Friday, June 12, 2015

Restaurants of the Past

New York City, Joline Weiss, Sea Fare of the Aegean

I was thinking about some of the restaurants I used to love around the country and how many are now sadly out of business! I’m sure everyone can relate to their favorite places which are now just memories. The restaurant and bar business must be the toughest gig in town, always subject to changing styles, tastes and an often fickle clientele.  My early memories of fine dining go back to past buying trips in New York City for Wesco Fabrics with my mother-in-law, Joline Weiss. The Sea Fare of the Aegean was the first fancy place Joline took me to, and it is now just a fond memory.

Maxwell's Plum

Does anyone remember Maxwell’s Plum? Warner LeRoy, the flamboyant son of Hollywood producer, Mervyn LeRoy of Wizard of Oz fame, created Maxwell’s Plum on New York City’s 64th street and later in San Francisco. It was a visually stunning restaurant and bar resplendent with Tiffany glass ceilings and Lalique wall plaques. At one time it was totally the place to go for the “see and be seen crowd.” The picture shows the San Francisco Maxwell’s Plum at Ghiradelli Square. The restaurant took over the location vacated by “Senor Pico’s”, another favorite of mine.  It was really over-the-top but so much fun!


One of our favorite fabric suppliers for Wesco Fabrics used to take us for Sunday lunch to Ratner’s, a famous Kosher restaurant on New York’s Lower Eastside. It closed its doors to redevelopment in 2002 after 97 years in business.

Elaine's, Mick Jagger, Woody Allen

Elaine’s, New York City’s famous Eastside restaurant and bar, was famous with the literary and artistic crowd for years. Writers like Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, Woody Allen and Mick Jagger called it home on many late nights. It closed in 2011. On my visits in the past, I remember always seeing a star or two…plus many more patrons looking for stars!

Woody Allen, Cafe des Artistes

Marla and I watched Woody Allen’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery” over the weekend, a fun “blast from the past.” Woody filmed a scene in this beautiful upper Eastside eatery for the movie. The old world opulence was enhanced by Howard Chandler Christy’s pastel murals of prancing ladies. I wanted to dine here for years, but never made it. It closed in 2009.

Horn & Hardart, automat

On my first New York buying trip, Joline Weiss took me for lunch at Horn and Hardart, the famous automat, first opened in 1902. I remember a waitress walking away from me because I didn’t order lunch fast enough! Now that was a real Big Apple memory for sure!

Pagliacci, Denver

We loved going to Pagliacchi, the landmark Italian restaurant in Northwest Denver. It was a real throwback old style family style place with the greatest minestrone soup! It closed in 2012 after 66 years.

hotdog, Kasper's, Oakland, California

I love hotdogs, especially the steamed variety! The real deal for us was Kaspers on Telegraph Avenue in a slightly dicey part of Oakland California, at this location since 1943. We stopped by for a hotdog on every trip to the Bay Area.  I was heartbroken when it closed in 2003. I remember a fun evening years before I was married, when a friend of mine came up with the idea to find the perfect hotdog. In one night we hit Kasper’s, Casper’s, The Smoke House and Chris’, to find the ultimate dog. The winner was Kasper’s! “Please pass the Tums!”

Tonga Room, Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco

Now here is a favorite restaurant of mine that is….STILL open, but by rights probably should be closed. It’s the Tonga Room in San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel. Is there anything better than sipping a Zombie or Mai Tai in a retro Polynesian Tiki Bar restaurant while a boat filled with musicians floats by in a pool in the middle of the place? No, you haven’t sipped too many umbrella drinks, this really happens! It reminds me of my grandfather as a young boy and his two brothers who used to play music in a boat on a pool in a San Francisco restaurant around the turn-of the- century. I heard one night the boat started to sink, but the intrepid brothers played on!

***You MUST see the YouTube video of Anthony Bourdain at the Tong Room!!!

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