Wednesday, September 09, 2009

A Classic New York Saloon

I love the original P.J. Clarke's. And when I say it's a classic New York saloon, I mean classic. The bar, at 915 Third Avenue, has been around since 1884. The two top storeys had to come down to accommodate the high-rise that surrounds it, but the survival of the two lower floors was a coup, as the owners, with the help of a number of angels, managed to stave off destruction and make progress take a detour. P.J. Clarke's has gotten a bit of a publicity spike in the last couple of years, as it's the favorite haunt of the ad men of Mad Men.

There are other P.J. Clarke's branches now, in New York and Chicago, but they don't count. It's just a name at those places; there's no history. But the Third Avenue location has history galore.

The bar scenes in one of my all-time favorite films, The Lost Weekend, were shot at P.J. Clarke's. Johnny Mercer penned the lyrics for one of the classic bar tunes there: "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)." Frank Sinatra, whose recording of that song is the gold standard, also drank there.

It's a bar and it's a burger joint, one of the best, in fact. Richard Harris loved the burgers, even if he loved the drinks even more, and Nat "King" Cole declared their bacon cheeseburger "the Cadillac of burgers." Now it's called "The Cadillac" on the menu.

I'm not a big hamburger eater, but I too love the ones at P.J. Clarke's. And I love soaking up the atmosphere while I eat my burger, bacon and cheddar, or maybe mushroom and cheddar, medium-rare.


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4:45 AM  
Blogger Joe Farara said...

I couldn't agree more, Pete. I try to stop at Clarke's whenever I'm in the city for Vision. I had a restorative gin and tonic and some Clams Casino after a vigorous night of socializing with brother-in-law Neal a few years ago.

8:09 AM  

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