Keens Chop House

Keens Chop House
She's old, but still catches your eye

Pipes Galore

Pipes Galore
90000 Pipes are stored here

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

An Olde English Chop House and Pub

In 1976, my father took me to Keens Chop House in New York City. I was a Cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was on a business trip. Years before, when he was a college student at Manhattan College, and working on the second tube of the Lincoln Tunnel, Keens Chop House was one of his regular spots.

Here is a Description of that wonderful Place.

When David King arrives on a visit to New York from London one of his first stops maywell be Keen’s Steak House in Manhattan. Grant is a top executive with Cutty SarkWhisky and Keen has listed his top selling spirit ever since 1935 when the brand was firstintroduced to the U.S. market.” Milton Esterow the highly esteemed editor of ARTnewslocated just around the corner and a “regular” says humorously that his editors refer toKeens as the posh magazine’s “cuisinart” or staff dining room.Keens has achieved a fame of unusual sort. The turn-of-the-century restaurant housed inthree aged brownstones, arguably has the largest collection (more than 150 labels fromthe Highlands, Lowlands and Isles) of single malts in this country including Cutty’s siblingthe most impressive Glen Rothes, a Highland malt of note.Its collection is nothing short of spectacular with such stars as Glenfiddich 30-year-old,Glenmorangie Limited Edition, Glen Farclas cask strength, Balvenie’s Founder’sReserve, Auchentoshan Three Wood, Bowmore Darkest and Rosebank Cask Strength11-year-old.Page 7 of 11 Sommelier NewsFor experimenting, diners are helpfully offered dinner flights such as Tobermory 10-year-old Island of Mull, Springbank 10-year old Campbeltown, Glenlivet 8-year-old Speyside and a Balvenie Port Wood 21-year-old Highlands for an “economical $24 But it’s collection of blends such as Cutty is also extensiveKeen’s is possibly one of the last remaining steakhouses of historic note in New York having been founded in 1878. It’s only three blocks from the Empire State building and convenient for well-heeled tourists en route to shopping at Lord & Taylor or a night’s attendance at the theatre.Not to be overlooked is a distinguished wine list created by the critical palate of John McClement wine and spirits director for All Weather Management Group (that also includes New York’s Temple Bar and Elephant & Castle in Dublin). The list is equally impressive with such choices as Château Cheval Blanc 1982 Saint Emilon, Chianti Clasico Riserva 1987 Castello di Cacchiano, or a Chateau St. Jean 2001 Sonoma.Of course, it’s the restaurant menu that is the main attraction. The food is also rooted in the 19th century. The house is noted not only for its mutton chop entrée but also its massive sirloin steak accompanied by creamed spinach and baked potatoes. Seafood is not ignored with such pairings as filet mignon with scallops along with Maine lobster as a showpiece and then for closure there’s a distinguished cheese selection and dessert tray.As Regina Schrambling, a highly regarded food writer for the august New York Times, wrote, “The creamy dressing on the ‘three leaf’ house salad like the polished room itself made me realizes why classics become classics.” For trivia collectors, a millionth chop was served in 1936 and went to a long-forgotten but obviously delighted diner named Warren T. Godfroy.Forgive the cliché but dining at Keen’s, named for its London founder, Albert Keen, is a step back into Americana with an English accent. It’s possible he would not understand that mandatory reservations can now be made on line but that’s a tribute to technological changePrior to 1885 Keen’s was part of the Lambs Club, the famous theater and literary group founded in London. In that year Keens opened independently in New York’s Herald Square Theater district and became the rendezvous of the “well known.”A detailed history of the chophouse recalls that actors in full stage makeup hurried through the rear door to ‘fortify’ themselves between acts of the neighboring Garrick Theater in a room full of producers, playwrights, publishers and newspapermen.The ceiling of Keen’s is decorated in a memorable British fashion with long stemmed pipes. A tradition of checking one’s pipe had its origins in 17th century England where a customer would keep his clay or favorite stemmed pipe at an inn since it was too fragile to be carried away.The Keen’s pipe club originated at the Men’s Grill of the Lambs Club where a pipe warden was employed to catalogue the collection of pipes delivered to members (who paid $5 for a life membership) after dinner. The register includes the signatures of Teddy Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, John Barrymore, Babe Ruth, General Douglas MacArthur, Adlai Stevenson and George M. Cohen in no particular order. Contemporary celebrities include such notables as Ted Turner, Glenda Jackson and Isaac Asimov. When a member died, the stem of his pipe was broken and the pipe restored to its customary place among 90,000 other such treasures.Page 8 of 11 Sommelier NewsLadies were not allowed in Keens Chophouse until Lillie Langtry, the enchanting British actress, and close friend of King Edward VII, entered the restaurant in 1901. Dressed in a satin gown and a feather boa, Langtry asked to be served a mutton chop. The waiter refused. Lillie sued and won. Keens is said to have taken the defeat gracefully and installed the following sign, “Ladies are in luck and they can dine at Keens. More like a private club than a traditional restaurant, Keens has four private rooms. The Bullmoose Room, named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, has a cozy ambiance and a working fireplace. The Lincoln Room contains the original theater program of “Our American Cousin” which President Lincoln was holding when he was shot by John Wilkes Booth. A large painting by Alexander Pope dominates a third space in TheLambs’ Room and finally and somewhat ironically, the Lillie Langtry Room remembers the first lady to be seated at a table. One wall is decorated with a poster for the Broadway show, “Peck’s Bad Boy” one of the largest and earliest surviving American color lithographs.The bar at Keens is also 19th century and certainly in true saloon tradition although its patrons have changed over the years. Today it’s three abreast from noon on and crowded to the hilt with young executives from nearby ad agencies, financial establishments and just plain “singles.” Martinis are in vogue but so is beer. The tradition lingers albeit somewhat modernized and attire is casual, not tie and jacket.

1 comment:

Kozmic Woman said...

Wonderful! I discovered it was my great grandfather who had the millionth chop.Hope you are still writing!