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Ideal Lunch Counter

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  • Jim Carr Jan 21, 2004 03:54 PM
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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.

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  1. We were just opining for the ideal the other day. Mine would have to be the farmers omlete or potato pancakes. I liked how the waitresses would stare you into submisison if you didnt finish your plate

    1 Reply
    1. re: ee

      Well, the waitresses experienced the cold fact of starvation during the war and never forgot to fishish what was in front of them AND expected the same from everyone else.

    2. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. To all,

            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."

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jim Carr

              Jim, you're talking about my mother, Elisabeth. Yes, that is exactly what she would have said. She worked there for almost 20 years and was the best.

            2. m
              Monika Humbert-Hines

              I can't believe it! I found a site about the Ideal! I'm the daughter of Werner Humbert, niece of Hermann and cousin of Albert Humbert, previous owners. Werner died about 1 1/2 years ago. My favorite meal there was "Schweinefleisch" (roast pork) with red cabbage whenever I met my father there to drive home with him after work. I used to type the menus whenever prices had to be raised. I have many memories of the Ideal through my father. He worked hard there - very often went from behind the counter during the day up to the kitchen for night shift cooking for the next day if the cook didn't show up. I have a couple of pictures if you're interested in posting them. Let me know how to get them to you, maybe via email.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Monika Humbert-Hines

                Hi Monika.

                I grew up on 96th street and than lived on East 78th street in the early 1980s after college. Frequented the Ideal, mostly for breakfast, and would love to see some photos of it.

                Thanks
                Alex de Havenon

                1. re: Monika Humbert-Hines

                  All the meals were terrific. Couldn't beat the taste nor the price. Mymother worked there with Albert/Werner.

                2. i was just telling someone about Ideal this week. another poet i know included it in a poem recently - i'll see if i can dig it up.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: thew

                    Thanks

                  2. Was just watching the Food Network and thought about Ideal. I went there almost every weekend in the early nineties. Always sat at the counter and had the farmers omelette. I still dream about it; it was the best!!

                    1. I LOVED this place.