107. Cafe Martin (Old Delmonico's) New York - 1908
What do a Baked Alaska, Eggs Benedict, Lobster Newberg, and Chicken a la King have in common? They are all dishes that were originally created in Delmonico’s kitchen.
Delmonico’s has been a fine dining establishment in New York since it’s opening at 23 William Street in 1827. It was a novelty in New York. There were new foods, a courteous staff, and cuisine that was unknown at the homes of even the wealthiest New Yorkers. The restaurant featured a bill of fare, which was itself new; until Delmonico’s, restaurant patrons dined on the meal of the day with no other selections offered. In Paris, however, restaurants provided their patrons a "bill of fare," a carte, which listed separate dishes with individual prices. Delmonico’s chose to follow in the footsteps of the Parisians and offer their patrons a choice of dishes. Today, we call it a menu.
Several Delmonico’s locations around lower Manhattan and eventually midtown were to follow. The Delmonico’s pictured here is the Fifth Avenue location at the corner of 26th Street and opened for business in 1876.
The new restaurant on lower Fifth Avenue reflected the grandeur Delmonico’s is known for in both its furnishings and atmosphere. Silver chandeliers lit the first floor from a frescoed ceiling and sparkled in the mirrors that lined each interior wall. Furnished in mahogany, the main dining room was also faced with large plate glass windows and looked onto Fifth Avenue. Patrons were treated to the view of a miniature lawn, and across the street, the trees and flowerbeds of Madison Square. Around the corner on Broadway, was the men’s café and in between the two dining rooms, in the center of the Twenty-sixth Street side, was the main entrance.
The second floor hosted a richly decorated red and gold ballroom and four sumptuous private dining rooms, each decorated in different colors of satin. Supper and retiring rooms were also available on the second floor. More dining rooms, each in different styles and colors could be found on the third floor along with a large banquet hall. The fourth floor held lodger’s apartments and the top floor was home to the servants’ rooms, storage areas and the laundry. The kitchens were in the basement.
This grand location on Fifth Avenue was one of the final incarnations of Delmonico’s with continuity to the original. It closed as a result of changing dining habits due to Prohibition. A Delmonico’s steak simply was not the same when served with a glass of water.
A note of interest: You’ll notice the “Café Martin” sign on the building. It seems that John B. Martin, owner of the Martin Hotel, actually bought the structure in 1901. However, this is contemporaneous with Delmonico’s occupation of the building and while owner and tenant need not be the same, Martin obviously put a sign up that leaves us with a bit of confusion.Location