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.