9 Secrets Of New York City Restaurants

zagat restaurant KGB bar

Photo: Courtesy of Zagat

This post originally appeared on Zagat’s Buzz Blog.Want to know a secret? That restaurant you are dining in may have a sordid past. A while back, we rounded up some of the sensational histories surrounding New York’s restaurants, bars and markets. Since everyone loves a secret, we decided to dig a little deeper into the Big Apple’s culinary history.

This time we delve into the world of New York gangs, communists and even David Letterman – click through the slideshow to get the DL on these secrets (but don’t tell anyone). Do you know any juicy stories? Let us know in the comments.

You can also vote in Zagat’s New York City restaurant survey.

Max Brenner

Long before Max Brenner brought gourmet chocolate to the Roosevelt Building at 841 Broadway, the structure laid claim as Manhattan's first movie studio. The American Mutoscope constructed the studio in 1896 on the roof and created silent comedies like A Bowery Café and Ein Bier.

They garnered ideas through newspaper ads and gave vaudeville performers, unknown actors and normal folk the chance to participate. Even before the cameras started rolling, the large Hackett-Carhart department store resided in these digs. Sadly, the roof is currently off limits, but you can still sit back with a luscious frozen hot chocolate and pretend you are waiting for your audition.

The Details: 841 Broadway; 212-388-0030

P.D. O'Hurley's

Before this Irish pub took over, 250 W. 72nd St. was home to the All State Café, which closed fall 2007. While this location's recent history may be pretty tame, this wasn't the case in 1973 when the spot was home to Tweeds, a shifty bar where one woman met her demise.

Roseann Quinn was an elementary school in the Bronx by day, but by night, she was allegedly known to prowl the bars looking for men to spend the evening with. On New Year's Day, 1973, she met John Wayne Wilson at the watering hole and ended up murdered in her apartment across the street - a crime which inspired the film Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Moral of the story: when you're throwing back a pint at the local pub, be weary who you go home with.

The Details: 250 W 72nd St., New York; 212-712-9822

Golden Taste Restaurant

While every cheap Chinese joint doesn't have the best reputation, at the Golden Taste Restaurant it's the building's history and not the food that is questionable. In 1857 the notorious New York gang the Dead Rabbits attacked the clubhouse of the equally infamous Bowery Boys at 42 Bowery.

The riot that ensued lasted a week and inspired the film Gangs of New York. While you may not be able to order dead rabbit on the menu, the modern-day restaurant does offer a fine Peking duck.

The Details: 42 Bowery; 212-571-3888


They say if you look in the floor length mirror next to the bathrooms at this East Village watering hole something will scare you. Perhaps it's the ghost of one of the Ukrainian Socialists who used to gather there when the space was the Ukrainian labour Home, a social club and meeting spot used to discus political views during the McCarthy era.

Or maybe it's the spirit of drunks who used to sneak into the Palm Casino, a speakeasy bar that resided at 85 4th Ave. before the Ukrainians bought it in 1948. The current space has hosted the KGB Bar, Kraine theatre and Red Room since 1993 - though it still sports red lights and Communist signs and propaganda, anyone can drink there, capitalists included.

The Details: 85 4th Ave.; 212-505-3360

Fraunces Tavern

Can you believe this historical place still remains? Today they serve up classic English fare like smoked haddock chowder, fish and chips and bangers and mash with beer-onion gravy - sounds like a throwback, right? Well, Washington may not have slept here, but he surely ate here.

In 1783, George Washington said goodbye to his most trusted officers after the British were defeated - from there headed to the Continental Congress Down in Maryland and resigned his commission. The Revolutionary War may have ended but not Fraunces - it's still going strong.

The Details: 54 Pearl St.; 212-968-1776

Old Town Bar

There are plenty of famous bars in NYC, but not all of them have been on TV. If you hit up 45 East 18th St., near Union Square, the Old Town Bar not only greets you with a pint, but used to be the greeting for The David Letterman Show in the 1980s.

The bar has been there since 1892, a feat considering how much the area has changed. For a blast to the past, check out this grainy video of the bar as seen on David Letterman.

The Details: 45 E 18th St., New York; 212-529-6732


Japan Premium Beef

Beautiful cuts of orwashugyu , or wagyu-style American beef just don't sound as glamorous when faced with the historical address that houses this butcher shop. In 1988 Jean-Michel Basquiat, a famous modern artist and muse of Andy Warhol, died of an overdose here.

Maybe they should pay homage by decorating their packages with Basquiat's art? If they came anywhere close to what his pieces fetch at auction, that would be a mighty fine investment.

The Details: 57 Great Jones St., 212-260-2333

Danny Ng's Place

Did you know there are actually good restaurants in Grand Central Terminal?

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