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Just wondering... Old NYC Restaurants

I am cautious to say this cause I may sound too senile (sweat), but when I was living in NYC, which is about 25 years ago, there was no Jean Georges, no Per Se, no Bernardin, no Daniel, no Nobu. :)
Rather, there were Lutece (closed, I heard?), La Grenouille (seems it's still in business), Hatsuhana (once called the best sushi restaurant in NY), Four Seasons (I can see it's still in business), and Windows on the Worlds (gone with the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks)

Best hotels also used to be the Palace (used to be called the 'Helmsley Palace'), the Plaza, Waldorf Astoria, United Nations Plaza Hotel (it was operated by Hyatt International. Now the hotel seems to be run by some other group?), Pierre, ST. Regis, Algonquin, etc. There was no W Hotel, no Peninsula or Mandarin, no Four Seasons, no Trump Hotel (There was Trump Tower though.)..

What do you think about these restaurants or hotels now?
Just curious... :)

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  1. agaaga, you may enjoy finding menus from some of those places, through this very neat l.a. public library database: http://www.lapl.org/resources/en/menu...

    3 Replies
    1. re: alkapal

      Oh wow! That is so cool! I could find some familiar restaurants' menus in jpg files! They even have the menu for Hatsuhana. Thanks! :)

      1. re: agaaga

        great! what's really neat is to go back in time, and search for menus from the '20s or '30s (or any modern decade, i suppose) -- a real slice of history!

        i learned of this when someone wanted to do a '20s-era party, and sought dishes that were popular then. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/644326

        1. re: alkapal

          alkapal, thanks again! For the reenactment of dishes from a 20s-era party, what could be a better historical reference than the actual menu from that era? You are awsome! :)

    2. Yes, Lutece is long gone. Also no more are La Cote Basque and La Caravelle, two of the Grand Dames of classic haute French cuisine.

      For the longest time, I had wanted to go to La Genouille, one of the last remaining of that breed. We finally had dinner there in May. What surprised me was that they have really packed in the number of tables, which takes something away from the luxuriousness one expects. In fact, there was often a traffic jam of waiters along the narrow aisle leading from the kitchen in the rear to the service table in the middle. We lucked out and had a cozy table for two in a corner. The room is very pretty, and the famous floral arrangements are magnificent. Service was courteous and efficient. Our food was excellent.

      4 Replies
      1. re: RGR

        RGR, you seem to have tried almost all the restaurants in NYC! You are awsome! :) Yes! As you said, I really loved La Genouille's floral ambience. It was at La Genouille that I tried frog meat for the first time in my life. :)

        1. re: agaaga


          Well, I do go back a long way! lol Honestly, though, when it comes to the number of restaurants tried, there are many people who have me beat by a NY mile. I'm constantly saying to Mr. R., "So many restaurants, so little time!" Considering our ages, there's more truth to that statement than I care to think about.

          This year, I've made a concerted effort to get to restaurants -- "oldies, but goodies," so to speak -- that have been on my "go to" list for a long time, La Grenouille being one of them. Another was Chanterelle. And, of course, there are always new restaurants opening, so every time I check off some on the list, there are others that get added. I generally avoid going to restaurants that are brand new, though I occasionally make exceptions.

          Btw, at La Grenouille, my husband had rognons de veau (veal kidneys), prepared in a classic mustard sauce. It's one of his favorites and is rarely found on NYC menu, so he was thrilled.

          1. re: RGR

            You must be a real foodie to try out 'oldies but goodies' especially in a city like New York, where a number of restaurants open daily. But good for you! Sometimes it is sad to watch my old time favorite restaurants go down the hill but I was so glad to hear that La Grenouille is still good foodwise. Thanks! :)

        2. re: RGR

          The one I still miss goes way back - Café Chambord - that's back to the 50s and farther. Also from the 50s and early 60s: Sea Fare of the Agean, Bruce Ho's Four Seas, Longchamps, Schrafft's, Christ Cella, Pavillion, and I'm sure I'll think of a few more soon!

        3. I wasn't around 25 years ago, but I can offer some insight:

          Lutèce closed in 2004. La Grenouille is still hanging on and remains the last bastion of traditional French haute cuisine in NYC. Frank Bruni, the recently departed NY Times restaurant critic, has mentioned it in an interview with Eater: http://ny.eater.com/archives/2009/08/...
          If you're feeling nostalgic, Le Bernardin is the closest thing NYC has to a fine dining mainstay: 23 years in business and 23 unbroken years with the NY Times 4* rating. Eric Ripert is only in his 40's and if anything it seems like the restaurant continues to improve and evolve. It may leave a legacy longer and greater than Lutèce's.

          I don't think Hatsuhana has been in the discussion of serious sushi restaurants in a long time, as they aren't as exacting in terms of fish and rice quality as the top places (to be fair, they are also less expensive). Having things like California rolls and spicy tuna rolls on the menu gives the impression of a second-tier sushi restaurant.

          The Four Seasons (restaurant) is still chugging along. The food there isn't the most exciting, but it's usually well-executed and benefits from the unique dining rooms.

          The Helmsley Palace Hotel is now called The New York Palace, and it is supposedly still in the top tier of luxury hotels in NYC along with the Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula, St. Regis, the Ritz-Carltons etc. The Pierre is probably a step or two behind, and while the Plaza and Waldorf-Astoria have long histories, they have been overshadowed by the above.

          2 Replies
          1. re: hcbk0702

            Thanks very much for your information. I didn't know that Le Bernardin has been around for 23 years!

            Back then, Hatsuhana was mentioned in almost all the NYC guidebooks as 'the best sushi restaurant in NYC'. Their business was so good that they opened branches (also in Manhattan). Of course, it seems they've been falling behind since then.

            As I remember, 'The Helmsley Palace' used to have a restaurant called 'Trianon'. They served breakfast there too, as I recall. Good old memories... :)

            I also wonder whether Waldorf-Astoria still has a cafe called "Peacock Alley", where they served tea sets and cocktails and a charming lady used to play a harp in the afternoon.

            1. re: agaaga

              The harpist was Darryl Sherman...a lot of her tunes are on my Comcast Music channel...beautiful sound and voice.

          2. La Grenouille and Four Seasons are going strong, as is 21 Club, Delmonico's and other bastions.
            The Plaza is fine except for the Palm Court. I spent an afternoon in the Oak Bar drinking champagne last month and it looks wonderful, the murals are sparkling. The Pierre is getting ready to open Le Caprice in their old restaurant space - I popped in and checked out the wonderful Rotunda Room - really my favourite hotel, apart from the Carlyle which is also going strong. So although there are changes (Tavern on the Green will be under new ownership next year and Cafe des Artistes closed), lots of the old fabulous places are still there!! (P.S. Gabriel Kreuther at the Modern is from Alsace as was Andre Soltner of Lutece and has some Alsatian-inspired items on his menu if you're missing Lutece)

            4 Replies
            1. re: bronwen

              Hi bronwen! Really? Cafe des Artistes is closed?? Won't they open again? Wow... I liked their ambience and I will be sad if it is gone...

              I wonder what the Plaza will look like after renovaion. I plan to check it out this time when I am in NY. :)

              1. re: agaaga

                Cafe des Artistes just closed about 2 weeks ago... from the article in the NY Times, it doesn't look like they will be reopening.

                1. re: iluvcookies


                  The Plaza's restaurant, the Oak Room, reopened earlier this year, and the food received a pretty scathing review and only one star from Bruni.


                  Chef Joel Antunes, was prompty fired, and a new chef (whose name escapes me) was hired. He revamped the menu -- more New American than French -- and prices were lowered substantially. I have not heard much about the Oak Room since.


                  The Langs will definitely not be reopening Cafe des Artistes. Plus, they've filed for bankruptcy.

                  The restaurant's name belongs to the Des Artistes building, and most people think, eventually, a restaurant will occupy the space again. In fact, Drew Nierporent has made noises indicating he may be interested.

                  1. re: RGR

                    RGR, thanks again, for your very informative comments. :) Fortunately, I plan to try only afternoon tea at the Champagne Bar this time. But I feel sorry to see that the Oak Room isn't doing well now. The place is part of my old memories... Here are some photos of a guest room at the Plaza and myself during the early 1980s (sweat), just for fun.

            2. This may be of interest to you


              the blogger visits old restaurants in NY and reviews them... very interesting!

              2 Replies
              1. re: iluvcookies

                It is interesting indeed, although there are also many restaurants that I am not that familiar with. Thanks! :)

                1. re: agaaga

                  The places he reviews are not really well known, just neighborhood stalwarts that seem to be in a time warp... places one might pass by and think "Wow, do people still go there?" Hence the feature's name. "Who Goes There?".

              2. i went to the four seasons about a yr and half ago. the service was horrendous but the food was almost amazing enough for me to go back.

                1 Reply
                1. re: tkm616

                  Oh service wasn't that good at Four Seasons? Pity... But good thing that you could enjoy the food at least. :)

                2. Remember Chanterelle. It too has closed.

                  1. Le Perigord is still around and I think I heard somewhere that Andre Bouterin was back at the helm in the kitchen.

                    Sad to hear about the passing of La Cote Basque. I had an incredible meal there once. Same thing for Lutece. I was really sad about the passing of Ducasse at the Essex House- not an oldie, but we had a meal there than really can't be equalled. Such brilliance proved to be unsustainable.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rosenn

                      I'd heard ruours about Cafe de Artiste and a sorry it is gone...always a fun place (until a certain former Sec of State starting using MY table). Perigord is the survivor from my youth and childood..we used to also go to Le Marmiton, the old Gripsholm was a favorite, and the Brussels was lots of fun. Cella for steak, of course.
                      I remember my father's ire when skate was n longer publically available in NYC. He blamed it on John Lindsay

                    2. I lived in Manhattan until 1988.

                      Lutece was a singular restaurant. I only got to go once. Le Cote Basque was also a bastion of excellence.

                      I recall eating at Rao's when Vincent Rao was still alive. Boy, were things different back then at that place. It was, and still is, among the most amusing places to have dinner in New York. If you've got a friend with a table, that is.

                      Peacock Alley is still great at the Waldorf. However, they sadly got rid of the great Daryl Sherman, a songstress who'd play the standards on Cole Porter's piano at high tea on weekdays, with a kid-friendly session on Sundays.

                      I didn't keep tabs much on the NY hotels. I do recall being a guest at a wedding at the Plaza. Guests from outside of the city got rooms for the night, and all were invited to a brunch the day following the wedding. A few of us were having drinks in one of the rooms and noticed that the wallpaper was peeling, the furniture was run-down, and the window looked out onto an airway (directly at other windows). We were aghast, thinking that the Plaza was far mor luxurious than that. Perhaps the room in question was reserved for staff of guests, e.g., drivers, etc. The high-end hotel business is competitive now in the City; it appears to me as if there's really no such thing as a run-down hotel room in New York any longer, unless one's spending $150 a night or less.

                      Finally, I remember when The Waverly Inn was a place you could get a 3-course roast beef dinner for $7.95. And eat in front of a working fireplace in an historical old inn. Boy, those were the days!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: shaogo

                        I forgot all about Luchow's. It was fabulous on 14th street and died when they moved it uptown.

                        Deserving of a nod is the oldest continuously-operating Chinese restaurant in NYC, the Nom Wah Tea Parlor on Doyers Street. They're still alive and ticking after nearly 90 years!

                      2. I know this thread is primarily about long gone upscale restaurants, but I long for: Bun 'n Burger, Starks, Longchamps, The Women's Exchange, Child's, Schraffts, the perfectly awful Monk's Inn that college kids took their dates to...and so many more.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: mairemartello

                          Bun 'n Burger, Prexy's, Chock full o' Nuts (boy, do I really miss their orange drink, hot dogs and nutted cheese sandwiches). Schrafft's and Stouffers (remember Top O' The Sixes?).

                          How about lunch at the Charleston Garden in the old B. Altman's department store? It was about $2.00 for a luncheon of meat loaf, mashed potatoes, vegetable, and their signature salad with the strawberry mayonnaise dressing.

                          And while I'm at it, I'd like to mention the old Horn and Hardart restaurant chain - the originator of the Automat.

                          1. re: shaogo

                            OMG - Chock full o'Nuts - those hotdogs were the best and those nutty sandwiches. The automat was sooooo much fun as a kid - fast food at its best. Top of the Sixes - I remember birthday parties there. And who can forget Trader Vic's in the Plaza.

                            It is sad that all those great upscale places are gone. I remember going to Cote Basque for a job interview luncheon in the early 80s - what a meal and got the job.

                            How about Christ Cella and Pen and Pencil? Two great old steak places

                            1. re: acoolr

                              I'm still saddened a little when I think of Cella's and realize again that it is gone. The End was grisly..but I cheer myself up remembering what it once was

                          2. re: mairemartello

                            I thought it was about upscale restos still operating... If we're going to bring up not-so-upscale places then Katz's, Eisenberg's.... these places haven't changed their decor in my lifetime.

                            1. re: mairemartello

                              The Monks Inn! Dates used to take me there..in college! Ha! Always stuck with spinach salad. Waiters were very forward, in cassocks.

                              1. re: mairemartello

                                Regarding the Women's Exchange, also remembering Zoe Chase's (East 60th), and the Schrafft's on 13th and Fifth. NY Mag Best Bets wrote great reviews of these, now found in the entire magazine on Google books. At that Schrafft's, I would say 'Look mother, that lady is GASSED', and mom would say 'Don't look, dear'. My plate was a ham and butter sandwich on white with the crusts removed. That Schrafft's did NOT make the peter rabbit sundae.

                              2. Gosh, do I remember Prexy's...the Hamburger with the College Education. They had a little location in the subway station under the Plaza Hotel off 58th St. It was just a hole in the wall, but what great burgers! Anybody remember a coffee shop in the east 50's off 5th Ave...Robert Day Dean? How about the funky Hamburg Cafe next to the 59th ST Bridge? Still remember the round windows. Also the Gibson on East 28th St.?

                                1. I have fond memories of my first visits to 'fancy' restaurants with my mom, when i was in my early teens. La Grillade -- really no more than a bistro -- on eighth in the low 50s was a favorite of hers, 'cause of the mussels. i really liked the overall vibe. and there was a Chinese place -- with a man's name as it's name -- whose name i can't recall, with the best moo shoo pork i ever had (before my 13th birthday, that is).

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: debinqueens

                                    Deb, was the Chinese place David K's? I got 'stuck' there once when my date didn't realize it was $30 combined cover + minimum pp. The Hermes and Grima jewelry got us a reprieve. Hugh Shannon was playing piano while the vertical minks cooed 'Hugh, play what you played me in Capri'!. HS also played the Bath + Tennis in WHB.

                                    1. re: cblog

                                      what a funny memory, cblog!

                                      no, it wasn't that place. it was a specific name a la Danny Ng and while it was more expensive than i was used to for the time -- i remember the moo shoo being somewhere in the neighborhood of $15, which seemed outlandish to me in 1980/1981 -- it wasn't quite that bad!

                                      now i am on a mission to remember/recover that memory...

                                      1. re: debinqueens

                                        I know just the place you mean and I can't remember the name and it's killing me.

                                        Bill Something?

                                        1. re: Sneakeater

                                          BIll Hong's?


                                          I used to work nearby, in the mid-'90s. I thought it was crazy expensive, myself. Good, but not THAT good.

                                          1. re: small h

                                            YES. THAT'S IT!

                                            (At least the one *I* was thinking of.)

                                  2. Peter Luger is still around!

                                    1. Let us not forget Tad's Steak House. Still going strong.
                                      Once a year our family of 7 would go to Radio City Music hall for the show and a movie. Afterward we'd all go to Tad's. My dad was a mailman and Tad's was the only place in our burget. To us it was like Per Se!! Great memories.