Restaurants

Mad Men Restaurants in New York + Los Angeles; Plus, Dine Like It’s 1969 During NYC Mad Men Dining Week

mad men 2015Mad Men returns with seven final episodes on Sunday, April 5th. In celebration, NYC & Company is hosting Mad Men Dining Week. You can get your Don, Joan, Peggy, Pete, or Roger on with $19.69 two-course lunches or two-cocktail lunches at select Manhattan restaurants through March 29th. And, as we count down the days until the season premiere, we’ve rounded up the classic restaurants that your favorite Mad Men characters have — or should have — dined at in Los Angeles and New York.

10 Places Don Draper Dined in New York City

Manhattan in the 1960s didn’t have as many fine restaurants as New York City (or anywhere, really) in the 2010s, but there were some gems that are still in business. Get your Mad Men fix on with a look at the real restaurants that have been plot points and settings on the show. 

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.
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Restaurant: Barbetta
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 Menappearance. 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.
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10 Places Don Draper Should Dine in New York City

On the heels of our rounding up New York City restaurants that Don Draper dined at, we also wondered where he and the rest of the Mad Men characters might dine in the Big Apple in future episodes!

Restaurant: 21 Club
Location: 21 West 52nd Street, New York, New York
Casting note: Open since 1929, we’re certain that the stylishly clubby 21 Club would be a must-eat for the agency’s out-of-town clients, so we’re not sure how this icon of Manhattan’s power-dining scene hasn’t yet received its close up. Also, how dashing would Don Draper look sitting beneath the Bar Room’s fabled toy ceiling-scape?
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Restaurant: Café Carlyle
Location: 
35 East 76th Street, New York, New York
Casting note: A favorite of café society, and wildly popular since the mid 1950s, Café Carlyle could provide the perfect opportunity for new parents Pete and Trudy Campbell to enjoy a stylish night of the music of George Feyer and fine dining sans baby. The murals by Marcel Vertes remain intact, leading us to believe Café Carlyle’s star turn isn’t far off.
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Mad Men Restaurants: Los Angeles Edition

We’ve rounded up sumptuous suggestions for where we’d like to see the Sterling, Cooper & Partners crew dine in the City of Angels, circa 1969, including The Galley, Lawry’s The Prime Rib, The Smokehouse, and more.

Restaurant: Dal Rae
Location: 9023 E. Washington Boulevard, Pico Rivera, California
Now and then: Your favorite mid-century classics reign supreme at the Dal Rae, which began serving diners at this location in 1958. Its truly retro and not-at-all ironic menu features the staples that defined upscale American cuisine for an entire generation, including Chateaubriand, Rack of Lamb, Pepper Steak, and Cherries Jubilee. Known for their world-class hospitality, the Dal Rae is operated by brothers and second-generation owners Kevin and Lorin Smith. Recognizable from afar thanks to its neon, atomic-age signage, the Dal Rae features live entertainment in the piano bar.
Tasty tidbit: The Smith brothers note, “The Dal Rae is where the drinks are strong enough for Roger, and the steaks are man enough for Don.”
Classic dish not to miss: Steak Diane, Lobster Thermidor, Veal Oscar, and the tableside Caesar Salad, just to name a few.
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Restaurant: The Derby
Location: 233 E. Huntington Drive, Arcadia, California
Now and then: The Derby opened in 1922, but became The Derby in 1938, when it was purchased by legendary jockey George Woolf (known for riding Seabiscuit to victory over War Admiral in 1938). Walking through the doors of The Derby is definitely a stroll back in time to the heyday of California’s 1930’s horse racing culture. Pristine yet unfussy, this meat mecca attracts a hip crowd of all ages who appreciate a great steak, a stiff drink, and live music. Woolf’s ghost is said to haunt the establishment, spinning his favorite bar stool at closing time. A nostaglic Pete Campbell would definitely appreciate a meal at The Derby.
Classic dish not to miss: The Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon that made The Derby famous and Noni’s Brashioli.
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Happy St. Patrick’s Day: 15 Different Ways to Get Your Guinness On!

GuinnessGuinness has become synonymous with St. Patrick’s Day — so synonymous that the company hopes to sell 7.5 million pints of it on March 17th, according to an article in The Economist. Founded in Dublin by Arthur Guinness in 1759, Guinness Brewery is most famous for its Extra Stout. With its signature dark hue and notes of roasted barley and hints of hops, Guinness’s Extra Stout isn’t just for drinking. It’s become a common ingredient for braising, baking, and more — in everything from beef short ribs and burgers to cakes, cheeses, and beyond. So, even if you’re not a Guinness sipper, you can still be a Guinness eater! Whet your appetite for tonight (or today, if you’re playing hooky) with delicious dishes made with Ireland’s most popular brew. PS: If you’re raising a glass of Guinness, be sure it’s poured with care (and that you have for more than two minutes to spare before you quaff it).

* Bar Boulud, Boston, Massachusetts: “The best French onion soup broth I’d ever tasted (with a unique blend of oxtail broth, oxtail, and barley, topped with Guinness cheddar cheese — made custom, without the crostini).”

* BLD, Los Angeles, California: “The Guinness ice cream terrine was flavorful with a hint of Guinness and Jameson fudge.”

* Blokes & Birds, Chicago, Illinois: “The three cheese and Guinness fondue = delicious, as was the ‘cheesy peavey’ = baked apple with brie in the center.”

* Connor O’Neill’s, Ann Arbor, Michigan: “We had the big house burger, chicken wings, Guinness and Jameson pulled pork, and fish. All four meals were amazing, well prepared, cooked properly, and extremely tasty.”

* e11even, Toronto, Ontario: “Great restaurant steps from ACC. Pretty fast in getting food out. Upscale menu. Had the gourmet Guinness burger on list. Homemade.”

* fado Irish pub, Chicago, Illinois: “We had the salmon bites, pork belly tacos, and Guinness BBQ wings to start. All hits with this group.”

* M Restaurant at The Morris House, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: “My ‘M treat’ included velvety butternut squash soup, perfectly seared scallops, yummy Guinness-braised short ribs, and then a creamy mocha cheesecake! What more could I ask for?”

* McHale’s Bar and Grill, New York, New York: “Great service and food — the curry was delicious and the Irish stew was in deep brown Guinness gravy (yum).”

* Miller Tavern, Toronto, Ontario: “The sticky Guinness chocolate pudding was amazing!”

* Muldoon’s Irish Pub, Newport Beach, California: “Tried the combination drink of Champagne and Guinness, two of my favorites. Very tasty and interesting. Cuts the earthiness of the Guinness with the effervescence of the Champagne. Would be interested to learn what the proportions of each are used for this drink.” [Ed. note: Yes, it’s a drink and not a dish, but we couldn’t resist including this unique cocktail.]Continue Reading

10 Raves for Chili on National Chili Day

Texas Red Chili BlogYippee ki-yay, It’s National Chili Day! I like to think of chili as a relative of cassoulet, a dish which sparks as much debate among French chefs and home cooks as chili does among pretty much everyone in North America. Blame the various styles, such as green chili, Texas red, and Cincinnati, as well as the array of so-called ingredients people swear by, from coffee, chocolate, and peanut butter to beer,  pickle juice, and sriracha for the culinary quarrels — not to mention the beans vs. no beans issue. However it’s prepared, though, chili is beloved on a national scale. Despite its reputation as a cornerstone of summer cook-offs, chili reaches its highest greatest popularity in the winter months, according to Google Trends.

As we celebrate this soul-warming dish on its special day, read on for some raves about chili of all flavors and styles at restaurants around the U.S.

* American Cut, New York, New York: “Some of the highlights were lobster chili — spicy, sweet-flavored lobster. Had to resist eating the rest of the sauce with toast to save room for the rest of the meal.”

* Beatrice & Woodsley, Denver, Colorado: “Everything I had was superb — kudos to the chef! The pulled pork green chili was excellent; who knew that a pickled egg would add so much flavor? A new addition to my recipe.”

* Chili U, Libertyville, Illinois: “Despite the name, this place has a lot of non-chili items, and several very flavorful vegetarian choices. We love the idea of ‘build your own’ chili dinner (you choose the extra ingredients for the base and toppings to be added to 4 choices of chili) and the unique chili recipes in the ‘we make’ part of the menu, especially the Thai shrimp chili.”

* District Commons, Washington, D.C.: “The Texas chili was true Texas chili without beans. The side plates of onion, sour cream, and cheese made it possible to tailor the add-ons to your liking. The tiny star-shaped cornbread was creative and visually delightful.”

* Food 101, Atlanta, Georgia: “If you get a chance to go while the restaurant is celebrating its 15-year anniversary, be sure to try the prix fixe menu. My companion did and she was treated to a lovely short rib chili topped with cilantro cream, not to mention fall-off-the-bone ribs. And, I can’t end without mentioning the perfectly portioned, delicious biscuits and slightly sweet cornbread. I’ll be going back!”

* Grillstone, Scotch Plains, New Jersey: “The oysters were excellent. The sushi appetizer was phenomenal. The Angus chili was mesmerizing.”

* Kenny’s Smoke House, Plano, Texas: “Wow!! The brisket chili and jalapeño cornbread are amazing. Might have just ruined chili any other way for me.”Continue Reading

How Restaurants Handle Your Special Requests on Valentine’s Day — Plus Tips from Top Managers

RequestsValentine’s Day is one of our favorite holidays, but we’ll be the first to admit that it can be a high-pressure day for some couples. After reviewing thousands of special requests, it’s clear that there are a lot of people out there seeking romantic redemption at a restaurant on February 14. Diners’ special requests on Valentine’s Day range from the vague (“Make it extra special!”) to the particular (“When paella is ordered, if possible, shape the meal into a heart.”), but the overall theme of the many requests restaurants receive is that everyone wants their Valentine’s meal to be something special (some need it to be more so than others). We talked to three restaurant professionals for their take on diners’ requests, and they reveal everything from what’s a bit too much to what they want to hear more of — and why you should let them handle the heat.

Under Pressure
“Valentines Day with new girlfriend. Help me out. I am clueless.”

Restaurants see a solid uptick in special requests on Valentine’s Day– and given the perceived stakes, it’s not surprising. Jeff Benjamin, author of the forthcoming Front of the House: Restaurant Manners, Misbehaviors & Secrets, partner in the Vetri family of restaurants, and general manager at Vetri in Philadelphia, notes, “The expectation levels on Valentine’s Day are higher — sometimes artificially higher. We can tell when one member of the party is very nervous. If it’s a first night out with that date or maybe it’s a ‘Hey, I’m not so sure we’re going to continue dating and now all of a sudden we’re out on Valentine’s Day’ kinda thing – that’s a lot of pressure.”

Philippe Vongerichten, director of operations at Jean-Georges restaurant in Manhattan, agrees. “Valentine’s is one of those nights, almost like New Year’s Eve. You have men who don’t know what kind of flower their girlfriend likes. They’re panicking. They’re not used to making romantic moves. Our job is to make sure they get the best service and that everything goes well — and that they forget about any stress.”

At Lucy Restaurant & Bar at Bardessono in Yountville, California, as at Jean-Georges and Vetri, the staff phone all diners who place special requests to discuss them in detail. This helps the restaurants create a plan and to get a read on future guests. General manager Guy Barstad says, “You can put private notes in OpenTable on a particular reservation, and I might type, ‘This diner seems a little nervous,’ if that’s the case.

The ordinary and the extraordinary
“Can I have a Brazilian band playing music and red roses?”

While common requests include diners seeking booths, window seats, or private/quiet tables, as well as flowers, each restaurant gets its share of unusual requests. At Lucy, “We had a customer who made a reservation for our very last seating, and he and his date sat in the bar and waited until every other diner left, had me blow out all the candles in the dining room, turn the lights down as low as possible, and the two of them dined in the dark. And, they loved it,” says Barstad.

At Vetri, Benjamin says, “Several years ago, a man with his wife were coming in, and it was a first time out for them since they’d had a baby. The gentleman sent a script for us [related to a forthcoming present] ahead of time. The staff and I had fun with it at first, but we could tell midway through that his wife was getting uncomfortable with it. And, none of us [at Vetri] had thought about the effect these exchanges would have on the surrounding diners in the room. So, midway through, we talked with him about it, and he said, ‘You know, I overthought it; maybe tone it down a little.’ We ended up just bringing the gift he’d bought her with dessert at the end, and he was very happy.”

At the elegant Jean-Georges, a guest requested that staffers throw rose petals as he and his date walk through the entrance, a request they were unable to meet. “We’re very sorry, but this is not Coming to America.”

Managing Everyone’s Expectations
“I will be dining with a woman named [redacted]. Please tell her how beautiful she looks.”

While almost all restaurants will do their best to meet your special request, it’s a good idea to temper your own expectations. For example, while staffers may not be able to pave your path with rose petals or feel comfortable explicitly telling your date how beautiful she looks, they may find another way to carry out your wish. Says Barstad, “We actually compliment diners on a regular basis, but we come from a place of, ‘You took some time to get ready and you look great!’ With any ask, he reveals, “If you request it, and we have it or can tastefully do it, it will happen.”

One of the ways restaurants meet guests’ expectations is to let them know if they cannot be met on a particular night, says Benjamin. “You don’t want to start off with the idea that you’re going to underwhelm someone. If we can’t give someone the table they requested, for example, I can say ahead of time, ‘I guarantee you that everything else other than your table choice is going to be perfect, and we’re going to make everything special for you.’”

Oftentimes, when a restaurant cannot fulfill a request, it’s because, says Vongerichten, “Guests are scared of their wife or valentine and are trying to throw too much at it [the evening].” Instead of overthinking it, let the restaurant create the experience for you. Embracing the foundations of fine hospitality, the Jean-Georges staff makes sure everyone feels important. “When most people come through the door on Valentine’s Day, they love being recognized as if they were a regular guest. We can tell who the host of the dinner is, and we’re sure to greet that person by name.”

Didn’t make a special request? Don’t fret. “Even if you don’t make a special request, you’ll still be treated special,” says Vetri’s Benjamin. “First-time diners are just future regulars.” Getting ready to make a special request? Barstad, Benjamin, and Vongerichten offer up their tips for one on Valentine’s Day, below.

Book early to help secure your ask.
“Make your Valentine’s Day reservations as early as possible — that way you get everything you ask for,” advises Barstad. “We can see when the reservation was made, so if someone tells me in December that they want a window table on Valentine’s Day, they’re likely to get it. If someone requests that on February 13, the odds are that it is unavailable.”Continue Reading