Ideal Lunch Counter
- Jim Carr
Who remembers the beloved but lost and gone forever Ideal Lunch Counter on East 86th St., NYC. What was your favorite dish? Mine was the bratwurst with red cabbage and fried potatoes, with an excellent German beer on draft. Is there any place where they have been written about? Anyone have a favorite story about the place? I am trying to put together a little story in tribute my favorite restaurant haunt.
I went there every couple of months as a child (early '80s) with my father. We would get a giant weiner schnitzel, red cabbage, and mashed potatoes. We always ended with a big portion of rice pudding with strawberry sauce on top. I remember walking out of there stuffed beyond belief and anticipating our next visit.
That brings back memories. Of a fogged up window, cooks in wifebeater t-shirts and beer in water glasses.
Maybe it's nostalgia, but in hindsight it seems to me to be one of the true greats.
I particularly liked one dish that had a huge meatball in some kind of gravy, with a longish german name (gerhimleichfressenballt, i'm guessing, but that probably just meant huge meatball in gravy).
How I wish it was still there, as it was just right for cold winter nights.
I grew up with it!
Forever we'd peek through the steamed-up window into the always packed, all stools taken "IDEAL LUNCH & BAR", as it was known...your memory's excellent, right down to the "koenigsberger klopse" with "capern sauce" - served with red cabbage and, for a litte extra, a gigantic potato pancake greasebomb.
Every six months or so, the window placards would come down for the nickel-or-dime price adjustment, just like at "Joe's Spaghetti House", right across 86th Street, where a plate with marinara set you back 55 big ones (cents), the meatball was 70.
On a personal note, I play on an Eastside softball team where the last known owners of the Ideal were my teammates until recently. The move from "the block" to between 1st & 2nd devastated the concept and kharma of the classic Ideal...while demographics of Yorkville changed, done right, I believe Ideal could have evolved into a fantastic beer 'n' brats hall / sports bar, but they upscaled themselves to a sad demise.
Thanks for the replies. I was a regular at the ideal when I lived in Yorkville. I usually sat at the counter. The great thing was watching the the guys cook right in front of me. There were always two big skillets of sauteed potatoes going at once. One they were serving from and another that was cooking. They were the best I have ever had. Something like the french pommes Anna. I have tried to duplicate them at home but never succeeded. Anybody know the secret?
Favorite story: I always ate at the counter. One day I went in with a lady friend and we ate at a table in back. We were waited on by Elisabeth, who had been taking care of the back tables since long before I started going there. But I didn't know her and she didn't know me. The next time I saw her was a year later when I went back with the same lady. Coming to the table to take our order Elisabeth said "well, and where have you two been all this time."