Old Heidelburg, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

I recently stopped over in Fort Lauderdale on a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and visited the fabulous Mai-Kai, of course! I was also able to dine at a German restaurant in town that I’ve wanted to check out for a while – Old Heidelburg.

 

photo by The Jab, 2014

photo by The Jab, 2014

 

The restaurant has been open since 1988, in a large building that once was a New England Oyster House, one of many locations of the restaurant chain in Florida. The photo above shows the restaurant from the road, but the entrance is actually in back next to the parking lot. On entering you are greeted by a hostess in traditional Bavarian costume (a dirndl), who escorts you to your table in the dining room, a long room with dark wood paneling and beams, heavily shellacked wooden tables (which look like the tables in the Molokai bar at the Mai-Kai) with carved wood partitions, lamps in various styles, pictures of Bavaria and other German subjects on the walls, interesting bric-à-brac, and festive streamers.

 

OH4

photo by The Jab, 2014

 

OH2

photo by The Jab, 2014

 

The menu is very extensive, but the restaurant specializes in food from Bavaria, particularly the roasted meats popular in the 425-year-old Hofbräuhaus beer hall in Munich (and its offshoots), such as lamb shanks, schweinshxe (a huge pork shank), smoked pork loin, schweinebraten (roast pork), sauerbraten (marinated roast beef), roast suckling pig, roast goose, and roast duck. They also offer many schnitzel (fried cutlet) variations, seafood (usually great in South Florida), sausage plates, chicken, steaks, and more. And don’t forget to leave room for house made apple strudel!

 

lamb shank with red pepper sauce, spaetzle, and red cabbage - photo by The Jab, 2014

lamb shank with red pepper sauce, spaetzle, and red cabbage – photo by The Jab, 2014

 

The lamb shank I had was excellent, as were the sides of spaetzle and red cabbage. I chased it with a Krombacher dark from their good selection of German beers on tap, served in glassware appropriate to the beer you are having. And I like that they still use vintage plates from the New England Oyster House.

 

photo by The Jab, 2014

photo by The Jab, 2014

 

There is a festive atmosphere in the place, with live entertainment nightly in the bar. It is like being in a real German tavern when you are inside because most of the friendly staff are from Germany and speak to each other in German part of the time. I got the impression that they have a lot of loyal regulars who frequent the place, which is not surprising judging by the good food and service and friendly atmosphere. To sum it up in one word, Old Heidelburg offers a feeling of gemütlichkeit!

 

Old Heidelburg
900 SW 24th Street (State Road 84), Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315
954-463-6747
Open Mon-Fri 11:30am – 10:00pm, Sat-Sun 4:00pm – 10:30pm
(bar open later, until approx. 11:30pm Sun-Th, 1:00am Fri-Sat, always call first)

 

La Casa Rosa in San Juan Bautista may close soon – GO NOW

It is with great sadness that I pass on a report from a friend that La Casa Rosa, open in San Juan Bautista, California since 1935, may close soon. The owner since 1973, Charlie Shockey, is retiring so the restaurant is up for sale. La Casa Rosa was the topic of Le Continental’s first blog post and is a truly unique treasure, providing an unsurpassed luncheon experience from a simpler time in old California. I was there only last month and it was not for sale at the time so the news was a surprise to me. I’m hoping a buyer may run the restaurant as is, but since that may not happen it is suggested that you go there as soon as possible. Better yet, please buy it and continue this one-of-a-kind California landmark!

 

La Casa Rosa

photo by The Jab, 2011

La Casa Rosa
107 3rd St, San Juan Bautista, CA 95045
(831) 623-4563
Luncheon Wed-Mon 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM – closed Tuesdays
Gift shop open daily 10 AM – 5 PM.

Grand Canyon Cafe, Flagstaff, Arizona

If you’re heading for the Grand Canyon or just passing through on Route 66, Flagstaff is worth an overnight stop. There are plenty of motels along the old highway passing through town, some with great neon, but for my money I’m staying at the historic Monte Vista Hotel one block north of Route 66 downtown.

 

photo by The Jab, 2008

photo by The Jab, 2008

 

The hotel opened in 1927 by the City of Flagstaff and was community owned until the 1960s, when it became privately owned.

 

lobby - photo by The Jab, 2008

lobby – photo by The Jab, 2008

 

The Monte Vista Lounge opened with the hotel, reportedly as a speakeasy until Prohibition ended. Both entrances to the bar, from the hotel and from the street, are fabulous!

 

photo by The Jab, 2008

photo by The Jab, 2008

photo by The Jab, 2008

photo by The Jab, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being a historic hotel, some of the less expensive rooms have baths down the hall, but many rooms are larger with baths and they also have suites. I stayed in a small single with bath across the hall. The room was basic, but clean (as was the bathroom) and had a historic feel. Some rooms are named after famous guests from the past.

 

photo by The Jab, 2008

photo by The Jab, 2008

 

Besides the cocktail lounge, the hotel also has a cafe/bar called The Rendezvous, which serves as a coffee bar all day from 6:30 am (serving Intelligentsia coffee and tea) but also is a cocktail bar offering classic and craft cocktails until 2:00 am every night. Splendid! Two bars in one classic hotel; now you know why I like to stay here!

 

photo by The Jab, 2008

photo by The Jab, 2008

 

Within a short walk from the hotel there are several good restaurants (I particularly liked Swadee Thai restaurant) but a walk down Route 66 also takes you to the neon splendor of the Grand Canyon Cafe, which opened in 1942. In 1945 three brothers, Alfred, Edward, and Albert Wong bought the restaurant with a partner Bill Yee. Amazingly, it is still owned by the Wong family almost 70 years later. Albert’s son Freddy Wong now runs the restaurant with his wife Tina. The menu is a combination of classic American cafe fare (Freddy’s specialty) and Chinese food (Tina’s expertise). So it’s a great place to come both for breakfast or for some Chinese food for lunch or dinner. The chicken fried steak with green chili sauce comes highly recommended. And you can the see by my photo below that it hasn’t changed much in 70 years. I love the original vinyl booths and the lunch counter with jaunty red, white, and black stripes and a green Formica top to match the tables.

 

photo by The Jab

photo by The Jab

 

Of course if you’re going to the Grand Canyon, and can afford it, you should stay in one of the historic lodges for a few nights. But you may also enjoy saving a bit of money by staying a night or two in the charming, historic Monte Vista Hotel in happening downtown Flagstaff. And don’t miss the animated neon signs on Route 66 and around town!

 

 

 

Grand Canyon Cafe
110 E Santa Fe Ave, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
(928) 774-2252
Open Mon-Sat 7:00am-9:00pm

 

Grand Central Oyster Bar, New York City, New York

I recently heard some good news about the reopening of 101-year-old Oyster Bar in Grand Central Terminal after a long restoration. The renovation started after its centennial last year, one room at a time, and the restaurant was closed earlier this year to redo the kitchen. The signature tiled arched ceilings were restored by replacing damaged tiles with painstakingly reproduced ones that match perfectly with the original tiles from 1913 that remained.

 

Grand Central Terminal Restaurant, c. 1920 - image from  Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Grand Central Terminal Restaurant, c. 1920 – image from Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

The Grand Central Terminal Restaurant and Oyster Bar was opened by the Union News Company in 1913, only two weeks after the magnificent Beaux-Arts Grand Central Terminal opened (a terminal is a railroad station that is at the end of a railroad line; when Grand Central opened it was the terminus of the New York Central Railroad’s line into Manhattan). Beautifully designed by architect Raphael Gustavino, for many years it was not primarily a seafood restaurant, but instead served a varied menu of dishes popular at the time. However, from the start it always had a popular oyster bar which featured a selection of raw oysters and the popular oyster stews and pan roasts. The restaurant catered to all walks of life, from the rich and famous traveling in style, who may have eaten in the main dining room (see picture above), to the average train traveler or commuter, who may have eaten at the more casual lunch counters, the oyster bar, or in the saloon in the back of the restaurant. Remarkably, all the different rooms are still in use and are now restored to how they probably looked in 1974, when the restaurant reopened after closing due to lack of business caused by the decline of long distance train travel in the U.S.

 

Grand Central Oyster Bar 1970s - image from Eater.com

Grand Central Oyster Bar 1970s – image from Eater.com

 

Starting in the 1950s Grand Central was threatened with demolition for new high-rise buildings, a battle which lasted until it was designated a New York City Landmark in 1967 and a National Historic Landmark in 1975 (Jackie Kennedy Onassis was instrumental in saving it). When I was a teenager in the 1970s a fascination with trains since childhood and my wanderlust prompted me to take two cross-country train trips from San Diego on early Amtrak trains that were still running vintage, streamliner-era rail cars acquired from the railroads when Amtrak took over most passenger trains in 1971. Train travel was pretty cheap then so I could afford private roomettes on some trains, but I didn’t mind spending a night or two in coach at that young age (and the long distance coach cars then had tons of leg room and reclined nearly flat). I arrived in New York City by train in the mid-1970s at Penn Station and after my visit I departed out of Grand Central Terminal to Chicago on the Lake Shore Limited (the Hudson River route of the famous 20th Century Limited; Amtrak stopped using Grand Central in 1991). I remember exploring the worn out and nearly empty Grand Central that day and how depressing yet fascinating as a time-warp it was.

image from http://www.oysterbarny.com/

image from http://www.oysterbarny.com/

In 1974 the restaurant closed so the Metropolitan Transit Authority approached Jerome Brody, president of Restaurant Associates, Inc. (owners of many of the finest restaurants in NYC, including the Four Seasons, The Forum of the Twelve Caesars, The Rainbow Room, and La Fonda del Sol), to take over the space. The restaurant quickly reopened (in 1974) with a seafood-focused menu and a new logo (pic at right) but thankfully with the same appearance. It struggled for two decades until 1997, when there was a fire which nearly destroyed the restaurant. Many of the tiles and most of the equipment were damaged but it reopened just in time for the completion in 1998 of a four-year restoration of Grand Central Terminal. In 1999, I visited the Terminal and restaurant (my first visit) on a trip to NYC for a family reunion to celebrate my grandparents’ 90th birthdays (they were both born on the same date). I had heard about the Oyster Bar in Jane and Michael Stern’s 1997 book Eat Your Way Across The U.S.A. During my visit I also took the fascinating Grand Central neighborhood walking tour, which happens every Friday, is free, and is highly recommended by Le Continental.

 

Grand Central Oyster bar today - image by amny.com

Grand Central Oyster bar today – image by amny.com

 

Now that the recent restoration is complete I can’t wait to return, have a pan roast (a must for first time visitors), and some fresh, raw oysters!

 

Grand Central Oyster bar today - image by amny.com

Grand Central Oyster bar today – image by amny.com

 

For further reading about the Grand Central Oyster Bar’s history, I recommend the articles on the wonderful I Ride The Harlem Line blog and on Eater.com’s Living Legends feature.

 

Grand Central Oyster Bar
89 E 42nd St, New York, NY 10017 (lower level)
(212) 490-6650
Open Mon-Sat 11:30am-9:30pm, closed Sundays

 

Shadowbrook, Capitola, California

Along the Soquel River in the village of Capitola near Santa Cruz there is one of the most unique restaurants in the United States, that has survived (in fact, it thrives) since 1947. My copy of the 1959-60 AAA Tour Book describes Shadowbrook as “enchanting”, which is probably the most apt term to describe it in one word.

 

Postcard

 

The original building on the site of the restaurant was a simple cabin that was used as a summer home in the 1920s. This was later enlarged into a house that was used as a tea room in the 1930s, which included a large stone fireplace, now a major feature in Shadowbrook’s original dining room. The tea room had a boat that taxied guests along the river to and from a nearby beach. Sometime later the house was abandoned, but in the 1940s a fellow named Brad McDonald discovered it overgrown with brush and purchased it. In 1947 Brad and his partner Ed Phillippet opened Shadowbrook restaurant. Brad was the maitre’d and waiter, while Ed was the cook.

 

This appears to be the oldest photo of the restaurant, before the expansion in the 1950s. Image from Shadowbrook Restaurant's website.

This appears to be the oldest exterior photo of the restaurant, before the expansion in the 1950s. Image from Shadowbrook’s website.

 

diners in the main dining room - image from Shadowbrook's website

diners in the first floor main dining room – image from Shadowbrook’s website

 

another early photo of the original dining room - image from Shadowbrook's website

another early photo of the original dining room – image from Shadowbrook’s website

 

the original dining room today (also called the fireside room) - image by Shadowbrook's website

the original dining room today (also called the fireside room) – image by Shadowbrook’s website

 

On the second floor is the bar, which is where the main entrance to the restaurant is today. In the early days the cocktail lounge included an impressive mid-century freeform bar with tuck & roll upholstery, a large rock wall and fireplace to the left, a modern beam and lattice open ceiling, rustic furniture and western lamps, a parquet dance floor, and a large antique cash register. Gorgeous!

 

original cocktail lounge and bar - image by Shadowbrook's website

original cocktail lounge and bar – image by Shadowbrook’s website

 

HERE'S HOW! - image from Shadowbrook's website

HERE’S HOW! – image from Shadowbrook’s website

 

Sometime in the 1950s the original dining room was enlarged with an extension that had large angled windows which allowed guests to dine with better views of the gardens and river.

 

Shadowbrook by artist James Warren, originally in Ford Times, 1961 – image by http://1950sunlimited.tumblr.com

 

 

Cable CarYou may be wondering by now what the red phone booth is doing on the hillside next to the restaurant. In the 1950s a cable car was installed to carry guests from a parking lot above the restaurant! It is still in use and adds to the charm of a Shadowbrook visit. Note: it is not a funicular like Angel’s Flight, which has two cars that act as counterweights. This works like San Francisco’s cable cars, where the car grips a moving cable.

 

 

 

 

In the old days you could also arrive by boat!

image from Shadowbrook's website

image from Shadowbrook’s website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1972 Shadowbrook was sold to the owners of the Crows Nest in Santa Cruz. Then in 1978 a manager of the restaurant Ted Burke acquired Shadowbrook with a partner who has since retired. Ted is the current owner. In the 1970s through the 1990s the restaurant was modified and expanded a lot. Some of the additions, though more modern than the original design, look good in my opinion. In particular, the circular brick patios on the hillside next to the restaurant look very nice. Many new rooms were added in this period, including the Garden Room (where I dined on my recent visit), the Redwood Room, and others. Some are used mainly for private functions but are also used on busy nights.

 

patios at Shadowbrook - image from Shadowbrook's website

patios at Shadowbrook – image from Shadowbrook’s website

 

Also, some of the changes to the bar (now called the Rock Room) have a design reminiscent of some famous modern architects, such as William Cody’s angular styles in Palm Springs. I like the huge beams that continue through to the outside and the greenhouse effect of the angled windows. The bar or Rock Room was modified a lot in 1997. It now has a fireplace, a wood burning pizza oven, a large marble-topped bar, and plenty of rocks and plants.

 

Rock Room - image from Shadowbrook's website

Rock Room – image from Shadowbrook’s website

 

The menu at Shadowbrook is probably best described as Californian or New American cuisine. The menu changes daily, but usually there are several steak and meat dishes (prime rib is a specialty), plus many fish entrees. We started with the calamari in the bar and it was probably the best calamari I’ve ever had. Super fresh and very tender. Not at all chewy. Lightly seasoned & battered and served with two delicious sauces. As Le Continental has suggested in restaurant tips, always try the house specialties, so I was disappointed when the waiter announced they were out of prime rib. We asked the waiter what he recommended, which is usually a good ‘plan B’ if you aren’t sure what to order. He replied the lamb and the filet mignon. I was in the mood for lamb, so I ordered that. It was a sliced loin of lamb and was a little chewy and not very tender. I would recommend sticking with a steak or perhaps some seafood since the calamari was so good. Another plus: the restaurant makes all its baked goods from scratch.

 

Postcard2

 

Shadowbrook is very popular so it can be crowded, especially on weekend nights. Reservations are a must on weekends. They are also very popular for weddings. I called to reserve a table on a Saturday a couple of weeks in advance and tried to request the original dining room but was told “we don’t accept room preferences on reservations, but you will enjoy any of our tables”. I must admit I found that policy not very accommodating for the restaurant business. At the Mai-Kai you can reserve a table in any room you wish. I know that, like myself, most of my readers seek out restaurants that are historic so they can have the time travel experience of dining in a historic dining room, not in a newly remodeled room or a new addition. Well, when we arrived an hour early so we could enjoy the bar for a while I asked the hostess of we could dine in the “original dining room”. She replied that they were really busy but she would try. I told her that we are in no rush so we didn’t mind waiting for a table in the historic room. After a half-hour or so the hostess called us and told us she didn’t have a table in the original dining room because the tables in that room are for parties of six. So they sat us in the Garden Room, which was very nice (it was an add-on off the original dining room with mostly windows, like a greenhouse, with a large tree trunk that they built the room around) but not as desirable to me as the old dining room. Please pardon my gripe. I know this isn’t a big complaint (and I’m not like some people on Yelp that give only one star for such a minor issue) but it is important to me where I sit when visiting a historic restaurant. I think that Shadowbrook should try to be more accommodating in this regard.

 

image from Shadowbrook's website

image from Shadowbrook’s website

 

Don’t let my minor complaint dissuade you from visiting Shadowbrook. It is an amazing place…and so unique! Just try to go on a weeknight if possible, and bring plenty of cash because it is expensive. Save time for a stroll through the gardens, which are beautifully landscaped and lighted. Tree ferns abound and water flows throughout the grounds and even into the Rock Room bar!

 

Shadowbrook
1750 Wharf Rd, Capitola, CA 95010
(831) 475-1511
Open for dinner Mon-Fri 5:00pm-8:45pm, Sat 4:30pm-9:45pm, Sun 4:30pm-8:45pm (what’s up with the odd closing hour?)
The Rock Room lounge is open longer (check the website) and has entertainment weekend nights as some weeknights (the night I went there was a singer with a guitar who was turned up too loud, in my opinion).
Dress code: casual to dressy (no beach attire, thank goodness) – Le Continental recommends dressy as most guests here dress nice (it’s very popular for dates).