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Fat Guy

Restaurant history of the Upper West Side

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With my fading memory of the '60's and '70's, I seem to recall a restaurant on 72nd between the Park and Columbus called Szechuan Royal. My favorite dish there was a spicy rich eggplant with garlic sauce. Does anyone else remember it, or is my memory playing tricks on me, and perhaps it was Empire Szechuan, of which everyone else is speaking?

Eclair, Victor's, several Chinas y Latinas, the Museum Cafe, and a Mexican restaurant (with a rear outdoor patio) who's name I cannot recall (perhaps something like La Fortuna?), are others I'm recalling, thanks to this thread. And there was a tiny takeout shop run by Sheila Lukins (opened pre Silver Palate) and one or more other women.

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I have some fond memories of[...]Chinese Cuban restaurants from Morningside heights in the mid-80's. That is probably too far north to qualify for this thread, however. :wink:  :laugh:

We've discussed other places up there in this thread. Please mention the places.

Speaking of which, does anyone remember the name of the Chinese restaurant that opened some time in the 70s on the 2nd floor of the building that takes up the block between 109th and 110th Sts. on the east side of Broadway? Szechuan Dynasty or something? Maybe Hunan Dynasty? It was good, and I'm sorry it didn't last longer. We often walked there and back from 97 St., and I remember one time when we ordered "Strange Taste Chicken." It was perhaps the only dish we had there that we didn't like, but we couldn't say we weren't warned! :laugh:

I also remember a Chock Full 'O Nuts branch on 116 St., just across from Columbia. I don't remember when it opened, but it was a busy hangout for Columbia students (of which my mother was one in the early 70s, when women could go there for graduate school only). I felt at the time that it was a solid coffee shop, but I was only 8 or so, I guess.

I enjoyed the Twin (?) Donut shop on the southeast corner of 110 St. and Broadway often for an after-school treat when I was in 3rd and 4th grades (i.e., 1973-75) in Cathedral School of St. John the Divine. I learned the meaning of "cruller." They had so many varieties of donuts; it was a pleasure. :smile:


Edited by Pan (log)

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From the 1968 NYT book

Aki Dining Room

Chock Full of Nuts

Chuan Hong

Frank's

The Great Shanghai

The Green Tree

Harbin Inn

La Concha

Moon Palace

New Moon Inn

New Shun Lee

Shanghai Cafe

Shanghai d'or

Steinberg's

Tien Tsin

Tip Top Inn

Tony's Italian Kitchen

Tsuruya

I think only Shun Lee is still around (and the name has changed slightly). Half of the places are Asian (Chinese and Japanese), which surprises me. There used to be a Japanese grocery store on Amsterdam Ave (I 've seen references to it), and I'm wondering if the area was more Asian at one point.

Btw, Sevilla got one star and the review includes "kitchen is generally competant and the food is well seasoned." Still the same in my opinion.

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There may indeed have been more Japanese people on the Upper West Side in the 1970s. My brother and I used to enjoy going to the Japanese grocery and tzatzkes store on the northeast corner of 99 St. and Broadway, which had one of those glass man figures in the window that filled up with a reddish liquid, tipped over, and then sprung upright to start again. We liked their sort of caramely candies with edible rice paper on the outside.

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We've discussed other places up there in this thread. Please mention the places.

It's interesting that of the two places I can recall I can only remember the name of the one I liked less - La Muralla China. The other was a small Chinese-Cuban place on Broadway between 164th and 165th. I always got their Cuban food, which was much better than the chinese. Their "chicharones de pollo sin hueso" and platanos fritos were particularly outstanding.

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It's interesting that of the two places I can recall I can only remember the name of the one I liked less - La Muralla China. The other was a small Chinese-Cuban place on Broadway between 164th and 165th. I always got their Cuban food, which was much better than the chinese. Their "chicharones de pollo sin hueso" and platanos fritos were particularly outstanding.

I'm getting old and senile, but I just remembered the name - PanAmericano!

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John, the places you're talking about are in Washington Heights, not Morningside Heights. As a child of W. 97 St., I've always considered Morningside Heights (W. 110-W. 125 St. from Riverside Drive to Morningside Drive/Amsterdam Av.) part of the Upper West Side. I've never considered West Harlem/Hamilton Heights or further uptown neighborhoods (Washington Heights, Inwood) part of the Upper West Side. I know the terminology "Upper West Side" is confusing, though.

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John, the places you're talking about are in Washington Heights, not Morningside Heights. As a child of W. 97 St., I've always considered Morningside Heights (W. 110-W. 125 St. from Riverside Drive to Morningside Drive/Amsterdam Av.) part of the Upper West Side. I've never considered West Harlem/Hamilton Heights or further uptown neighborhoods (Washington Heights, Inwood) part of the Upper West Side. I know the terminology "Upper West Side" is confusing, though.

Indeed you are correct. This is just another sign of my early dementia :blink::wacko: It is why I originally stated that it was "probably too far north to qualify for this thread" :raz: At least I had my sense of geography right if not the proper names. :biggrin:

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This is a fun thread. Most changes have occurred in the Columbia University Area, but of course the West End will always survive.

Yes I do remember West Side Storey, and they did have great brunches. I also remember Museum Cafe, and I thought it would last forever. It was a staple. La Boite en Bois, the french bistro was very good, I remember, and at the time I thought a $12 entree was expensive. And I'm still a little sorry Zum Zum is gone. I remember most that are listed.

Does anyone remember Ruskay's? It was on Columbus and 75th, and I believe it is now a L'Express clothing store. It was owned by the same man who I believe opened the Empire Diner and they had similar designs and menus. But Ruskay's decor was like the bride of frankenstein. It was a hugh two-storied space, black walls, candelabras with dripping wax on black mirrored tables, red velvet curtains and stairways painted white. The following article about Odeon refers to Ruskay's as a beginning for dining on the UWS. Ruskay's was probably the beginning of more contemporary restaurants on the UWS. It was there in 1977 or so.

As for the restaurants that still exist, FG listed them all, I cannot think of any others yet.


Edited by emmapeel (log)

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[...]

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.[...]

I'm replying to my own post to note that La Tacita went out of business a few months ago.

How long has Terrace in the Sky been in business?

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Does anyone remember Ruskay's?

Ruskay's? Wow, that takes me back.

Ruskay's, an early proponent of the restrictive tasting menu: unless you wanted steak (always available), you'd call in the afternoon to inquire about that evening's three-course $7 dinner, because that's all that they'd be serving. As I recall, the menu was expanded and the hours extended before the place closed, but that was the original idea.

The food was pretty good, too, and certainly cost-effective.

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Another restaurant in that vicinity that dates back to at least that same time period, and where we also had a pre-Lincoln Center dinner in the early 70's, is La Boite en Bois, the teensy (they didn't name it a "box" for no reason) French bistro, on W. 68th St.

If I'm not mistaken La Boite en Bois has been operated by the same chef/owner since 1986. I remember this because I spent my first summer in NYC then and lived down the block. What was it called before this? I still stop in from time to time for their pre-theater prix fixe, and the menu is pretty much the same as ever. There's something comforting about a place where same Maitre'd (Raoul) has been around for 20 years and there's always a plate of saucissons chaud on hand.

I also find it interesting that Isabella's has been around at least this long, and still seems to be very popular.


Edited by Felonius (log)

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I also find it interesting that Isabella's has been around at least this long, and still seems to be very popular.

And it's something I don't understand. Maybe it's the "people watching" spot.

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If I were one of the NY forum hosts I wolud have pailed any posts that were based on any guide or restaurant book. That's cheating, as far as I'm concerned. I was all set to mention Harbin Inn. Nonetheless I didn't see any mention of the Mandarin Chinese on the east side of Broadway around 84th street(?).

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If I were one of the NY forum hosts I wolud have pailed any posts that were based on any guide or restaurant book. That's cheating, as far as I'm concerned.[...]

All sources are fair in the search for knowledge. :biggrin:

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I remember lots of these -- such a fun thread -- Great Shanghai, Harbin Inn (food pretty bad at both of these, I realize in retrospect) Lenge (Renge?) which was definitely there in '76 when I used to eat there, La Caridad same vintage at least, glam Ruskay's, The Green Tree, Tip Top Inn where I had a hideous Thanksgiving meal w/ my mom sometime in the early eighties I think, and the Symposium, where I sampled Greek food for the first time as a 9 or 10-year old in '68 or '69. Also, the Abbey Pub was there at least as far back as the sixties, because we lived right across the street (in the building next door to the immortal Stanley's Cafeteria, which exploded in a gas leak in l971.) And the Olympia Diner! The ur-Diner! Unforgetable.

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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.)

I was on the other side of Broadway and 69th. The original restaurant at the corner of 69th and Amsterdam was The Ginkgo Tree. Beefsteak Charlie became a wall unit store in the 80's. Across Broadway on the northwest corner of at 69th is the Westside Diner which was called the American Restaurant. Before that location, it was across the street at the southwest corner where Dan is. They were in the hood for years and still are if the same family owns it. Cheeseburger Deluxe anyone? Also, on 68th between Broadway and Columbus was Freddy and Pepe's Pizza. They later moved up to 73rd-74th on Amsterdam.


Edited by Bill7284 (log)

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And what of the Hungarian Pastry Shop, up by Columbia? Forever, it seems to me.

Okay, please help me out on this: in the 1960s (probably before and after) there was a French restaurant in the high 60s, much like those in the theater district (real French waitresses, etc). That was where I first had the real thing. But I can't for the life of me remember its name. Help?

It was Se Crepe which was at the site of 1974 Broadway where Century 21 is located in a newer building. I used to walk by there every day after school and see those women wearing that costume complete with hat and wonder if they liked working that way. The food there was really good.

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I was trying to find info on Ernie's and stumbled upon this website/forum.  I'm (fashionably?)  late to the party, but wanted to add another restaurant to the list, from the late 70s or early 80s.   Dobson's was on Columbus, on the northeast corner of 75th or 76th street if memory serves.  I was glad to see other old favorites from that era like Peretti's, Ghengis Khan's Bicycle, and Ruskay's. Looking at the posts from 2004, most of those restaurants are gone.  Fiorello's on Broadway/63 is still around, the lone survivor on that block.

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I grew up on West End Ave. in the 1960s-1970s, close to the string of movie theaters mentioned earlier (the Symphony and Thalia are still there). IIRC the restaurant scene in general was far different in those pre-foodie, pre The Food Channel, pre celebrity chef days. You had the high end like Lutece at one end and pizza, delis, diners, lunch counters, bars, Chinese and Indian on the other, with just a sprinkling of stuff in between.

 

First memory of course is Pizza. 20¢ for a slice at Phil's in 1967. Phil's was on Broadway just south of 94th St. They left sometime in the mid 1970s. A half block north was Sal's, a tiny place, and years later moved to 102nd & Broadway as Sal and Carmine's, where they are to this day. One of the last real old school pizzas. We made a trek to V&T once, it was more of a restaurant than by-the-slice.

 

We ate often at La Victoria China, one of those Cuban-Chinese places mentioned earlier. It both amazed and amused me to hear Chinese guys speaking Spanish to one another. I believe its location is where the present La Nueva Victoria is. I assume they are related because of the similar names, but not sure. Anyway, it was inexpensive and was pretty good. Although the Shanghai D'or was close by I don't really remember going there. I think my parents preferred their Chinese restaurants plain and not gussied up with red drapes and tuxedoed waiters.

 

We got one of the very first McDonald's in NYC in 1973. Lines around the block, if you can believe it. It was so unusual to have a fast food chain in Manhattan. It said "McDonald's Townhouse" out front. That signage is gone but the place is still there, om Broadway south of 96th St.  Old school fast food was the Nedick's somewhere on Broadway that I think was long gone by the time McDonald's showed up. IIRC I wasn't a fan of Nedick's.  

 

I do remember At Our Place/Cleopatra but being a kid it wasn't the type of place for me to go to. I think it was one of those dimly-lit take-a-date-to places,  But it is reflective of the era as my parents were happy because we were actually getting new restaurants in the area, though I don't think they cared for that particular place (if I remember correctly, dimly-lit restaurants were not their cup of tea, or maybe they weren't thrilled with the food, don't remember.) In other words the immediate neighborhood didn't have a lot to choose from, and that was just starting to change.

 

A place called The Library opened on Broadway and I think 92nd. The would have been late 1960s or early 1970s. IIRC several restaurants tried to make it in that spot, came and went, but The Library lasted for a decent while. If I'm correct about the location it's now a Petco next to the earlier mentioned Equinox that was a Key Food when I was a kid with a bowling alley on the upper floor. I could swear it used to be two spaces, the restaurant on the corner and Berman Twins between the restaurant and Key Food.

 

That's about it for this particular area (Broadway in the 90s)

 

More reading that I found:

http://lostnewyorkcity.blogspot.com/2009/02/lost-citys-guide-to-upper-west-side.html (Be sure to see the comments)

http://www.westsiderag.com/2013/11/24/a-writer-shares-1980s-uws-memories-and-asks-for-yours (Ditto)

http://hungrygerald.com/2011/12/the-golden-age-of-food-on-the-upper-west-side/ (Ditto)

 


Edited by nyctc7 (log)

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Sorry to bring up this old post - but I stumbled across it. I grew up in the west 60s during the 1970s. Thought I'd throw a few more out - maybe it will bring back some memories for others on this string. 

 

Cantina - NE corner of 70th and Columbus. One of the first restaurants to draw people to Columbus. 

Rocking horse cafe - on the west side of Columbus between 70th and 71st - had frozen yougurt in the mid-70s

sante fe - on the south side of 69th bet Columbus and CPW - opened by the maitre d of cantina. 

Charlie's deli - east side of Columbus bet 68th and 69th - I don't remember if this was the actual a name or the guy behind the counter - closed in the early/mid 70s

pizza pub - west side of Columbus 68/69 - later became Frankie and Pepi's. subsequently move to 68 bet Columbus and

Bway - 50 cents slices in 1975

Gatherings - great/fresh Chinese -north side of 70th bet Columbus and bway

settantedue- later became Sambuco 72nd between CPW and Columbus. Across from Swiss chalet (which later became Dallas BBQ). 

Famous ray's - NE corner of 72nd and Columbus. 

Diane's - west side of Columbus 71/72 - connected to seduttos ice cream

hunan park - west side of Columbus 71/72. 

La caridad- 72nd bet Columbus/amst. 

Of course, the previously mentioned victors, red Barron, fine and Shapiro, peretti's, paparadella, beef steak Charlie's 

 

i miss those days - when nyc wasn't so expensive and the west side didn't feel like the east side...

 

 

 

 

 

 

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To nyctc7: Nedick's was on the northwest corner of 97th and Broadway, and I remember from my early childhood that they had artificially red grape drink and artificially orange orange drink. They were definitely not "long gone" in 1973, and I think they hung on until the mid-to-late 70s, then the place was empty for a couple of years, and then (I think after several businesses that lasted only a few months at a time) there was a Korean-owned bar/lunch counter that had a separate little room with video games. I went there often in the late 70s to play Dig Dug. I lived a block away, on 97th and West End.

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On 3/22/2017 at 10:24 PM, West side guy said:

i miss those days - when nyc wasn't so expensive and the west side didn't feel like the east side...

You're right. The neighborhood was rough, dangerous and gritty, but it was integrated ethnically and in terms of income, and families and non-rich single people could afford to live there.

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what was the name of the restaurant at 202 72nd , dairy kosher, greek owned. I remember my buddy telling me stories about Tony Randall and Fred gwen eating there. he worked the counter in the early 70's.

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