The last Tad’s Steaks is in the Theater District

New York boasts plenty of trendy, pricey steakhouses. But it’s been a long time since the city has had room for a cut-rate chophouse chain like Tad’s.

Old-timers remember Tad’s, those red and white steakhouses with a late 19th century kind of typeface on its neon signs. They used to occupy Gotham’s crowded, slightly seedy corners from the 1950s and 1990s. (Above, a Tad’s once in Chelsea)

Times Square had a few (at left); one stood at Seventh Avenue and 34th Street too.

I recall another on East 14th Street just east of Union Square, which I think limped along after the Palladium closed and finally became a pizza parlor in the 1990s.

Now, only one Tad’s remains. It’s in the Theater District on Seventh Avenue and 50th Street (below).

The setup is basically the same as it was in 1957, when a North Dakota native named Donald Townsend opened the first Tad’s. He charged $1.09 for a broiled T-bone, baked potato, salad, and garlic bread, recalled the New York Times in 2000 in Townsend’s obituary.

“Little matter that the meat might be cardboard thin, with clumps of fat and sinew,” stated the Times. “For a tenth the price of a fancy steak dinner, a working man could watch his hunk of steer searing under leaping, hissing flames in Tad’s front window—’a steak show” in Mr. Townsend’s memorable phrase.

That broiled steak dinner now runs $9.09. But the cafeteria-style meal is still a bargain if you’re looking for an old-school New York experience or miss the city’s once ubiquitous mini-franchises, like Chock Full O’ Nuts or Schrafft’s.

[Top photo: Renee J. Tracy/Foursquare; second photo: Noiryork.net]

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18 Responses to “The last Tad’s Steaks is in the Theater District”

  1. keenanpatrick424 Says:

    Re:”it’s been a long time since the city has had room for a cut-rate chophouse chain like Tad’s”. The city is not an amorphous being. Don’t be so vacuous. There are greedy commercial landlords and real estate developers responsible for the lack of “room” for a Tad’s.

    • Bob Says:

      The NYT obituary states, “At Tad’s peak the chain had 28 restaurants, eight in New York.” Those closures are not unique here. Per Eater in 2014, there had been locations in “San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Detroit.”

      Tad’s has been owned by Riese Restaurants for some time. A 1999 article in the NY Post (“RIESE PROMISES A-1 MAKEOVER FOR TAD’S”) describes Riese as a “sprawling, privately-held 130-unit chain includes the Big Apple franchises of Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut, KFC, Houlihan’s, TGI Friday’s and Charley O’s.” It had “hopes to pump new life into Tad’s and promises a new prototype format in 12 months, followed possibly by a rollout of the business well past its Gotham territory,” none of which ever materialized.

      Riese had other brands that also fell out of favor. “The executive told The Post that possible locations to be used for the expansion of Tad’s in the Big Apple include Roy Rogers locations. That eatery has fallen on hard times, “sort of imploded,” Riese said, and may be flipped into the traditional 3,000-to-4,000 square foot Tad’s sites.”

  2. Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk Says:

    I would occasionally stop in at Tad’s on 14th St as a relief after an evening of prowling the uptown streets. I think it was a $1.49 for a full course meal, steak, potato, vegetable. Delicious!

  3. Linda Mariano Says:

    I was just talking with friends, about TAD’s Steak House – the one on 6th Avenue between 9 and 10th Streets in 1961 – I was a freshman at NYU and the food was better at TADs than it was in the student cafeteria at NYU.

  4. Force Tube Avenue Says:

    As a child in the early ’60s, my parents would take the family to Tad’s for a special day out. I believe there was one in Brooklyn; we also went to one in the Times Square area. I recall a 99-cent special. (Funny how the “cent” symbol no longer appears on the keyboard.) The garlic bread was a favorite of my Mother’s.

  5. petey Says:

    i ate in one on 42nd street, south side, just east of 5th ave.
    though it may have been a Sizzler.
    the steak was tough but edible.

  6. Kevin Says:

    I remember going to one in the times square/theater district in the early 80’s with some colleagues from the bank. My boss would point out that it was about the same price as a couple of slices; best yet for a few dollars more you could get a beer or cocktail. TAD’s where old Milk Cows go to retire!

  7. Ginger Says:

    I had no idea that Tad’s was still around, I’ve never visited one but now I must go before they disappear!!

  8. Frank Says:

    Very cool story. The Tad’s on 14th Street co-existed with its next-door neighbor, another cut-rate eatery, the Italian Kitchen (and the Automat was across the street). I believe the Greenwich Village Tad’s on 6th Ave. was just north of 8th St., probably where Dunkin’ Donuts lives today.

    • Mykola (Mick) Dementiuk Says:

      That’s right, the Italian Kitchen, forgot about that, it was right next door to the Academy of Music movie house in my time. I loved watched the cook ladle out spaghetti out of his pot right in the street window. How my stomach grumbled…

  9. Andrew Porter Says:

    I used to go to the one on, I think, 42nd Street, in the early 1960s. Really tough but edible steak, baked potato and a bit of watery salad. Back when I was making about $40 a week…

  10. Jim Carrol Says:

    It sucked then and absolutely POSITIVE it sucks more now.

  11. Frank Says:

    Thanks for the memories of Tads. Visiting the city in the mid 70’s would go there with my parents and then with friends in late 70s and through the early 90’s. We would go to the one on West 50th between 7th and Broadway, they had a second floor and you could sit in the window and people watch. That location has been a subway station for years but if you look up the second floor window is still there. Have been to the last remaining location over the years with my kids were young.

  12. T Gargoyle Says:

    There was a Tad’s in the Wisconsin pavilion of the 1964-65 NY Worlds Fair. We ate there. I still have heartburn.

  13. Bob Says:

    “Tad’s Steaks is finally cooked in the Big Apple.

    “The cut-rate meat slinger will shutter its last New York City outpost — which opened its doors off Times Square in 1960 — in January, according to a government filing that cited ‘economic’ troubles as the reason for the closing.

    “The cafeteria-style chophouse is known for hawking inexpensive meat-and-potato dinners on red trays — meals that cost little more than $1 each when the first one opened in 1957. A steak lunch today can be had for as little as $9.

    “At its height, Tad’s had eight New York locations out of 28 nationwide. But come Jan. 5, 2020, the red neon sign in the window advertising “broiled” steaks at 761 Seventh Ave. will go dark — as will the vast grill that played host to smoky ‘steak shows,’ where dozens of cuts could be grilled at once during the thick of lunch hour.”

    https://nypost.com/2019/10/09/tads-steaks-finally-closing-its-last-nyc-outpost/

  14. Alex Gomez Says:

    i essentially grew up above the tad’s on 42nd and 5th. My dad had worked for them and it was truly an interesting brand. in its heyday, the managers were printing $. the food was never great, but never bad either. the garlic bread was and is their signature item. RIP Tad’s…plan to go again before it closes its door permanently in NYC. Fortunately there is still the San Francisco location.

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