Maybe it’s the impending arrival of July. Or perhaps it’s the recent arrival of a hard-won set of vintage Toots Shor’s glasses that showed up at my home yesterday. I can’t quite tell, but both leave me missing Mad Men. Television’s most stylish show typically returns each July, but, as we all know, negotiations between creator Matthew Weiner and the suits at AMC have stalled the season 5 premiere until 2012. Grrr!
Until then, get your summer Mad Men fix on with a look at the real restaurants that have been plot points and settings on the show. And, let us know which long-running New York City restaurants you think are ready for their sixties-era close ups in the coming season. 21 Club? Frankie & Johnnie’s? Delmonico’s? Fraunces Tavern? Le Perigord? Monkey Bar? Old Homestead? Or, Tout Va Bien? Weigh in below in the comments!
Restaurant: AJ Maxwell’s (aka The Forum of the Twelve Caesars)
Location: 57 West 48th Street, New York, New York
Episode: “The Suitcase,” season 4, episode 7
The Dish: I’m fudging here a bit as AJ Maxwell’s wasn’t exactly featured on Mad Men — but its location was. In this will-she-stay-or-will-she-go Peggy Olsen-centric ep, the devoted-to-Don-Draper working girl misses her big birthday dinner at The Forum of the Twelve Caesars, much to the great chagrin of her family and boring beau Mark. Steakhouse AJ Maxwell’s opened in the same space as the opulent The Forum of the Twelve Caesars, which closed in 1975, but some of The Forum’s over-the-top charms remain.
Insider’s Tip: Order the classic Caesar salad and look around for The Forum’s original murals in the restaurant.
Location: 321 West 46th Street, New York, New York
Episode: “The Summer Man,” season 4, episode 8
The Dish: This theater-district Italian restaurant holds several distinctions outside of its Mad Men appearance. It is the oldest restaurant in New York that is still owned by the family that founded it, the oldest Italian restaurant in New York, and the oldest restaurant in New York’s Theater District. On top of all that, a newly single Don Draper squires the sassy Bethany to Barbetta, only to run into Betty Draper and new
father husband Henry Francis in “The Summer Man.”
Insider’s Tip: Don’t miss dining in one of the city’s best gardens.
Location: 47 West 56th Street, New York, New York
Episode: “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword,” season 4, episode 5
The Dish: Don Draper kicks off his short-lived romance with Bethany at Benihana’s flagship Manhattan location in this episode. There to research Japanese culture (Because restaurants have better booze than libraries?), Don’s supper isn’t nearly as memorable as Bethany’s scene-stealing black dress.
Insider’s tip: Skip the sushi and head straight for the show that is the teppanyaki that made restaurateur Rocky Aoki famous.
Restaurant: The Four Seasons
Location: 99 East 52nd Street, New York, New York
Episode: “The Ladies Room,” season 1, episode 2
The Dish: This ironically titled episode takes place at Toots Shor’s long-shuttered, eponymous restaurant (ironic, because, apparently, Toots wasn’t the biggest fan of his female patrons). Betty Draper is impressed with the place – and Roger Sterling’s generosity. Don says of Sterling, “Toots Shor means he likes me. When he gets us to The Four Seasons, then we’ll know he trusts me.” A longtime power spot for lunch and dinner, The Four Seasons and its cool mid-century-yet-current vibe will transport you straight back to the days of Sterling Cooper. Plus, the food’s way better than Shor’s. Sorry, Toots!
Insider’s tip: If you’re power lunching, book a table in the Grill Room. (A lunchtime seat in the Pool Room prompted LA agent Michael Ovitz to “threaten” co-owner Julian Niccolini with legal action.)
Restaurant: Grand Central Oyster Bar
Location: 89 East 42nd Street at Grand Central Terminal, New York, New York
Episode: “Red in the Face,” season 1, episode 7
The Dish: In this instant-classic, first-season episode, Don and Roger engage in a marathon session of oysters and Martinis [Ed note: Something tells me I could shame both of them.] at what is inferred to be the Grand Central Oyster Bar. A commuter and city-dweller institution since 1913, this feather in Grand Central’s dining cap carries 16 or 17 varieties of oysters every day.
Insider’s tip: Order the pan-roasted oysters. And, don’t take the stairs afterward.
Restaurant: Keens Steakhouse
Location: 72 West 36th Street, New York, New York
Episode: “The Arrangements,” season 3, episode 4
The Dish: Still serving up some of Manhattan’s tastiest steaks, Keens Steakhouse dates way back to 1885. The restaurant got its close up in third-season stunner “The Arrangements,” in which Don, sneaky Pete Campbell, and Pete’s deep-pocketed, prep-school pal Ho-Ho talk Jai Alai over highballs.
Insider tip: Don’t miss out on the mutton chops. No, really.
Restaurant: La Grenouille
Location: 3 East 52nd Street, New York, New York
Episode: “Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency,” season 3, episode 6
The Dish: Known for its sublime service and stunning floral arrangements, La Grenouille opens its doors on December 19th, 1962, just as Don Draper is ascending to new heights in his career as an ad man. When visiting brass from Puttnam, Powell, and Lowe come to Manhattan, they’re able to score a reservation at La Grenouille, courtesy of woman-behind-the-mad-men Joan Holloway.
Insider tip: Leave your cell phone – and your kids under 12 — at home. Befitting a restaurant that opened during the Mad Men era, neither are welcome.
Restaurant: The Oak Room Bar
Location: 10 Central Park South at 59th Street, New York, New York
Episode: “Red in the Face,” season 1, episode 7
The Dish: Don learns the extent of boss Roger Sterling’s marital discord over drinks at the legendary Oak Room Bar in the fabled Plaza Hotel in this premiere-season episode. Recently refurbished, the stunning views of Central Park, the original murals by Everett Shinn, and the original oak bar remain intact, as does the classic New York feel.
Insider’s tip: Don’t wave off the bountiful bread basket before you try it. Carbs be damned!
Restaurant: P.J. Clarke’s
Location: 205 East 55th Street, New York, New York
Episode: “The Hobo Code,” season 1, episode 8
The Dish: Peggy Olsen lets sorta loose when she hits P.J. Clarke’s with the cool and not-so-cool (read: Pete!) kids at Sterling Cooper in “The Hobo Code” from season 1. Pete sneers at Peggy’s beer-fueled behavior and bravado, which spoils the evening. In real life, that’s impossible! Operating since 1884, busy-all-the-time P.J. Clarke’s is a famous Manhattan real-estate hold-out success story — and always a fun time for everyone.
Insider’s Tip: Slurp some freshly shucked oysters washed down with an ice-cold vodka Martini. Chase that with a perfectly cooked medium-rare cheeseburger and fries. [Ed. note: Not sure if that’s a tip, but it was my dinner there last week.]
Location: 234 West 44th Street, New York, New York
Episode: “The New Girl,” season 2, episode 5
The Dish: Everyone who’s anyone has been to Sardi’s at least once, and that’s true of Don Draper, too. In this season two ep, Don fetes the abrasive Jimmy Barret and his brassy wife Bobby at the Broadway stand-by. In business at this location since 1927, Sardi’s is also the birthplace of the Tony awards.
Insider’s tip: See how many caricatures of your fave stars you spy while you sip your drink and sup your supper.