Sunday, January 24, 2016

Luchow's

Technically, "Luchow's" should have an umlaut over the "u"—but I don't know how to make one here, and I've seen formatting not carry through to its desired effect and end up looking like a misplaced emoticon, so I'm going to skip it. Interestingly, though, the umlaut was removed between 1917 and 1950 due to anti-German sentiment, but finally restored because without the umlaut people mistook it for a Chinese restaurant. Eventually, in the 1980s, when the original location was abandoned and the business attempted to move to the Theatre District, the umlaut was removed once again, one might presume, not to confuse it with a heavy metal band.

Before all this umlaut-nonsense, however, Luchow's (with umlaut) was one of the most famous restaurants in the country, America's foremost German restaurant, and THE place to be on Christmas. Established in 1882 at 110 East 14th Street in New York City by German immigrant August Luchow, the restaurant managed to hang on for nearly a century, serving German and Austrian fare, including the world-famous Sachertorte.

The painting of Luchow's, below, is by Harvey Kidder and is from Ford Times Cookbook Volume 4. Apparently, during the holidays, the nightly lighting of the Christmas tree was a big deal.



In the book, Dining in New York, by Rian James (2nd Edition, 1931), Mr. James laments what prohibition era 14th Street has become: "...a mere shadow of its former self; a staid, commonplace thoroughfare now, over-run with schlock stores, cut-rate druggists, and shops where the values are so outstanding that the police and the first-comers to a sale arrive simultaneously—a broad, drab, sleepy street..." Sir, if you only knew.

The 14th Street location was closed in the early 1980s, and despite a few lame attempts to revive it or something similar, the building was finally demolished in 1995 and replaced with an NYU dorm.



I wonder, now, if patrons of the Dunkin' Donuts at the spot where Luchow's once thrived ever find themselves placing an umlaut over the "u" in "Dunkin'" without realizing why they're doing it? Even after a building is gone, I wonder, do ghosts of past inhabitants carry on? I like to think someone born in this century might sit at an orange plastic table with a cup of the world's best coffee and notice an odd companion, perhaps from over a 100 years ago, or even one of the more famous guests of Luchow's over the years, too numerous to name here, but among them: Cole Porter, James Cagney, Marlene Dietrich, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein, Lillian Gish, Jack Benny, Helen Hayes, Irving Berlin, Rachmaninoff, O. Henry, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Vincent Price, Ed Koch, Richard M. Nixon, David Bowie. They all enjoyed the Wiener Schnitzel at Luchow's. Presumably not all on the same night.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Barn Restaurant


I bought a copy of the 1978 first edition of Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern for this Restaurant Time Tunnel project, hoping to look up some of the listings in that essential traveling food guide. The Barn Restaurant, in Delta, Ohio has a nice entry. The address is 313 W. Main Street, Delta, Ohio, and it seems to still be open. The picture above is from when I stopped by maybe 5 years ago, though I'm not sure exactly. I had a fine diner breakfast. The place really is situated in a barn, just west of the small town of Delta, on a road called "Alternate" U.S. 20, which is the U.S. Route 20 that runs from Boston to Newport, Oregon. Regular U.S. 20 runs parallel to this road, several miles north, for some reason. I bet there's a story there, but I don't know it. The Barn is also within walking distance of an exit on the Ohio Turnpike, though if you're on the turnpike you're probably not walking... but who knows. Jane and Michal Stern enjoyed the "wet beef" sandwich, and said the pork steak also looked good. They also mention a sign above the cash register that said, "New pork is second only to sex." I don't remember seeing that sign on my visit, but I might have missed it. One wonders if priorities have changed at all over the last 35 years.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

B & H Dairy Restaurant

The May 1985 DETAILS magazine included an "East Village Guide" with an extensive "Food" section by Hal Rubenstein. Under the subheading "Running on Empty," B & H Dairy Restaurant is compared to "an old man who refuses to buy a hearing aid, so he fakes it and invariably says the wrong thing." Apparently, the B & H Dairy was an old favorite in the neighborhood that had passed its prime and didn't meet up with expectations established in the good ole days. ("The place just hasn't been the same since it reopened.") Though Rubenstein concedes that Annie Flanders (founder and editor of the original Details) "swears by their cold borscht," he complains that "breakfast here is a sorry affair," and the coffee is as "weak as the bum sitting next to you."

Well, good news. It's 2012 and the B & H Dairy Restaurant is going strong... and the coffee is not bad, It has indeed outlasted over half of the places represented in the East Village Guide Food section, as well as most of the decent diners in 1985 Manhattan... which have disappeared as fast as Starbucks could replace them. It's a small place, and as you might suspect, with good food, low prices, and great atmosphere, it gets crowded. Like the subway, you might have to rub elbows with your neighbors. And by the way, that "bum" sitting next to you is Randy Lincoln. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lobster Box














The Lobster Box Restaurant is featured in Volume 5 of The Ford Times Cookbook, 1968. Here is a drawing based on the painting by Harvey Kidder. The book's entry says that The Lobster Box is in a century-old mansion and is the oldest landmark on City Island, New York, on Long Island Sound. It claims they serve lobster 21 ways, and includes a recipe for Lobster Newburg.





























These photographs, taken July 2010, confirm that the Lobster Box is still open every day at 34 City Island Avenue, Bronx, New York. City Island is an actual island, full of fascinating restaurants, and is reachable by automobile bridge. It feels remote and of a different time, yet is only minutes from the city—at least on those rare occasions when there is no traffic.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Wentworth-by-the-Sea


This is our staff artist's reproduction of the William Barss painting of Wentworth-by-the-Sea from the 1955 edition of The Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places. The historic resort hotel was built in 1874 in New Castle, New Hampshire, near Portsmouth. The description in the cookbook boasts a salt-water swimming pool. The recipe is for New Hampshire Fruit Cookies. The hotel was closed in 1982 and nearly demolished. It was saved, however, renovated, and reopened in 2003. The photographs here are from 2009.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Frenchy's Restaurant


This is a repro-duction drawn by one of our staff artists, inspired by the painting of Frenchy's Restaurant by C. L. Peterson in the Ford Times Cookbook, Volume 5, published in 1968.

The recipe listed in the cookbook is for "Braised Calves' Sweetbreads in Wine Sauce."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Frenchy's Restaurant, Milwaukee

From Ford Times Cookbook, Volume 5, a listing for Frenchy's, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on 1901 East North Avenue, describes a rather swank French and American restaurant, reservations required, owned by Paul LaPointe. It says they serve game in season. The illustration shows formally dressed diners in a dark paneled interior with red glass chandeliers. The waitresses are wearing French maid uniforms, short skirts, with big white bows on the back.

Now at that location is Beans & Barley, one of Milwaukee's most popular eating spots and meeting place. There is also a deli and natural foods grocery. Reservations are not necessary, maybe not even possible, but at peak breakfast, lunch, and dinner times expect to wait. I'm not sure what year Frenchy's closed and Beans & Barley opened, or if there was something different there in-between, but at one point early in B & B's history a fire almost completely destroyed the building. When it was rebuilt it bore little resemblance to the old structure. It's now modern, open, and airy, and quite comfortable as a dining spot. Diners and wait staff dress casually, and you're not likely to see a French maid uniform except on Halloween.