In early January I read that the 100-year-old Lord & Taylor flagship store on 5th Avenue closed. In the same piece it was announced that Henri Bendel, the store that first featured Coco Channel in America, had folded its tent as well.
Did they, like so many other brick and mortar businesses, fall victim to the seismic upheaval caused by e-commerce?
One thing I know: Some very august culinary institutions have recently shut their doors – among them, some of Joanne’s and my favorites.
A while back I posted about the CARNEGIE DELI quitting business. Now, here was the gold standard of New York delis, the one that had it all: good food, big scale, star power and great management.
Rock star chefs were not immune. Bobby Flay’s BAR AMERICAIN (not one of our favorites) folded, as did Daniel Boulud’s DBGB pork and sausage-centric emporium in the Bowery.
No chef is hotter these days than David Chang. And yet, I’ll no longer be able to ravage the signature Habanero Fried Chicken at his upscale Ma Pêche, which closed after eight years in Manhattan.
The list goes on…and on….
The demise of KARL RATZCH’S, Milwaukee’s Teutonic temple of German food and oompah music represented another passing of a great American institution…113 years! That was our “go-to” spot for weiner schnitzel and roasted goose shank when we were opening BUCA in Milwaukee.
(What does one do without a reliable outpost for goose shank???)
And how about, after 83 years, the demise of the famous celebrity hangout in Chicago, THE CAPE COD ROOM in the Drake Hotel? No more giant platters of Clams Casino for the table.
Across the pond, three of our favorites have gone away, including SIMPSON’S ON THE STRAND located near Piccadilly Circus, where commanding Christofle silver-plated trollies ferried haunches of roasted Scotch Beef, deftly carved tableside? It closed after nearly 130 years in business.
Also sad: the shuddering of FERA, the Art Deco masterpiece at Claridges Hotel in Mayfair. Joanne and I ate there only once (at table #14) and enjoyed possibly the most beautiful and stunning plates ever. Check out our amuse bouche of floral tartines. I guess that there just wasn’t a big enough audience for that sort of thing.
(RUMOR !!!!! ELEVEN MADISON PARK might be taking over the space. Stay tuned.)
A neighborhood favorite in London, Mayfair’s WILD HONEY, went south. That was double sad because the owners shuttered its sister restaurant, ARBUTUS (one of our favorites), just a year earlier.
And even though Joanne and I weren’t able to go there all that often, for some reason I was caught flat-footed upon learning that the iconic Boston Landmark, DURGIN PARK in Faneuil Hall, was about to serve its final order of Yankee Pot Roast after a nearly 200-year run. This was THE bastion not only for that dish, but a roster of other Yankee fare as well: enormous slabs of Prime Rib…Clam Chowdah…Boston Baked Scrod…Little Neck Clambakes…dinosaur-sized lobsters…and that ballast against Boston winters and Nor’easters, Boston Baked Beans, cooked for seven hours (none of that Heinz canned stuff here).
Those fortunate enough to visit Durgin Park on St. Patty’s day could feast on platters of Corned Beef and Cabbage, most always followed by Apple Pan Dowdy or Baked Indian Pudding (not the south Asian kind, but instead a nod to the Native American/early settlers version, made with cornmeal, honey, custard and molasses, and topped with a whopping scoop of vanilla ice cream. It probably tasted the exact same way on Durgin Park’s last day as it did when they opened in 1827.
The seating was communal, with long red-checkered tablecloth tables that sat 20 people. The place was built for fun.
And part of the pleasure (when you finally get the joke) were the most unpleasant waitresses that we have ever experienced. They were rude…and famous for it (God only knows where they’ll find new employment). I recall that our waitress, with her thick Southie accent and dyed red hair, seemed to genuinely resent our presence. But that was all part of the “shtick.”
DURGIN, we hardly knew ya….