Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Landmark Restaurants

At a recent discussion sponsored by the Historic Districts Council on New York's historic restaurants and bars, Matthew Postal, architectural historian and co-author of Guide to New York City Landmarks, surprised many in the audience when he mentioned that only a handful of restaurants in New York are designated as landmarks by the Landmarks Commission.

Restaurants whose interiors have been designated include the now-departed Gage and Tollner's in downtown Brooklyn (it was recently a TGI Friday's and may soon be a Starbucks!), the Crypt (now Wolfgang's Steakhouse) in the old Vanderbilt Hotel on Park Avenue, the Oak Bar and Oak Room in the Plaza Hotel, the Oyster Bar in Grand Central, and the Four Seasons in the Seagram Building. Fraunces Tavern in downtown Manhattan has a landmark exterior, as do the former Child's on Coney Island, and the Horn & Hardart Automat building on 104th and Broadway.

There seem to be quite a few other candidates worthy of landmark status, such as "21", Peter Luger, Lombardi's, or P.J. Clarkes. If you're eager to see your favorite building or eatery designated, write a letter to the Landmarks Commission. Perhaps in a few years more eating and drinking institutions will get their due.

How else can one "archive" a restaurant? That's where my landmark building comes in: We have Four Seasons menus, Horn & Hardart menus, Child's menus, Oyster Bar menus, Oak Room menus, and Fraunces Tavern menus. Plus "21", Peter Luger and Lombardi's - just in case.


Nora Leah said...

Love your blog!

You, my friend, are what I call a VCA Sister (fellow Vintage Cookbook Addict.) I must admit I am very new to this consuming, unholy passion -- I remember pawing through my grandma's recipe box as a kid, but it was truly ignited when I checked Molly O'Neill's American Food Writing out of the Brooklyn Library in June.

I started cooking the old recipes found inside, bought myself a copy when my 3 wks ran out, and got so inspired that I started a blog. The goal is to cook all the historical recipes in the anthology by July 4 2008.

This project has also sparked off an unhealthy Ebay habit -- buying up old cookbooks. And a major interest in exploring NYPL's resources.

I would love to arrange a time to come in to NYPL to dish with you and get some recommendations -- I'm starting work on an article about old Brooklyn foods and looking for something unusual and fun to research and try to cook!

My email is nora[at] I'd love to hear from you, and in meantime will def. be reading your blog!

Deborah Dowd said...

What fun to be in the midst of so many fabulous food publications and mementos! I am the Chair of our city library Board of Trustees and I am so aware of what a treasure libraries are, holding memories of a past time! BTW, glad the rat photo is gone.. it kind of freaked me out!

Rebecca Federman said...

Thank you both!
So glad to hear you're both library's a pretty fantastic place to work in.

Nora, I'm impressed with your undertaking. Those recipes are not easy (and who knows how they taste...) but I wish you success. I'll be checking in to see how you're progressing.

Deborah, the rat freaked me out too. It's gone for good...

ljl56 said...

I think I just re-imagined my dream job ... oh, to be a cataloger for vintage cookbooks. And I thought I had it good cataloging rare photography books!