Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Le Steak de Paris

[From Harold H. Hart’s Hart’s Guide to New York City (New York: Hart Publishing, 1964).]

One more from Maeve Brennan’s Manhattan: Le Steak de Paris. Brennan writes about this restaurant several times in The Long-Winded Lady, more than about any other. In a 1967 piece, she stops in for dinner and learns that the building has been slated for demolition and that the owner, unable to find a new location in the city, is planning to move Le Steak to Long Island. Brennan then describes the restaurant:

Inside, Le Steak has hardly changed in all the years I have been going there. The walls were once covered with printed-paper murals of rustic eighteenth-century scenes. Later there was red-brick-patterned wallpaper. Now the paper imitates polished wooden planks — vertical planks — and there is a cigarette machine where the jukebox that played French records used to be. But nothing has really changed there. The menu is much the same as always — Crème Jeannette, Poulet Rôti, Shrimps Cocktail, Artichaut Froid, and so on. Even the atmosphere is the same, as though finality had stayed where it belongs — out of sight and far away.
Le Steak de Paris must have lived a very quiet life in Manhattan: if the New York Times historical index (1851–2007) can be trusted, the paper has not one reference to the restaurant — which would mean no reviews and no advertisements. The 49th Street address, now part of a skyscraper, still houses a restaurant, City Lobster and Steak.

As for the telephone exchange, CI can mean only one thing: CIrcle.


May 8, 2017: Bobby Cole, a New Jersey historian, found a photograph of Le Steak de Paris. He’s active in the Facebook group Old Images of New York. Thank you, Bobby, for allowing me to share your find here:

[Click for a larger view.]

This photograph prompted me to take another look at the New York Times Historical Index, which now returns one article mentioning Le Steak de Paris. Here is a photograph of Guy l’Heureux, the restaurant’s owner, from a 1967 article about the many restaurants that were soon to be demolished to make way for another skyscraper. Said L’Heureux, “What can you do? C’est la vie.”

[“If Your Favorite Restaurant Is Near Sixth Avenue and 49th Street, Go to It Now or You May Be Too Late,” The New York Times, September 12, 1967.]

And here is a small ad that ran many times in the Times:

[October 10, 1966.]

“Dinner from $3.50”: I’m there.

comments: 11

tedgale said...

I thought, earlier this evening, "I cannot go to sleep until I find out about Le Steak de Paris". Thanks for sharing what you've discovered. Now I can go back to reading Mauve

Michael Leddy said...

You’re welcome. Her New York is one I’d love to have known firsthand.

gem said...

I just discovered a picture of my French grand father (Marcel Buzulier), as a "Mousse" at "Marine Nationale", taken in this steak house, during the war !

Michael Leddy said...

If you share this picture online, do let me know. Thanks!

Michael A Cavanaugh said...

This story comes from Andre Speyer (1925-2021); son of a Parisian musician who emigrated to Boston at the end of WWI, and himself a musician with the 378th Army Service Forces Band, Ft Slocum NY, at the time of this incident:

On one of André’s days off in town, he was drinking at his usual joint, a restaurant called Le Steak de Paris on 49th St. (between 6th & 7th). French ships came to Brooklyn Navy Yard for repairs. French sailors in port would hang out there, and often got free drinks.
Half the crew of one ship was given liberty. They went on strike, refusing to return unless the ship struck the simple national tricolor (now appropriated as the flag of the Vichy collaboration with Hitler) and raised a modified Free French Navy tricolor with the Croix de Lorraine of de Gaulle and the Free French superimposed.
Word was received that military police were on their way, presumably to break the strike and compel the sailors’ return to ship.
The “big-hearted, tough patronne” of Le Steak lifted a trap door and half a ship’s component of sailors scurried below, leaving only American GI André above. When the police arrived the GI assured them, no, surely he had not seen any Frenchmen in this bar; after the police left, the sailors reemerged and there was one big party. Eventually their strike demand was met and their ship raised the Croix de Lorraine

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for sharing that story here, Michael. I’m happy that it has a home with this post.

Michael A Cavanaugh said...

You're welcome. Did gem ever post that photo of his grandfather, Marcel Buzulier?

Michael A Cavanaugh said...

PS I might add that although it is no longer possible to visit Le Steak de Paris, not too far away there still exists Chez Napoleon, a good small place with wonderful bourgeois & bonne femme cooking that also has been around for years; so a shameless plug for it: 365 W 50th btw 8th & 9th Aves. They accommodate pre-theater very well. (A gas leak has closed it for some weeks now -- one hopes, only temporary.)

Michael Leddy said...

The grandfather picture? Not to my knowledge.

I’ll make a note of that restaurant for when (eventually) my wife and I make it back to New York.

Stuart Grist said...

Restaurants like this one are also being systematically eliminated in London, where I live, to make way for huge blocks of glass and so on. In fact London these days is hardly more than a building site, and few people here are "Londoners".

In "A Snowy Night on West-forty ninth Street" Maeve Brennan describes another little restaurant, the Etoile de France. I have often wondered whether it was a real place. Does anyone know for sure?

Michael Leddy said...

A quick (but careful) trip down the rabbit hole turns up nothing for me. I wonder if the name might be disguising Le Steak de Paris. Perhaps because she’s writing about patrons who could be identified? A matter of privacy?