Story and photography Manos Angelakis
Rib Eye and Side Dishes photo Noah Fecks Photography
Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse Bids Farewell to 45th Street.
Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse has been a New York City dining institution since 1926.
It started on a second floor location on 45th street close to 8th Avenue as a speakeasy during Prohibition; to be allowed entry you were required to give the simplistic password “Frankie and Johnnie”. Through the years it became the watering hole for many New York City celebrities, especially actors and other theater people from nearby Broadway as well as some rather infamous patrons -- Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lanskey imbibed here alongside John O'Hara and Frank Sinatra. It was also a place for special occasion celebrations for local area residents. It was an “Old New York” style restaurant but if you wanted great steak done perfectly or lamb chops or veal chops, this was the place to visit.
Unfortunately, the restaurant did not own the building they were located in, and the Shubert organization that are the owners started assembling the 45th Street block to build a retail and hotel complex, so Frankie & Johnnie’s moved to a new location, just around the corner on Restaurant Row -- 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue.
The new location is much larger and considerably modernized, without loosing much of the charm of the old speakeasy. An expansive bar dominates the ground floor and there is a good size balcony that accommodates many tables. For the first time, the restaurant also has a special functions room for private events at the rear of the balcony. Dark hardwood floors and wall paneling enclose the restaurant’s dark wood furnishings, leather banquettes, and the custom mahogany wood bar with a black granite top.
We had lunch at the new site where I met the owner, a fellow Greek-American Peter Chimos, who purchased the restaurant with his brother-in-law in 1985.
The menu remains fairly true to the original, with some added items that relate to how people eat today. Starters are jumbo shrimp cocktail, shrimp scampi, fried calamari jalapeños with marinara sauce, tuna tartare, steak tartare, blue point oysters and smoked applewood bacon steak. There are flatbreads that have been recently added to the menu. There are choices of soups and salads and of course the classic side dishes -- French fried onions, great old-fashioned creamed spinach, broiled mushrooms, broccoli sautéed in garlic and olive oil and numerous others. If you like potatoes there are 8 spud offerings that include au gratin potatoes, Lyonnaise potatoes, hash browns, and garlic mashed.
We started lunch with an amuse bouche of the Golden Corn Bisque with crème fraîche, grilled corn and chives. It was delightful! The soup was followed by platters of Shrimp Scampi and Tuna Tartare. Both were noble versions of the typical dishes.
Being an unrepentant carnivore, I set my sights on the prime charbroiled Porterhouse for two (but there is also a gargantuan Porterhouse for three). Other prime pieces of meat are the bone-in Rib Eye and the Sirloin Steak. Most of the entrees are typical New York steakhouse fare: Petite Filet Mignon (8 oz.), Filet Mignon (12 oz.), Double Loin Lamb Chops, Veal Chops, Pork Chops served with potato pancakes, Calf’s Liver with sautéed onions and bacon; there are also Lobster Ravioli in vodka sauce, Broiled Salmon cooked to perfection, succulent Chicken Breast smothered in wild mushroom sauce, and a few other dishes that incorporate two Italian-American classics: Veal Chop Parmigiana and Chicken Parmigiana.
The wine list is mostly better California bottles that pair very well with grilled meat, as well as some iconic Italians and a few French and Chilean rarities. The bar makes a yummy Bloody Mary from scratch and to each individual’s preference for spice.
Lunch there was a real pleasure.
© April 2016 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.