Tag Archives: Restaurants

New York City’s Famous Drake’s Restaurant 1900-1937

Drake’s Restaurant Was Open 24 Hours A Day For 37 Years Until Labor Troubles Set In

In our previous story we briefly told the story of Jack’s a famous New York restaurant that never closed. There was another “never closed” restaurant which was a New York institution for 37 years.

Drake’s was located at 111 West 42nd Street near Broadway. The restaurant was founded in 1900 as Rigg’s as part of the Rigg’s chain. Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #24 – Pre-Prohibition Manhattan Restaurants 1900 -1920

Manhattan Meals – Some Pre-Prohibition Turn-Of-The-Century Restaurants

Maxim’s Restaurant 108-110 West 38th Street. Maxim’s was the first restaurant raided a few hours before prohibition went into effect January 15, 1920

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

Cafe Leo 14th Street New York CIty 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. Continue reading

New York City Tourist Attraction Ticket Booklet 1934

Hotel Victoria’s 1934 Three Day All Expense Tour Booklet Of New York City

Accommodations, Fancy Dining, Night Clubs, Museums, A Bus Tour, Ellis Island, Top Of The Rock & More – All For $11

In the midst of the Great Depression visitors still came to New York to see the sites. If you were staying at the Hotel Victoria  (7th Avenue and 51st Street) you could purchase this booklet with prepaid tickets for accommodations, entertainment and various attractions around the city.

When I acquired this booklet the most valuable tickets had been used by the previous owner. Though there is no date on the booklet. The directors of each attraction are listed, and based on that information I was able narrow the date of the booklet to 1934.

So for $11 this is what you got. Continue reading

Classic Hollywood #106 – Jack Benny & Mary Livingstone At Ciro’s

Jack Benny and Wife Mary Livingstone Dine At Ciro’s 1955

Jack Benny Mary Livingstonephoto Nat DallingerJack Benny and his wife Mary, enjoy an evening at Ciro’s in Hollywood. Benny started his career in the entertainment world as a doorman at a theater in Waukegan, Illinois, his birthplace. The Benny’s have been married 28 years. photo: Inside Hollywood by Nat Dallinger for King Features Syndicate week of August 12, 1955

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Old New York In Photos #102 – Mott Street

A Scene On Mott Street c. 1905

The Detroit Publishing Co. photographer was probably intrigued by the spectators lining the sidewalk. This undated scene is from around 1905 based on the clothing and vehicles seen. We are looking north on Mott Street from Worth Street and something worth watching is going on.

A horse drawn coach is carrying a large model of a building upon it. It may have something to do with the building with the steeple in the background, which is the Church of the Transfiguration.

The model building has crosses on it and appears to be ecclesial. The fact that the horses are draped in white fabric signals this is a religious ceremony, rather than a funeral. The other horse drawn vehicles following the procession which are dark, does make the scene look funereal however.

In the foreground, a peanut cart is selling three measures of fresh roasted nuts for a dime. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #101 – Lunch Carts In The Financial District

Lunch Carts Serve Customers At The Corner Of Broad & Beaver Street 1906

Lunch carts 1906 Broad StreetA Detroit Publishing Co. photographer preserved this scene in 1906 at the corner of Broad and Beaver Street.

Then as now, food carts set up and do a brisk lunch business. This slice of life in old New York has many elements that can be seen by looking closer, so let’s examine them.

Frankfurters are advertised at 3¢ each or two for a nickel! The same sign informs (warns?) purchasers of an interesting caveat: “No frankfurters sold during the summer.” Hmmm. Possibility of food poisoning? I could not find any explanation in contemporary literature to why a sign would say this.

How profitable was it to be a hot dog vendor? Continue reading

Old New York In Postcards #19 – Chinese Restaurants, A Brief History

Postcard Views 1910 – 1949 & A Short History Of Chinese Restaurants In New York City

The Chinese Tuxedo Restaurant in New York’s Chinatown 1910

Along with Chinese immigration to the United States in the 1850s, came Chinese food. It wasn’t long before Americans took a liking to the transoceanic cuisine. The Chinese population in New York City was only 747 in 1880. By 1900 it had grown to 6,321.

Tai Sy Chinese restaurant

There “are eight thriving Chinese restaurants that can prepare a Chinese dinner in New York, almost with the same skill as at the famous Dan Quay Cha Yuen (Delmonico’s) of Shanghai or Canton,” according to Wong Chin Foo in the October 1888 Current Literature Magazine.  With only one day off, Chinese patrons, usually working as laundrymen, would crowd the Chinese restaurants on Sunday’s.

Port Arthur Restaurant

Port Arthur Restaurant 7 & 9 Mott Street, considered among the finest Chinese restaurants in New York City est. 1899

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Old New York In Photos #97 – Long Acre Square 1908 & How Times Square Got Its Name

Long Acre Square 1908 aka Times Square And The Man Who Named It

Times Square Long Acre Square 1908 photo Library of Congress

Fashionable ladies, trolleys, horse drawn vehicles and turn-of-the-century buildings abound in this picture of Long Acre Square otherwise known as Times Square.

This photograph looking south down Broadway from 45th Street is identified by the Library of Congress as Long Acre Square circa 1911. The date is close, only off by three years. At the end of the story we have a cropped high resolution version of the same scene and every detail is crystal clear.

Taking a closer look at the left side of the photograph we can see an ad for Richard Carle (1871-1941) in the musical comedy Mary’s Lamb in front of The New York Theatre. The show played from May 25 – September 5, 1908. Richard Carle not only starred, produced and staged Mary’s Lamb but wrote the book, music and lyrics!  The amazing Carle would later appear in motion pictures acting in 45 films including Ninotchka, The Great McGinty and The Devil and Miss Jones

Next to the Mary’s Lamb advertising sign, is an advertisement for The Ziegfeld Follies, obviously of 1908, at the Jardin de Paris which ran from June 15 until September 4, 1908.

The Jardin De Paris, was part of the Olympia Theatre entertainment complex located at 1514-16 Broadway at 44th Street (opened November 25, 1895, demolished 1935).  The Jardin de Paris was located on the roof of The New York Theatre.

Roof garden’s were popular around New York City at the turn of the century. There was no air conditioning in theaters so roof gardens gave audiences a chance to enjoy a show during the hot summer months out in the open air. The roof garden of The New York Theatre underwent many name changes depending on who was the manager of the theater. It was showman Florenz Ziegfeld who in 1907 renamed the space Jardin de Paris when he gave the evening’s entertainment a French atmosphere.

There is a small poster only visible in the high resolution photo, advertising Hattie Williams at The Criterion Theatre, also part of the Olympia complex. The Williams musical, Fluffy Ruffles, ran from September 7 – October 17, 1908.

Therefore this photo was taken in the summer of 1908.

On the corner of Broadway and 43rd Street we can see the signage and two buildings of the world famous Rector’s restaurant. Adjacent to Rector’s is the Hotel Cadillac. Behind the Hotel Cadillac, the tallest building visible is the Knickerbocker Hotel on 42nd Street. Much further in the distance almost looking like it is blocking Broadway’s continuation is Macy’s.

At the extreme right of the photo we can see a sliver of the New York Times Tower Building which gave Times Square the name it’s known by today.

Long Acre Square?

Previous to being called Times Square this area was known as Long Acre or Longacre Square. In London, Long Acre was the name of the area where the horse and carriage businesses were located. In the 1870s New York’s carriage trade had settled in the 42nd – 47th street area and  New Yorkers began calling the area Long Acre Square after the London counterpart. The first mention of Long Acre Square found in print is an 1883 New York Sun advertisement for Barrett House a hotel, at 42nd Street and Broadway.

Besides the obvious: the New York Times moving to the area and building their headquarters there, how did Long Acre Square become Times Square?  Continue reading

Madison Square In 1887

A Winter Scene Of Madison Square 1887

etching Madison Square 1887 artist Frank M Gregory

This charming etching by Frank M. Gregory (1848-1927) comes from a limited edition book Representative Etchings By Artists of To-day In America by Ripley Hitchcock, 1887, Fredrick A Stokes. The book included ten original etchings from noted artists of the day including Frederick S. Church, Robert F. Blum and Stephen Parrish.

We are looking north up Fifth Avenue. The busy street scene with horse drawn carriages, delivery wagons and pedestrians features a Broadway Squad policeman escorting a young girl across the street.

On the left is the Fifth Avenue Hotel and beyond that is Broadway. The obelisk in the center is the General William Worth Monument. Directly behind the monument on 25th Street, where Fifth Avenue and Broadway diverge is the building that housed The New York Club, an exclusive men’s club, in 1887. The building was originally built in 1865 as a hotel named Worth House.  In 1888 a fire displaced the New York Club. The structure that now occupies that site, was built in 1918 and is the New York flagship store of Porcelanosa.

Madison Square Park is barely visible on the right.

Further up Fifth Avenue on the corner of 26th Street is the Brunswick Hotel. Diagonally opposite the Brunswick is the famous Delmonico’s restaurant.

The steeple in the distance on Fifth Avenue and 29th Street is the Marble Collegiate Church.

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       Cuisine Type

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. Continue reading