. 5th and 6th Aves.
The snootier of the Literati lunch here. The pastry is grand.

DIVAN PARISIEN – 17 E. 45th St. French
Try the Lobster Newburg, the tomato Madrilene, and the French
Pastries. Most comfortable eatery in town. Not Inexpensive.

THE CHUMMIER PLACES 

THE ROOF TREE INN – 15 W. 29th St.
Nice, if you know what we mean.

ALICE MCCOLLISTER – 43 W. 8th St.
Grand Hot biscuits, and plenty of wholesome what-not, in the Village.

THE TWO FRIENDS – 214 Pearl St.
Try it some Saturday for lunch. Music, Dancing, and swell
dance contests among the neighboring stenos. Fun.

GYPSY TEA SHOP – 435 Fifth Ave.
Your fortune, from tea leaves, gratis, and all you want to eat, for 75¢.

DIXIE KITCHEN – 1 E. 48th St.
Southern Cooking – but SOUTHERN.

YE PIG’N WHISTLE – 175 West 4th St.
Southern Chicken, in an old New England spinety atmosphere. Quaint.

AS YOU LIKE IT COFFEE HOUSE – 75 Fifth Ave.
if Symon Gould had it it would be a modernistic Movie Villa. Interesting.

MISS WASHINGTON’S – 156 Waverly Pl.
Tea-roomy, but unique.

THE VILLAGY PLACES
Best After Theatre

ROMANY MARIE’S – 4th St. opp. Square
Mrs. Will Durant turned hostess. Headquarters for Theodore Dreiser.

THE VILLAGE MILL – 47 W. 3rd St.
Greenwich Village, all in capitals. Hank Doerr is M. of C. and dance if
you have to. A hot spot.

GREENWICH VILLAGE INN – 6 Sheridan Sq.
What customers from Hoosick Falls would he disappointed at not finding.

THE PIRATE’S DEN – 9 Christopher St.
Night-life on the high seas. What happens when the ingenious
Don Dickerman gets an idea. Swell!

FOUR TREES – 1 Sheridan Sq.
Informal, good dance music, and not expensive. Good food. Closed Sundays.

THE COUNTY FAIR – 54 E. 9th St.
Don Dickennan again. Gone rustic this time. Room to park, after the show.

THE BLUE HORSE – 21 W. 8th St.
You sit in stalls and the orchestra wears blinders. Don Dickerman did this
one too. Good music.

THE DOME – 8th St. west of 5th Ave.
Futuristic, all dolled up in the latest Symon Gould Manner, in keeping with
the futuristic Movie place next door.

BARNEY’S – 85 W. 3rd St.
The best bet for whoopee in the Village.

THE TOP OF THE TOWN

THE RITZ-CARLTON ROOF – Madison Ave. at 46th St.
A little bit of Persia, with grand cuisine, and the Ritz Dance Orchestra.

HOTEL ASTOR ROOF – Beeway, at 45th St.
Peppy people; cool surroundings, and Joe Moss and a Meyer Davis Orchestra.

HOTEL ST. REGIS ROOF – 55th St. and 5th Ave.
Vincent Lopez on top of the world again. The smartest Urban achievement
in the town. Better dress.

BOSSERT MARINE ROOF – Montague St., Bklyn.
The Roof that went to sea. Swell view of the harbor, from the coolest roof
in town; good dance music.

THE PARK CENTRAL – 55th St. at 7th Ave.
Ben Pollack and a grand dance orchestra, on the highest roof in town.HOTEL PENNSYLVANIA – 33rd St. and 7th Ave.
Phil Spitalny, successfully entertaining knit-goods buyers from
Duluth, and the local salesmen who brought ’em. Inexpensive.

AFTER DARK

THE CENTRAL PARK CASINO – Central Park
The nearest thing to the Parisian Chateau Madrid in America. Urbanated.
And very blue-hooky. Dress or not, and better phone Rhinelander 3034 first.
Expensive.

VILLA VALLEE – 10 E. 60th St.
The rendezvous of flaming youth, presided over by Rudy, himself. Dress.

CHATEAU MADRID – 231 W. 54th St.
Jack White is M. of C. here, and the roof rolls back on clear nights and
you get some air. Informal, and how!

CASANOVA ROOF – 132 W. 52nd St.
Another open-air whoopee emporium.

THE EVERGLADES – Beeway at 48th St.
An extravagant floor show with considerable costume economy,
and ex-Vanities girls to sit it out with you.

THE PARAMOUNT GRILL – W. 46th St. at 8th Ave.
An elaborate floor show, in the Metro-Goldwyn period, artificially cooled.
Exceptional orchestra.

There’s dancing also at the Roosevelt Grill, the Manger, the Commodore,
the Astor, the Biltmore, Pierre’s, Sherry’s, and the McAlpin Roof.

MISCELLANEOUS

For an after-theatre snack, try

REUBEN’S DELICATESSEN – 59th St. at Madison Ave.
All the stars of the stage and screen have sandwiches named after ‘em here,
and you’ll see anybody from Al Jolson to Sophie Tucker, any night.

DAVE’S BLUE ROOM – Beeway at 54th St.
Same here with the newspaper scribes getting the sandwiches christened for ’em.

THE BAXTER’S – Beeway at 47th St.
The world’s best waffles, bar none. Try the wholewheat kind.

HARLEM

CONNIE’S INN – 131st St. at 7th Ave,
Leroy Smith’s Orchestra, and the fastest and funniest show in all New York.
Don’t miss it.

COTTON CLUB – 142nd St. and Lenox Ave.
Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, and a revue, staged by Danny Healy, that
is of Ziegfeldian proportions.

THE SPIDER WEB – 126th St. and 7th Ave.
Harlem’s swankiest black-and-tan.

CLUB HARLEM – 130th St. and Lenox Ave.
The hottest place in town. A sure-fire black and tan, decorated with murals
by the colored genius, Aaron Douglas.

CLUB LENOX – 143rd St. and Lenox Ave.
Another black and tan, with breakfast dances that start at 4 A.M. every Monday.
Hangout of Harlem’s Jeff Blount.

SMALL’S – 136th St. and 7th Ave.
Charlie Johnson’s orchestra is hot, and so is the Leonard Harper review here.

THE MADHOUSE – 169 W. 133rd St.
All. the name implies. For colored whoopsters chiefly, but whites admitted.
Come here after all the others have closed, and SEE things!

THE NEST – 169 W. 133rd St.
Under the Madhouse. Hotter than that even. Come here late, too.

THE ROAD TO ROAM

FELTMAN’S – Coney Island
The best all-round food in all New York, excluding no place. And a dozen
differently appointed German, Bavarian and Tyrolean open air restaurants
in which to enjoy It. Dancing and entertainment in all of ’em.

HALF MOON HOTEL – Coney Island
Good food, fair music, a grand view and cool surroundings.

OETJEN’S – Church and Flatbush Aves.
Inexpensive. Music, dancing, and a nice, nearby place to flop into any hot evening.

ALOCIN TAVERN – 8829 Ft. Hamilton P’kway
Inexpensive also, and you’ll like the informal atmosphere.

BEAU RIVAGE – Sheepshead Bay
Dave Meadow’s dance band, which is hot, and a waterside location that is
the coolest ever. No couver at dinner. Swell, all around.

TAPPEN’S HOTEL – Sheepshead Bay
Good food, music, and don’t get here later than nine o’clock or they won’t serve you.

SLOANE’S – Sheepshead Bay
Frank Mongomery’s revue; a peppy floor show, and even if you aren’t
impressed with your neighbors, what of it? Swell shore dinners.

LUNDY’S – Sheepshead Bay
The best sea-food in these parts, and everybody so busy working at ‘em they
have no time to listen to entertainment. Very reasonable.

LONG ISLAND

TEXAS GUINAN’S – Valley Stream
Where every night is New Year’s Eve. Tex, and a gang of the best looking
youngsters extant. Why anybody should ever want to go elsewhere, when they
can come here, baffles us. The peppiest spot in America . . . and NOT Expensive!
From Jamaica, follow Hillside Avenue to Monument, then turn right, and you
can’t miss it. On Merrick Road.

PAVILON ROYAL – Valley Stream
Abe Lyman, favorite of the Prince of Wales, and one of the neatest orchestras
anywhere. Conservative crowd, large dance floor.

NASSAU HOTEL – Long Beach
Right on the ocean front. Howard Lanin’s orchestra straight from Palm Beach.
Petitbenoit, late of Delmonicos, is Maitre de hotel. Expensive, and draws
plenty of patrons from the needle industries.

BRADLEY’S – Port Washington
A high spot on the North Shore. Not much on atmosphere, but the
shore dinner is worth the trip. Expensive.

JOE SMALLWOOD’S – Glen Cove
The “Who’s Who”, of the younger “400” on the loose. The Central Park Casino
of Long Island. Expensive, and you’d better dress.

WESTCHESTER

ARROWHEAD INN – Riverdale Ave. at 246th
On the way up. Swell, cool, and dancing on the lawn, under the stars, when,
as and if the weather’s clear. Not too expensive.

WOODMANSTEN INN – Woodmansten
Vincent Lopez in the country. Swell, unless the padlock awarded it by
the Government has been delivered. Inquire first.

NIKKO INN – Harmon on Hudson
Japanese. Magnificently situated, on a mountain of pines. But bring
the RIGHT girl, because it’s romantic as aitch!

LONG VUE – Westchester
Atop a mountain also. Quaint, foreign atmosphere. The right girl
helps here, too.

LAWRENCES – Boston Post Road near Mamaroneck
The best shore dinner in Westchester, and one of the worst orchestras
in the world. Delicious waffles. Always jammed, mostly with locals.

POST LODGE – Boston Post Road
Good food, good music, and a slightly higher-hat clientele than Lawrences.

WHITE SWAN INN – White Plains
Always Jammed. Homey, plain, albeit marv. food. Tea-roomy, but worthwhile.

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One thought on “What Were The Best New York City Restaurants In 1929?

  1. Floyd

    Have brochure of ENRICO’S GARDEN RESTAURANT , 345 46th St. in about 1929 – 1930.

    BUT … can find no evidence of this.(Has autograph of Bruce Bairnsfather 1st WW cartoonist.

    Reply

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