Manhattan Meals – Some Pre-Prohibition Turn-Of-The-Century Restaurants
With few exceptions owning a restaurant is among the most precarious businesses to enter. Long hours, high upfront costs for rent, food and labor and changing public tastes almost insure that few restaurants can make a long and successful run.
100 years ago many of New York’s older restaurants shut down because of an unexpected decline in business- the victims of prohibition.
Once cafes and restaurants lost the right to sell beer, wine and liquor many closed soon after the Volstead Act went into effect in 1920. Some restaurants known for fine cuisine were able to ride out 13 years with no alcohol sales. Other restaurants would turn to selling spirits illegally. Others like cafeteria and luncheon type restaurants survived, having always been patronized for their food.
All of the following restaurants shown below closed long ago.
Restaurant and Cafe Leo
Restaurant and Cafe Leo stood on the southwest corner of 14th Street and Fourth Avenue. Note the Star of David over the entrances, not always the sign of a Jewish establishment, but a decorative element. In this case however, proprietor Leo Greenbaum was letting potential diners know this was a Jewish owned business. By 1923 Cafe Leo vanished from the city directory.
Opening in 1889 Jack’s Restaurant on Sixth Avenue between 43rd & 44th Streets became famous for fine food and good times. Owner John Dunston catered to theatrical people, the sporting crowd, journalists, visiting college students and wealthy New Yorkers. Jack’s was known for never closing their doors.
A melee breaking out ended this privilege in 1914. When Mayor John Mitchel revoked Jack’s 24 hour policy, Jack’s manager could not lock the front door. Dunston had gotten rid of the key years ago.
On January 6, 1922 Federal agents found a hidden room stocked with over $100,000 of pre-prohibition prime liquors and wines. Another raid on May 3, 1925 closed Jack’s permanently. John Dunston died at age 74 on December 26, 1927.
Lion D’Hor Table D’Hote
Lion D’or Table D’Hote on 24th Street Street off Sixth Avenue. Although it doe not look that large from the view below, the seating capacity was 500. Originally called Au Lion D’or the restaurant was in business from 1894 until 1932.
Only a few doors away from Lion D’Or was Colaizzi’s Table d’ Hote at 37-39 West 24th Street. Owner Dominick Colaizzi became a waiter when just 12-years-old. He made his money through investments at the race track and bought and ran several restaurants. Colaizzi was self-educated and a student of history who could speak French, Italian, German and English with great fluency.
Colaizzi died on April 1, 1914 at the age of 59. Though the restaurant business made Colaizzi wealthy, strangely he made it clear that his family should have nothing to with the restaurant. The running of Colaizzi’s Restaurant was given to his manager Hugo Pirani.
Dominick Colaizzi said in his will: ‘’I expressly direct that no member of my family or of my wife’s family have anything to do or have any interest in any way with my said business, and that
neither my wife nor my wife’s family, nor any member of my own family, with the exception of my two sons, live in said premises leased by me, where my business is conducted.”
Colaizzi’s wife and minor sons were left part of the the proceeds from the restaurant along with annuities. Colaizzi’s closed sometime in the 1920s.
Faust Cafe and Restaurant
Faust’s Oyster House and Restaurant in St. Louis was a legendary place known for seafood and beer. The founder, German born Anthony (Tony) Edward Faust opened a small restaurant on Russell Boulevard in St. Louis in 1862. In 1871 Tony Faust moved his restaurant to the corner of Broadway and Elm and business boomed. Customers insisted it was the best restaurant outside of New York, calling it the “Delmonico’s of the West.” Quite a compliment as New York’s Delmonico’s was acknowledged as having the finest cuisine in the country. That sort of popularity meant New Year’s Eve reservations had to be made a year in advance.
Tony Faust retired in 1902 and went to Germany where he died in 1906 at the age of 70 after a carriage accident. Upon retiring Faust had left the the running of his restaurant to his son Anthony Robert Faust.
Flush with success Tony Junior looked to expand in other cities. In 1910 Tony Faust opened The Faust Cafe and Garden Restaurant on Broadway and 59th Street at Columbus Circle.
Not long after opening Faust’s in New York, Tony’s wife Adine claimed Tony suffered from mental illness. It took three minutes for a jury to have Tony committed in 1911 to an insane asylum. Three years later Tony Faust was dead at the age of 42. The New York Faust’s Restaurant went bankrupt in 1915, followed by the closing of the original Faust’s in St. Louis in 1916.
Moquin’s Restaurant Uptown
With locations at 20 Ann Street, 149 Fulton and 456 Sixth Ave at 28th Street, Moquin’s restaurants were known for their fine French food and wine selection. Prohibition shut down all three Moquin’s restaurants in the mid-1920s.