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Favorite defunct New York City restaurants


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Lutece. I dined there as a boy with my parents when Soltner was at the helm and these evenings were forever etched in my young mind. I suppose I can partially blame Soltner for what has become a full-blown high end food addiction in my adult life.

While Lutece was never a contender in NYC after Soltner left, I still loved it. I miss the $26 prix fixe lunches, the crusty old waiters who suffered through my rusty French vocabulary with a smile, the gracious FOH staff who always made me feel like an old friend , the classic Bourgundies by the glass from great producers like Roumier and Leroy, the absolute bank-vault quiet of that prehistoric dining room, and most of all the ridiculously good apple tart.

Their brand of old-school service and style is a thing of the past in NYC as far as I know. La Grenouille is the next closest thing, but has always been a bit too flashy for me to tolerate. It will probably be gone soon too, given the fact that most of their regulars are already partially fossilized.

Well said.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Jason's post about his first fine dining experience reminded me of an other, and also my first, Laurent. Does anyone remember this one? I will have to call my parents to find out where it was but I remember the plush arm charis, table-side carving/flambe and having to pre-order the soufle.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Although it wasn't a favorite, yesterday I found myself having flashbacks about Greener Pastures which was a vegetarian restaurant on E. 60 btw Park and Lex (I was walking down the block, hence the memories). Back in the early 80s when I was allowed to come into Manhattan on my days off from school this was the place we always went to for lunch (perhaps because it was so close to Bloomingdales). They had a glass-enclosed dining room which was really nice to sit in. And I still remember their salad which had nuts and raisins in it -- that was a new concept to me -- plus they brought to the table cruets of vinegrette. I always ordered the same entree: Eggplant Parmigana.

Sigh.... memories. :smile:

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

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On tues night i passed by one of my favorite bars to see a big FOR RENT sign in the window. Bar D'O on bedford and downing was a cute lounge y bar. it had been there for at least 7 yrs if not more. I m so sad:( oh well

"Is there anything here that wasn't brutally slaughtered" Lisa Simpson at a BBQ

"I think that the veal might have died from lonliness"

Homer

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The first time I had Peking Duck was in the Spring of 1988 at Peking Duck on Amsterdam and 69th Street. I can't remember when it closed down but now there is a Blockbuster Video in its place. Perhaps I have had much better Peking Duck when I was in Beijing four years ago. However, at the time I was blown away by this place.

Edited by mascarpone (log)
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And I would be remiss not to mention The Ballroom on Ninth Avenue, and its wonderfully talented young chef-owner, the late Felipe Rojas-Lombardi.

Oh, yes. Possibly the first appearance of tapas in New York, many years ahead of the curve. Mmmm, snails and red beans.

We always thought it was funny to have dinner at The Ballroom, followed by a show at The Kitchen.

But are you sure about it being on Ninth Ave? I remember somewhere in Soho, then moved to West 27th or so. In any case, you're right to bring it up.

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  • 1 year later...

I was mulling over my past (this seems to happen more and more with the onset of age fifty!).

I recalled some of my favorite restaurants over the years that are no longer ( I wish I had kept a diary!) in hopes that I would manage to refresh my memory (who knows how many places i ate at that I have no recollection of).

Anyway--memories and experiences are always synched up with various points in one's history so from the seventies and through the eighties I thought I'd list a few that I do miss, wondering if any contemporaries share the pangs of loss I do--and can add their own!!!

(and realizing full well, that they may not have been as good as I remember!)

Lespinasse

This one is easy as it was where, not long ago, I enjoyed some of my finest meals anywhere.

I know Mr Kunz is still cookin but Lespinasse was a special place-four stars all the way--I remember a dish of frog's legs in a lemmongrass scented broth--the food here was subtle, suprising and so artfully conceived. I also recall sitting a table away from Julia Child not too long before her passing.

Rakel

Before the celebrity chef craze--I did not know mush about Mr Keller then--this was a teriffic spot.

The food was well thought out and satisfying. Less precious, refined and detailed than his cooking is today but superb overall. I remember loving the fois gras! Good wine list-- and the decor! I loved the huge paintings over the bar flanking a white screen on which scenes from the surrounding Manhattan neighborhood shot in real time from a live camera inside the restaurant were shown. One shot of the Empire State Building bathed in fading light as we dined remains with me today--the whiter piano and palm fronds at the entrance, the wonderful bar--this was a very cool place (unfortunately in a very uncool--or maybe too cool location).

Jams

79th Street just East of Madison I believe. Jonathan Waxman brought california cuisine to NY. this place was hot-where the in crowd ate before hitting the discos! Great chicken and fries and food that was fresh, with bright flavors.

Caravelle

Ok another recent memory --but over the years I had some wonderful meals from a parade of chefs. Maybe not the very top, but always rewarding and very civilized.

Vienna 79

East 79th street of course. (I do remember vaguely a similar spot in midtown-the fifties).

This was the best Viennese food I have had antywhere in the US.

A couple of seafood places:

John Clancy

In the West Village--later they opened a second spot uptown--this was where I discovered seafood! The swordfish Brochettes were superb, great raw bar.

Wilkinson's

On the upper East side (York Avenue I believe). A tuna Provincale style sticks with me--this was a really fine seafood establishement.

Two really fine Chinese Restaurants:

Flower Drum

Second Avenue--I always liked this best of the uptown Chinese spots. The family who ran it were special people.

Hunan

At the vanguard of the spicy food explosion uptown--second Avenue in the forties-cool greys in the interior--ultra modern at the time--and the food was spiced big time!

There are a whole bunch of "street food" establishments: remember Goldberg's Pizza? (the only attempt to establish Chicago style pies in NYC that I know of). The Baby Back movement: Bobby Rubinos, Carsons (the place for ribs also Chicago based), Wylies.

Anyway-I really wish I had kept a more detailed journal over the years --hope some others remember these places with more details than I do and add some of their own.

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There's really only 1 that immediately springs to mind for me. We used to vacation in the Outer Banks every summer when I was a kid. There was a pizza place in Nags Head that we ate ate on the 1st night of our stay every year. It was called Van's Pizza & the support colums for the building went right through the center of the tables which were painted red. Van's was still there last time we were down in 1998 (after some 25 years of visiting) but in a completely different form. It was a "regular" Italian restaurant & the pizza wasn't anywhere near as good.

Rock is dead. Long live paper & scissors!
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A recent departure but I remember when Clementine opened it was my favorite restaurant in NY for about two years...I felt the food and especially the front room/bar were stunning. I believe it changed hands after a few years and the food and service suffered because of it. The space is now home to Otto which I have not visited. Interestingly enough I always wanted to live in the bulilding where Otto/Clementine is located. #1 5th Ave is just a beautiful building.

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This is another relatively recent closing, but I loved Cafe Lebowitz (now Barmarché) down on Elizabeth and Spring. That was my ex-boyfriend's and my "spot" right until it closed--Mike knew David, the chef there. We both knew when David was in a bad mood, we could taste it in the pea soup. :smile: What I loved about the place was:

1) the garlic fries

2) the rigatoni with sausage, tomatoes and cream--it was so easy and simple, and it made me feel like I was at home

3) the feeling that I was at home. I love restaurants where one can become a regular in the same way that one can be so at a bar--walking into a place where everyone smiles at you in recognizition is such a nice little moment during the day. I miss that a lot--not the relationship, but the restaurant for sure. :smile:

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Just discovered this thread. It's been a few years since I've been in NYC, so I don't know the recent departures, but...

Like many others, I feel pangs of nostalgia when I hear the words "Horn & Hardart." (And does anyone remember Dubrow's Cafeteria? We used to go to the one on Kings Highway in Brooklyn, but they also had one near the Garment District.) And oh, the old Russian Tea Room!

Does anyone remember the name of the Chinese restaurant on East Broadway that was used in a scene in a Woody Allen film? It had the best Cold Sesame Noodles, a recipe I'm still trying to duplicate from memory.

And there were all those cheap French restaurants in the West 50s, where I got my first taste of French food, and the Greek places further west near 8th-9th Avenues. One was upstairs, I remember. And my first Moroccan restaurant somewhere in the East Village. The interior was draped with a fabric ceiling, and they served incredible green olive oil as a dip with bread. And a kitschy Italian restaurant in the West Village called, I believe, Vesuvio, where the waiters made Zabiglione at the table. And a wonderful little Italian pastry shop on 2nd Avenue around 40th Street, with wrought iron chairs and tiny black & white tiles on the floor...

Damn! I'm getting hungry!

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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At first I thought it was odd to see so many less than exceptional restaurants on the list, and I realized I missed restaurants I would no longer frequent even if they were still here. Some very mediocre restaurants, perhaps even some very bad ones, have some very good memories associated with them.

I remember Clementine when it opened, but I also remember a change in direction and menu. I don't know how long it had the kind of food that drew us there, but I suspect the clientele wasn't there to support that food. When it downscaled the operation in terms of food style, we lost all interest. We already missed what it had offered originally even when it was still open.

Dubrow's is a magic word from a very distant past. The one at Flatbush and Church Avenues in Brooklyn was a not infrequent lunch haven during high school. I suppose I've put more about my time and place down with that than anything else I've posted. There was probably a time when I lost all interest in that kind of food, preferring instead to eat the many other cuisines that were new in my life. Much of what they served probably carries on in the many luncheonettes and coffee shops, but it's not really the same. Even the food isn't really the same. I believe the last of those old high ceiling art deco cafeterias has disappeared, at least in Manhattan. It's a pity on many levels.

The Russian Tea Room, the old Russian Tea Room, has a few poignant memories for me. The replacement Russian Tea Room was gaudier in a way that offended me. The original decor was somehow charming. The old RTR was a New York institution. The new one was a tourist center. I miss the old one. Nevertheless, it never really figured in my dining plans even before it was ruined for us. We visited the new one twice because it was new and because we had reason to expect much better from the chef. I don't believe he was given the support he needed.

The French restaurants on the west side, generally on Ninth Avenue in the fifties, are sorely missed, although I wonder what, if any, place they'd serve in my dining pattern today. They served the crews of the French liners that used to dock at the piers further west. Their demise was a part of larger local and global changes. Some moved a bit east and became part of the theater dining scene. They were a regular part of dining out in the early days of our marriage and a regular part of our social life.

I don't know if I miss some of the more upscale French restaurants in the east fifties as much. We couldn't afford them as often. I remember le Chanteclair at whose bar I often met friends in college. I think I ate there once or twice. It was owned by two French bothers who were ex-Grand Pix race car drivers if I'm not mistaken. It was that glamour that attracted me in my youth, rather than the food. Cafe St. Denis, on the other hand, was a place I recall from the time we began to take a serious interest in food. They made a dish, Pintadeau en Croûte or something like that, which provided an epiphany for me. It was guinea hen braised in red wine and served under a pastry crust. It was sort of a coq au vin meets chicken pot pie, with a guinea hen substitution. Not exactly what we think of as haute cuisine today and it's a pity we don't often find that kind of cooking done as well today as it was then. When good food becomes a drug, we often go to excess and forget the early pleasures. I suppose I miss my own innocence as much as Cafe St. Denis.

No one has mentioned Luchow's in this thread, although it has been mentioned before on the site. That seems unforgivable, although I've often wondered if it's a place I'd choose today.

Robert Buxbaum

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:smile: July 4th Weekend, we should take a moment to remember some of the fine dining at Windows on the World. Rest in Peace....

What defunct restaurants in New York did you like best or do you miss most?

For my part, I still miss Foo Joy, the Fujian banquet-style restaurant that served some dishes I've never seen since.

I also enjoyed Gitlitz, the kosher delicatessen on 77 St. and Broadway, and Chun Cha Fu, a Mandarin restaurant that was good for years on Broadway between 91st and 92nd Sts.

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Good reminder for the Fourth...

When I was the chief elected official of a town I had to go to NYC for a bond rating review. I was warned that one of the reviewers was notorious for falling asleep during these presentations. I brought visuals, including a portrait of a streetscape project I had planned.

To my surprise, the reviewer was very animated and asked a million questions. When the review was over he was still chatting with me. Our banker said he never saw such a thing with this guy. It turned out the reviewer was also interested in a streetscape project for his town and he loved what mine was doing and wanted to use it as a model. Sure!!

We got a very nice bond rating upgrade and our banker took us to Windows on the World on his expense account for a three hour lunch. I will never forget it. Terrific food, excellent drinks, wonderful views of the city.

It was a real New York experience. Sadly, lamented.

Edited by TrishCT (log)
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:smile: July 4th Weekend, we should take a moment to remember some of the fine dining at Windows on the World. Rest in Peace....

Yes, indeed. Besides my memories of dining there, I lost a friend who was there for a conference on 9/11.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Wine Cellar in the Sky(did I remember the name) inside Windows was my 1st experience with wines and foods being matched. Such fond memories mixed with such sad ones of 911.

I also have memories of Horn and Hardart, we would take the train into the "CITY", go to a museum or a play and than stop at the Automat. Also I asked my husband who is in NY right now to see if Mrs Stahl's knishes was still around and found on a post today that it isn't.-Do cherrycheese knishes still exist somewhere?

There used to be an Indian place on Central Park South-you could see the central park skating ring-I remember the pleasure of dinner there-but could not seem to find it when looking up places for his trip, guess its also a fond memory. :sad:

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Definitely Bayamo on Broadway in NoHo. Would go there for great fushiony Cuban food (and the best Cubano I've had north of Tampa) - then head off to hear swing music at Lousiana Bar & Grill. Solid one-two punch that is now a Le Chateau and a Best Buy. Crappers.

For atmosphere, and some wonderful game (they had great buffalo steaks), I miss Gage and Tollner - especially more since it is now a TGI Fridays. Double crappers.

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Yeah, I miss Louisiana, too. Perhaps just a bit pricey for what it served, or at least people from New Orleans thought so, because it was bar food to them, but it was good and what huge portions they served! I liked their jambalaya, their shrimp creole, their crawfish etouffee, and their really rich, big desserts. They didn't skimp on the chili, and it was a good place to eat at the bar. Plus, friends of mine (as well as various other good groups) used to gig there regularly and I would sit in from time to time.

Bayamo, on the other hand, is a place I never went back to after they decided not to keep friends of mine on. They're in an excellent charanga group, and I spent a lot of money to support their sets, as did others. But yes, I enjoyed the food and drinks. I remember in particular a dessert of platanos maduros flambeed in rum, with dulce de leche ice cream. That was great!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Most of the ones I miss are hole-in-the-wall types...I definitely couldn't afford the fancier places until, well, relatively recently.

I'll always have a soft place in my heart for Szechwan Cuisine at 40 East Broadway (or was it 30 East Broadway?). In the early '80's they were serving something much closer to actual Szechwan food than all those Empire Szechwans then popping up everywhere else in Manhattan. (It had kind of a cult following--it's possible this is the one used in the Woody Allen movie.)

Also Say Eng Look, which I've mentioned elsewhere...they had some great Shanghai dishes that I've still never found on a restaurant menu anywhere else.

There was a lovely little restaurant on Eighth Avenue, somewhere around 23rd St. that was around for about 5 minutes sometime circa 1984 called Q. It was a small, very comfortable yet upscale-in-feel place that served very well-prepared food that was sort of American-with-a-French-accent at VERY reasonable prices. My significant other at the time and I would go there whenever we could justify it to ourselves--we were dirt poor, but it was a tremendous value. I can still remember eating their delicious snails appetizer.

I, too, miss Leshko's and the old Kiev.

There was a lovely Japanese restaurant on 8th Street between 5th and 6th called Gate, ca. 1990. Perhaps it was not significantly different or better than many other Japanese places around, but something about it caught my fancy and I loved it.

Oh, and Mappamondo--good, simple, inexpensive Italian food down by Abingdon Square.

Edited by Eric_Malson (log)

My restaurant blog: Mahlzeit!

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Definitely Bayamo on Broadway in NoHo. Would go there for great fushiony Cuban food (and the best Cubano I've had north of Tampa) -

Oh goodness, I had a wonderful first date there on July 4th in 1987. Drank too many margaritas then headed over to see the fireworks.

And you food snobs will shoot me, but Bayamo reminds me of another neighborhood restaurant that I used to frequent when I was underage. I KNOW the food was crap but the drinks were killer and as I said, I was underage and they'd serve us. Any love for Caramba!, !!, !!! and !!!! ??

I miss the 80's.

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  • 1 month later...

I really miss Sun lok kee on mott st. Great snails & razor clams w. black bean sauce and their fresh steamed fish w. ginger & scallions. I was addicted to their peking pork chops.

Sun Ko Shing on East broadway was another joint we frequented.

Phoenix garden in the alley way of Elizabeth & bowery was a family favorite.

For Dim sum we used to frequent Sun Tong Gong on Pell st.

Damn, i miss the eighties.

LOL.

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