New York City Food and Beverage History Trail
This trail will grow to include over two dozen iconic New York establishments, past and present.
The Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden is a social club with food, drinks, and entertainment. It was built in Astoria, New York in 1910. The building is owned by the Bohemian Citizens' Benevolent Society, whose mission is to support Czech and Slovak immigrants. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 for its significance in architecture, social history, and entertainment.
Patsy's Pizzeria opened in this location in East Harlem on First Avenue in 1933 and over their nearly century of operation, the pizzeria has become famous for their brick, coal-fired oven which produces a unique texture and flavor for their thin-crust slices. When Pasquale "Patsy" Lanceri opened the restaurant, East Harlem was still heavily populated by Italian immigrants and their descendants. Lanceri's widow, Carmella sold the restaurant in 1991 to Frank Brija, an Albanian immigrant from Kosovo. They may have been the first restaurant in New York to sell pizza by the slice.
General Tso’s Chicken, a sticky, sweet Chinese fried Chicken dish often served with broccoli and sprinkled with scallions, is a favorite on Chinese restaurant menus across America. However, it was actually created decades ago. It is a dish that was invented by a Hunanese in Taiwan and eventually popularized in America. It is believed that this dish was first served by chef Tsung Ting Wang in 1972 New York. Wang learned this dish during his trip to Taiwan, and recreated it with his own twist.
One of the leading icons of the city of New York, the 13-story Waldorf Hotel was opened in 1893. In 1897, the hotel merged with the Astoria Hotel - a 17-floor building. Once one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, the facility became dated and closed at the end of the 1920s. The original hotel was replaced with a new building created by the developers, and it would eventually become the Empire State Building. The second and current Waldorf-Astoria opened in 1931 and is once again regarded as one of the most luxurious in the world. Currently, it is under renovation to restore and enhance the experience for guests.
In the 1940s and 50s, there was one place in New York where all the big name entertainers and athletes would gather: Toots Shor's Restaurant at 51 West 51st Street. Baseball heroes such as Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, entertainers Jackie Gleason and Frank Sinatra, and starlets like Marilyn Monroe all frequented the hang-out in New York known for its round bar. The owner, Toots Shor, was just as large of a personality as all of those famous names. A towering figure over six feet tall, he was a burly man, but the sports enthusiast who was once a bouncer during Prohibition had a heart of gold. Never a strong business manager, Toots would allow his most frequent customers to eat for free. When the restaurant's finances began to suffer in 1959, Toots closed the doors at West 51st. The next year the building was demolished. The restaurateur would try again with another Toots Shor's at a different location, but that too would fail. Today, all that is left of the original is a marker noting this was where the legends of the 20th century would congregate in what was then the greatest city in the world. The tangible evidence of Toots's may no longer be, but the memories and legends of a simpler time linger still.
This landmark New York restaurant was opened in 1927 by the Italian-born Vincent Sardi and his wife Jenny. To attract customers and to make his restaurant stand-out among other New York restaurants, Sardi decided to decorate the walls with caricatures of movie and Broadway stars. He first hired Russian artist Alex Gard to draw the stars, and Gard continued to draw hundreds of caricatures until his death. The next long-term artist to take over the role was Don Bevan. Over the decades, Sardi's rose in popularity, even inspiring the opening of a Hollywood Sardi's. Only the West 44th St. Sardi's has stood the test of time, however. When locals and tourists step off of Broadway into Sardi's, it is trip back in time, reflected by the original wall color and the red coats worn by waiters. Sardi's remains the restaurant to frequent before or after catching a show in the historic Theatre District of New York.
This iconic hotel New York was acquired by businessman John Jacob Astor IV in 1904 and opened two years later. The influential hotel owner saw the building's potential to provide luxurious hotel accommodations in New York City and acquired the building from a pair of businessmen who launched the hotel's construction in 1903 but soon ran into liquidity issues. Astor's wealth and fame brought success to the hotel in the early 1900s. However, the management of the Knickerbocker found themselves saddled with growing expenses in trying to maintain the grand hotel following the onset of prohibition just fifteen years after the ambitious hotel opened. the building served as the home for many offices and retailers until 2015 when the restored building reopened as a historically-themed luxury hotel. The hotel emphasizes its history and seeks to recreate the luxury and grandeur envisioned by its founder.
The Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame recognizes players, managers, executives, journalists, and entertainers of Irish descent who have significantly and positively impacted the game of baseball. It is located at Foley’s NY Pub & Restaurant in downtown Manhattan across from the Empire State Building. Shaun Clancy, a baseball historian and a man of Irish heritage, established Foley’s in 2008 after learning about the heritage of the players who were of Irish decent. Shaun decided to celebrate these players by opening a shrine dedicated to the Irish Americans in baseball history.
Dubbed the "Nostalgic Temple of The Alcohol Artist" by NY Magazine, the White House Tavern is best known for the night of November 3, 1953 when Welsh poet Dylan Thomas downed 18 shots of whiskey which led to his demise later the next morning. A common hangout spot for literary figureheads in the 1950s, in addition to Thomas, included regulars such as James Baldwin, Anais Nin, Norman Mailer, John Ashbery, Frank O'hara, Allen Ginsberg, Mary Travers, Jack Kerouc, Bob Dylan, and Jim Morrison. Though not quite as popular today, the spot remains an attraction to those who know its origins, and those who do not quickly learn of it upon entering, as portraits of Thomas adorn the walls.
Founded by Dolores Alexander and Jill Ward, Mother Courage was the first feminist restaurant in the United States. The restaurant operated from 1972 to 1977 and although it was open to anyone, it attracted a largely female clientele. It attracted a large number of feminists and set a precedent for other feminist-centered restaurants around the country.
Between 1938 and 1950, the basement of this unassuming wedge-shaped building at 1 Sheridan Square was home to Café Society, one of the few regularly and thoroughly racially-integrated clubs in New York City and the United States. In an era when social spaces like nightclubs drew the color line in both formal and informal ways, Café Society was one of the few upscale spaces where white and Black music lovers regularly gathered. Shortly after the club opened, twenty-three-year-old Billie Holiday performed “Strange Fruit” for a public audience for the first time at Cafe Society. The anti-lynching ballad would become one of the earliest and most powerful protest songs in American history. After Café Society closed in 1950, the building housed several other establishments, most notably the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, an innovative theater troupe led by Charles Ludlam.
The Minetta Tavern was established in 1937 by Eddie Silieri, who became known as Eddie Minetta, taking his name from the tavern that in turn borrowed its title from the stream that ran through the area. Founded at the height of the prohibition era, The Minetta Tavern became a popular speakeasy for many literary legends, most notably Joe Gould, who frequented the pub so often that he was said to receive his mail there. With perhaps a similar taste for pubs, authors Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Eugene O'Neill, E.E. Cummings, and Dylan Thomas visited the bar to unwind and socialize. Today, The Minetta Tavern retains much of its history, as much of the original design remains, serving to transport patrons back to a time when the world's greatest authors congregated here and wrote their masterpieces.
One of the oldest and most famous of New York’s restaurants, Katz’s Deli has been serving the public since 1888. At the time, thousands of European immigrants were pouring into the city, with many of them settling on the Lower East Side. A large percentage of the city’s new arrivals were Jewish, and the Lower East Side became a thriving hub of Jewish culture, with Yiddish theater, in particular, flourishing. Because of its proximity to many of Yiddish theaters, Katz’s became a popular gathering place for entertainers. The deli is most well-known for its use as a backdrop in the film When Harry Met Sally.
Fraunces Tavern Museum is located inside a building that was completed in 1719 as a home for the family of Stephen De Lancey. Samuel Fraunces purchased the building in 1762 and operated the Queen's Head Tavern. Leading up to the American Revolution, the tavern was the site of many important political discussions among colonists. After the war, the building housed the new government's departments of Foreign Affairs, War, and Treasury from 1785 to 1788. In 1900, the aging building was almost razed until an effort was made by the Sons of the Revolution, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the founder of the Society for the Preservation of Scenic and Historic Places succeeded in saving the historic building. In 1907, a combination museum and restaurant opened in this building. This business thrived for many years and in 1981, preservationists and historians restored the second floor's "Long Room" as a colonial tavern. The museum continues to expand and now offers nine galleries filled with artifacts and exhibits related to the history of New York and the American Revolution. The restaurant is open daily.
The Museum of Food and Drink (MOFAD) is creating the world's first large-scale food museum with exhibits you can eat. Visitors can eat, touch, smell and learn about all things food and drink. MOFAD Lab, the organization's first brick-and-mortar home, opened in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn on October 28, 2015. In this space, MOFAD will design and showcase its exhibit concepts as it works toward opening the full museum in New York City by 2019.