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Fat Guy

Restaurant history of the Upper West Side

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Inspired by the 1968 thread, I wanted to start a separate topic to discuss Upper West Side restaurant history.

I'll contribute the first informational tidbit: the venerable Fine & Schapiro delicatessen on 72nd Street apparently dates to 1927. Not sure if the location has changed or not. Upon learning this tidbit, I checked it against Zagat's historic restaurant list and didn't find it. It almost didn't occur to me to look at the Zagat entry for Fine & Schapiro to see if the date is noted there. Much to my surprise, Fine & Schapiro turns out not to be in Zagat.

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The "Tip Top" and "Steinberg's Dairy" were 2 of my favorites growing up, plus the Steakhouse on 72nd Street with the big cows eyes ? I think "Victors" was the first popular "Cuban Restaurant".

My "Uncle Levy", opened up "Hebrew National", "Zion" and "Morgan David", Deli's on every few blocks that he set up, operated and sold after they became established. He used the 3 Brand Names because he sold the store with restrictive convents about no other stores with the "Brand" being allowed to open within a certain amount of blocks from the store. Since he used 3 brands he was able to put stores every few blocks. He did this along Broadway from the lower Broadway all the way up to the North End of Manhattan. Some of these stores may still be in business on the West Side, but I haven't done a Broadway Drive in Years, Maybe I'll do one when I visit next month.

I think I miss the "Appetizer Stores" the most when I visit NYC, you can still find "Deli's" but "Russ & Daughters" or "Zabars" and "Murray's" seem to be the only places mentioned on eGullet. They used to be all over the 5 Boroughs and the Suburb's, generally seemed busy to a visitor it's hard to understand why there are now so few left.

Irwin

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this is going to be a great thread to read, albiet not one I can contribute to...my only reference was the rib place on ...72nd? by the dakota, in 1982-5ish? Swiss chalet? could that be? Like a precursor to Tony Roma's and Rachel's,...they had onion ring bricks. a few kids and a move to the suburbs might have blurred this memory.. corrections appreciated.

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I believe it was called Susse Chalet, in the Hotel Olcott building, which then became Dallas Jones BBQ, then Dallas BBQ, and now everybody just calls it BBQ -- there are also quite a few branches around the city now, at least 5. I don't know if there was continuity of ownership, but the basic food has always been pretty much the same. There doesn't seem to be a history/about page on the web site: http://www.bbqnyc.com/

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actually, a quick perusal of the current offerings confirms that time does stand still..in 1981ish, that was our destination place on the UWS, from NYU...egads, rather amazing that I developed a palatte after all those onion bricks and chicken legs!

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I live on the upper west side and I have to say, restaurants don't last very long. Even in the fairly short time I've been in my current apartment, several spots have turned over multiple times. I would bet the oldest restaurant on 72nd between West End and Broadway is All State Cafe, which dates back to the 1960's under that name. I don't know how old Pier 72 is, the coffee shop on West End and 72nd. According to their web site, the Kosher butcher Fischer Bros. & Leslie has been on 72nd street since 1949. Also, the corner grocery on West End and 72nd is licensed with a name like "San Juan Hill", which makes me strongly suspect it has been there for a long time.

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Places I miss:

Al Buon Gusto: first on 72nd St, then around the corner (I think @SQC has that space now.) ABG was inexpensive italian, I remember their meatballs.

McGlades, a tavern across from ABC, it's a Starbucks now. They had delicious burgers.

Tuesday's - you could get a rack of ribs, big salad with lots of fresh blue cheese, and a baked potato for $9.99. It's China Fun now? Columbus tween 70,71.

Restaurant 222 - on 79th St. Always had a good meal there. Fancy. Had a nice truffle festival as I recall.

and others whose names don't come to me right now

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Are you certain that Al Buon Gusto took the SQC space after closing on 72nd? I though at that time the space was Peretti's, though maybe I'm not properly coordinated as to the date ranges. Also, for double bonus points, can you tell us what Al Buon Gusto's slogan was?

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Al Buon Gusto also had a great pizza, though I couldn't tell you what their slogan was... I also seem to recall them being on 68th between Broadway and Columbus, although I could be mistaken (this is when the Sony theatre/Reebok club was still a post office, obviously.)

Anyone remember the Larmen Dosanko (sp?) Japanese place where Blockbuster is on the corner of 69th and Amsterdam?

Or Beefsteak Charlie's, right on Broadway btwn. 68th and 69th?

(Yes, I used to live in the Dorchester Towers on 68th, hence the close proximity... Whatever.)

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I'll have to check with my wife to try and remember the slogan. Did it have something to do with meatballs?

Yes, the ABC space did become Peretti's, which lasted quite a while too, in Columbus Ave terms, before then turning into @SQC.

I vaguely remember Dosanko.

Beefsteak Charlies I remember much better.

And for a long time there was Diane's, on the east side of Columbus, also good for burgers.

I'll have to try and remember other places north of 72 and South of 66 next.

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The Burger Joint aka Big Nicks at Bway and 76th has been around for a long time. Recently, while reading a novel published in the 80s I discovered a reference to it.

While not a restaurant, but does anyone know how long Williams B-B-Q, the chicken place just off the SE corner of B'way and 86th has been there? It looks like a total throwback and my recollections go to the late 80s. The smell of the chickens roasting that wafts out of the shop is just heavenly.


Edited by bloviatrix (log)

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Before the space has SQC, it had Peretti's for many years (back into the 1980s); in the early 1970s I believe it had a version of O'Neal's (used to have my Sunday Harvey Wallbangers there :blush: ). Not sure what might have been there in the interim. Al Buon Gusto was there? Could be; I was away during that time.

The steakhouse Irwin refers to was Mrs. J.'s Sacred Cow. And yes, Victor's (Cuban) was somewhere up there, before it opened on 52nd Street.

Diane's had BIG (7-ounce) burgers with all sorts of toppings.

And let us not forget Tip Toe Inn, beloved by my grandfather and his wife when they moved to the UWS in the 1970s. They were not alone; I think the average age of the customers was about 75.

Dosanko? You're welcome. (sorry) I LOVED that chain; they were all over, until when? late 1980s? And Zum Zum, which has been discussed before -- was there a branch on the UWS?

edited after reading MHesse's superior information. :smile:


Edited by Suzanne F (log)

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Al Buon Gusto

"Not Fancy, Just Good."

I lived on the UWS, on 69th and Columbus, from the time I was born in 1969 (or whenever it was that I came home from Mt. Sinai hospital, probably a day or two after being born) until 1987 when I went to college. My mother still lives at the same address. My clearest memories are from when I was in high school in the mid-1980s because that's when I was dining autonomously, but I remember a lot of restaurant experiences all the way back to preschool. Boy do I miss a lot of those places.

I'm also still very interested in finding out the names of the oldest restaurants in the neighborhood, like anything pre-WWII especially. There must be a bunch of them around, since there are so many pre-WWII buildings in the neighborhood that were obviously designed for well-to-do people to live in. Most such places would have likely been wiped out during the UWS's Dark Ages of urban decline, but surely a few other than Fine & Schapiro stayed in the game through those times.

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I hear that Ernies and their big bowls has finally bid adeiu.

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The oldest restaurant guide I have (NY Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1986) lists:

  • Brasil Brasil, 50 W 77
  • Cafe des Artistes, 1 W 67
  • Caramba, Bway & 96th
  • Centre Court, 61 w 62
  • The Conservatory, 15 CPW
  • Eclair, 141 W 72
  • Ginger Man 51 W 64 "Oldest restaurant in Lincoln Center area."
  • Hatch II, 380 Amsterdam
  • Houlihan's, Bway & 63rd
  • Indian Oven, 285 Columbus
  • Martin's Restaurant & Pub, Bway betw. 60th and 61st
  • Metropolis, 444 Columbus (80 - 81)
  • Mrs. J's Sacred Cow, 228 W 72
  • O'Neals Baloon, 48 W 63
  • Prime Time, 355 Amsterdam
  • Ruppert's, 269 Columbus
  • Tavern on the Green
  • Terrace, 400 W 119
  • Tuba City Truck Stop, Bway & 77th

Of course, these are only places that paid $$ to NYC&VB :rolleyes:

Stone: I think Ernie's has been gone for a few years; the space became some sort of Latin American place that didn't last long (UWSers, correct me if I'm wrong).


Edited by Suzanne F (log)

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According to William Grimes in the New York Times, Cafe des Artistes has been in business since 1917.

According to Tavern's web site, Tavern on the Green opened as a restaurant (it had been home to a herd of sheep since it was built in 1870) in 1934. It fell into disrepair -- no surprise here -- in the early 1970s and closed in 1974, to be reopened by Warner LeRoy (at the time best known as the creator of Maxwell's Plum) in 1976.

So right now we have:

1917 Cafe des Artistes

1927 Fine & Schapiro

1934 Tavern on the Green

Any others?

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La Caridad on 78th has been around for a while I think.

According to their website, Westside Restaurant, Broadway and 69th, has been around since 1965.

I bet the number of pre-WWII places can be counted on one hand. On Broadway I can think of none.

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I hear that Ernies and their big bowls has finally bid adeiu.

It's now a........

Duane Reede

:shock::shock:

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Announcing a new leader in the competition:

Barney Greengrass, 1908.

V&T Pizza says 1945. Not exactly pre-WWII, but close.

So that brings us to:

1908 Barney Greengrass

1917 Cafe des Artistes

1927 Fine & Schapiro

1934 Tavern on the Green

1945 V&T Pizza

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The steakhouse Irwin refers to was Mrs. J.'s Sacred Cow. And yes, Victor's (Cuban) was somewhere up there, before it opened on 52nd Street.

Victor's Cafe was on the corner of 71 St. and Columbus. I was taken out there for my birthday when I was, I don't know, 9 maybe? That would make it 1974.

No-one's mentioned Gitlitz yet in this thread, the good Jewish delicatessen that was for many years on 77 St. and Broadway. Too bad it's gone. Another place that I haven't seen a mention of here is the oddly named Turkish restaurant, Genghis Khan's Bicycle. (Do you think they were dropping Acid when they named it? :shock::raz: ) It was on something like 74 St. and Columbus, and I remember my brother taking me out for dinner there when our folks were out separately. He must have been 15 or 16, making me 9 or 10. I remember having Imam Bayildi for the first time at that meal.

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I'm wondering about some of the bars-that-serve-food in the neighborhood. There are several that feel rather ancient, like the Emerald Inn on Columbus between 69th and 70th. I can't remember it ever not being there.

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Some other memories:

The Red Baron -- that was a really strange place; so dark and ominous, corner of 69th and Columbus

Sidewalkers -- the crab place on 72nd between Columbus and CPW, I think where Sambuca is now

Captain Nemo -- 72nd between Columbus and Amsterdam, seafood

What about all the Chinese restaurants on the UWS, especially in the 90s? Weren't a bunch of those around in the 1970s and earlier?

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Wow- Captain Nemo, that brings back memories.

There was also a Japanese place (I think it was the Dan, which then moved to its current location on the southeast corner of Broadway and 69th) on the northwest corner of Broadway and 69th, where the North Fork is now.

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What about all the Chinese restaurants on the UWS, especially in the 90s? Weren't a bunch of those around in the 1970s and earlier?

Yeah. I've mentioned some before. My favorite was Chun Cha Foo, a Mandarin restaurant between 91st and 92nd on Broadway. Up on 100 St. was the Harbin Inn.

Some of the Cuban-Chinese and Dominican places have been around seemingly forever. La Tacita de Oro, a Cuban-Chinese place, was in the old wooden former-general-store corner building on 100 St. and Broadway for the longest time until a few years ago, when they were forced to move and moved half a block south. And El Malecon, though previously under a different name I forget, has been between 97th and 98th on Amsterdam for as long as I can remember. I think La Rosita, further north on Broadway between 107th and 108th Sts., has been there equally long. Cleopatra, though for a few years called At Our Place, has been there a long time, but it used to be a straight Egyptian restaurant (with a few Mediterranean touches, I guess). Of course, now it's been Cleopatra's Needle for years, the food is different, and the interior is radically changed from the former groovy but dark 60s style, but it is in the same location.


Edited by Pan (log)

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There are several that feel rather ancient, like the Emerald Inn on Columbus between 69th and 70th. I can't remember it ever not being there.

My grandfather was a regular there when he worked as a newspaper reporter at several (most now defunct) New York papers throughout the 60s and 70s. It is still owned by the same people. When I started law school at Fordham, which is down the street, he wrote me a letter of introduction to take to the owners. I did, and they remembered him (and treated me better because of it).

Edited to add: I am not sure, but I think he may have been a regular there as far back as the 50s as well.


Edited by Mulcahy (log)

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