Archive for the ‘Bars and restaurants’ Category

Gorgeous neon signs illuminating the West Village

June 27, 2014

On this warm June evening, some old-school neon eye candy is called for. Neon is at its most enchanting at twilight, isn’t it?

Each of these signs have lit up the sky on the other side of Seventh Avenue South for decades—even if the establishments they advertise are a trendy parody of the bar and restaurants they they once were.

Beatriceinnsign

The Beatrice Inn opened in 1924 on West 12th Street. But it’s trended up these days and is no longer the comfortable if unspectacular neighborhood Italian place it had been. “Old Village ambience” wrote Cue magazine in 1975.

Fedorabarsign

Almost a century old, the Fedora, on West Fourth Street, was also recently revamped from a longtime local gay bar to a cocktails and cutting-edge menu kind of place.

Arthurstavernsign

Arthur’s has been a venue for live music since 1937. The vertical Arthur’s sign is wonderful but doesn’t light up anymore, unfortunately.

Johnspizzeriasign

Infamously known as the no-slices place, John’s has been serving meals (originally on Sullivan Street) since 1929—the year of the stock market crash.

This place is one of the few reminders that Bleecker Street was once a thriving Little Italy neighborhood, not an imitation of one.

 

The legendary appetite of Diamond Jim Brady

June 9, 2014

DiamondjimbradyheadshotNew York in the late 19th century was filled with gluttonous characters. But James Buchanan “Diamond Jim” Brady may have topped them all.

Born on Cedar Street the son of a saloon owner, Brady made millions selling railroad supplies.

By the 1880s, that allowed him to indulge in his passion for glittery jewels, beautiful women (his longtime ladyfriend was A-list actress Lillian Russell), and food.

 The chronicles of his consumption are legendary. “I have seen him eat a pound of candy in five minutes,” a friend is quoted saying in his obituary. [Below, at Delmonico's, second from right]

Diamondjim1905delmonicos

“A typical lunch consisted of two lobsters, deviled crabs, clams, oysters, and beef,” wrote H. Paul Jeffers, in his book Diamond Jim Brady: Prince of the Gilded Age. “He finished with several whole pies.”

NYT2008122315471033CDinner included “a couple dozen oysters, six crabs, and bowls of green turtle soup. The main course was likely to be two whole ducks, six or seven lobsters, a sirloin steak, two servings of terrapin, and a variety of vegetables. . . . Because Jim did not partake in alcohol, all this was washed down with carafe after carafe of orange juice.”

Restaurant owner George Rector, who ran one of the fashionable “lobster palaces” of Times Square, reportedly said Brady was “the best 25 customers I ever had.”

“When he pointed at a platter of French pastries, he didn’t mean any special pastry, he meant the platter,” William Grimes quoted Rector saying in Grimes’ book Appetite City.

NY3DBoxCould Brady, admittedly a very large man who held court night after night in the city’s poshest eateries with groups of friends and celebrities, really have wolfed down all this food?

Grimes poses the possibility that the myth played into the sense of excess and extravagance that characterized the Gilded Age.

“[Brady's gluttony] symbolized the outsized appetites of a gaudy, grasping, exuberant America, where income went untaxed and a robust mass media panted after images of the rich at play.”

Read more about Diamond Jim Brady in New York City in 3D in the Gilded Age.

[Photos: second: MCNY photo collection, 1905]

The “pleasure seekers” of Broadway at night

June 5, 2014

Looking at this postcard, you can almost feel the heat from the colorful lights of theater marquees and restaurants, and hear the whirling of the cable cars as they rush down Broadway.

Times Square night

“This view, in the centre of the theatre district, shows the usual crowd of pleasure seekers, who nightly throng the famous ‘Great White Way,’” the back of the card reads.

New York’s old-school food trucks and carts

June 2, 2014

The whole food truck trend, with vendors selling everything from artisanal waffles to handmade geleto on the streets of New York? (Below, “hot Vienna waffles” on 22nd Street and Broadway.)

Hotviennawafflersvendorbway22nd

Been there done that, these vintage images remind us. Trying to make a buck by selling drinks and eats from a vehicle is probably as old a practice as the city itself. Hot corn, for example, was a big seller in the early 19th century.

Clamsmulberrybend

Clams and oysters were also very popular street food through the 1800s. This clam vendor, on Mulberry Bend, must have a layer of ice on the bed of his wagon—how else could he keep his wares cold?

Popcornvendorsixthave1895

A “pop corn” vendor (“always hot”) attracts a well-dressed lady on Sixth Avenue and 15th Street in 1895. At the time, this stretch was the famed Ladies Mile shopping district of grand department stores.

Parkrow1896milkvendor

The milk wagon has arrived on Park Row, this 1896 photo shows. “Pure Ice Cold Orange County Milk” is at the top of the menu, followed by fresh churned buttermilk and a milkshake—for a nickel.

Hotroastedjumbopeanuts1937wpa

Here, it’s 1937, the middle of the Depression, and under the Elevated tracks a peanut vendor takes a cigarette break.

Streetvendor14thbwayregmarsh1938

This bundled-up seller appears to be selling pretzels out of a renovated baby carriage. The photo, from 1938, was taken on 14th Street and Broadway, ground zero for today’s food trucks and vendors.

[Top photo: Museum of the City of New York; second, NYC municipal archives; third, fourth, and fifth, Museum of the City of New York; sixth, Museum of the City of New York copyright Reginald Marsh]

An incredible map of 1930s Greenwich Village

May 12, 2014

Greenwich Village Stories is a lovely new book from the folks at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

It’s filled with reminiscences from dozens of former and current residents—from artists to activists to politicians—who give their take on the beauty and spirit of the neighborhood.

Tonysargmap1934

It’s an evocative read that also captures how much the Village has changed over the years. Driving that point home is a wonderful map of Greenwich Village circa 1934 by puppeteer and illustrator Tony Sarg that has been reproduced in the book.

While the street grid is the same, the landmarks Sarg depicts with such affection don’t always exist anymore. Jefferson Market prison, the Washington Square Bookshop, the Village Barn, Luchow’s, and Wanamaker’s department store are all long gone.

Various hotels marked on the map are now apartment houses: the Albert, the Brevoort, the Lafayette. New York University, interestingly, barely gets a mention—the main campus in the 1930s was in the Bronx.

New York’s wonderful old-school pizza signs

May 3, 2014

With pizza gone high-end and foodie these days, it’s time to pay homage to the classic corner pizza parlor and pizzeria restaurant, where a slice of cheese generally costs the same as a subway ride and the store signage screams no-frills 1970s.

Royalpizzasign

Royal Pizza has been feeding pies on Third Avenue and 39th Street since 1973. This privilege sign looks like it hasn’t been changed in decades.

V&Tpizzeriasignneon

With its wonderful pink and blue neon sign (decorated with illustrations of Venetian gondoliers!), V&T Pizzeria has been slicing pies since 1945.

Stevespizzasign

I don’t know the age of Steve’s Pizza, in the Financial District. But this is classic New York corner pizza signage.

Samspizzasign

Sam’s, on Court Street in Brooklyn, goes all the way back to 1930. In an otherwise good review, New York describes it as looking like a set from The Sopranos and having “the faint smell of a 1970s basement.”

Twenty years of Starbucks in New York City

April 14, 2014

If your experience in New York doesn’t stretch back more than two decades, then you’ve never known a time when the city didn’t have multiple Starbucks stores in almost every neighborhood.

Broadway87thstsignIt was 20 years ago this month when the first Starbucks opened on Broadway and 87th Street.

“At 3,000 square feet, this is the largest of the company’s 318 stores and also one of the largest coffee bars in the city,” wrote Florence Fabricant in her New York Times column on April 27, 1994.

That writeup didn’t capture the conflicting emotions many New Yorkers felt about having Starbucks descend on the city.

“When the store at 87th Street welcomed its first caffeine-charged customers in April 1994, national chains and upscale retailers and restaurants were not common in that part of the Upper West Side,” stated a New York Times article from 2003, the year the first store closed.

Starbuckseast20s

Starbucks “stirs conflicting feelings among people who live near their branches,” another Times article from 1995 said.

“Some see the coffee bars as promising signs of upscale development and badges of sophistication. Others are put off by the sprawling uniformity of Starbucks stores and fear that they may threaten the distinctive character of old-time establishments in their areas.”

Twenty years later, the opening of a Starbucks branch can still whip up the same opinions.

[photo: a Starbucks in the East 20s, one of 283 in the city]

A New York socialite dubbed “King of the Dudes”

March 31, 2014

EvanderberrywallchowdogEvery era in New York history has its characters.

And in the late 19th century city, which celebrated extravagance and excess, socialite and clotheshorse Evander Berry Wall was one of the most colorful.

Born in 1860 into a wealthy family, he inherited $2 million by his 21st birthday.

That was an incredible sum in the Gilded Age, and it enabled party-loving Wall (who sported a monocle, and insisted on only drinking champagne) to not work for a living and instead indulge in his love of fashion.

Evanderberrywall1888How much of a fashionista was this guy? Reportedly he owned 500 pairs of pants, 5,000 ties, loved loud colors and patterns, and changed his clothes six times a day.

“He wore waistcoats that dazzled the eye. He wore violet spats. His spread-eagle collars and startling cravats kept New Yorkers agog,” wrote The New York Times in his 1940 obituary.

In the 1880s, he battled for the title of best-dressed New York man with another foppish dandy. Wall eclipsed the other guy during the Blizzard of 1888, when he entered the luxurious Hoffman House bar clad in thigh-high black patent leather boots.

From then on he was crowned “King of the Dudes.” Dude was kind of an insult at the time, but Wall embraced it with pride.

In 1912, he and his wife (yep, he was married) began living abroad in Europe.

EvanderberrywallmonocleHe befriended royalty, indulged his love of social events and horse racing, and took his beloved chow. wherever he could.

He’s best remembered by his outfits, of course, and as the epitome of the Gay 90s.

“To the end he was a fabulous and eccentric dresser of his earlier days—stiff shirts, tailcoats, Byron collars—and he never went to Longchamps in season without his silk hat even if, as he complained, valets no longer knew how to ‘keep the gloss on your topper,’” wrote the Times.

The only shame is that no color photos survive to really show off what a bon vivant fashion plate Wall truly was.

Staying at Midtown’s Hotel Bristol in the 1940s

March 10, 2014

Today, there’s a Chipotle at the Rockefeller Center address the Hotel Bristol once occupied.

The Bristol, as this postcard shows, was one of dozens of smart, modern city hotels catering to the influx of businessmen and tourists in the early 20th century.

Bristolhotelpostcard

The Bristol appears to have been a happening place through the 1940s. That Pink Elephant restaurant must have been the site of many boozy business dinners.

Bristolhotelpostcardback

A 1922 ad showcases the Bristol’s endorsement by the YMCA: “A good hotel that Y men can recommend, between Broadway and Fifth Avenue. 400 rooms, 300 baths. Rooms with bath: single $2 to $4. Double $5, $6, and $7.”

I don’t know if there’s any connection to the Bristol Plaza Hotel in the East 60s today—or if it’s a larger version of the six-story Bristol Hotel at the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue in the late 19th century.

Cool old phone exchange: Circle!

Gorgeous neon signs illuminating the city

March 3, 2014

What’s more beautiful than block after block of glowing reds and blues and pinks and yellows, emanating light and heat?

Oldhomesteadsign

These food-oriented neon signs also make you hungry. The Old Homestead sign looks pretty old, though not as old as this steak house (two words!) itself, from 1868.

Donutpub14thstreet

The Donut Pub on 14th Street, a 50-year-old remnant of New York before cronuts and Starbucks, recently survived a competitive attack by an upstart Dunkin’ Donuts down the block, which quietly closed shop a few years ago.

DeRobertispastryshoppe

DeRobertis Caffe and Pasticceria has been baking sweets for 110 years on First Avenue near 14th Street, when this was an Sicilian immigrant micro-neighborhood featuring Russo Brothers, Veniero, and probably hundreds of small shops lost to history.

Queensign

Queen is an oddly named Italian restaurant (since 1958!) on Court Street in Brooklyn. You have to dig that crown.

Katzsign

And of course, Katz’s Deli, a treasure of New York neon and store signage—and sandwiches and Jewish soul food too.

More sublime neon beauty can be found here.


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