The Original Blue Ribbon

January 29th, 2013 § 11 comments

The Blue Ribbon was a German restaurant located in New York on W. 44th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues. (Don’t confuse it with the cluster of wonderful Blue Ribbon restaurants run by the Bromberg brothers). The original Blue Ribbon opened in 1914 (and managed to survive the World War One anti-German hysteria). Delighted robust eaters for many decades until it closed in 1975. Served all the traditional dishes (kassler ripchen, grilled wursts, wiener schnitzel,sauerbraten, sauerkraut, fried potatoes, etc.). A warm room paneled in dark wood. Comfortable seats and pleasant lighting. A perfect venue for lovers of hearty food washed down with the best of German beers. It was a favorite with Germans who had fled Hitler. (Plus some bad Germans — namely a wartime espionage ring which used the restaurant as a rendezvous before being captured by the FBI). HG dined there very often with journalists from the New York Times. The real estate editor, the late Glenn Fowler, was a frequent dining companion. He introduced HG to steak tartare. Glenn would mix it at the table with a host of ingredients — egg yolks, anchovies, chopped onions, capers, English mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, ground pepper and a dash of Tabasco. Very memorable. Best ever. The Blue Ribbon was a short walk from the original Madison Square Garden (50th and 8th Avenue) so it was an HG favorite for a snack after basketball, hockey or fights. HG would choose the apple pancake, a giant affair, at least 18 inches in diameter, oozing sauteed apples enriched with cinnamon, ginger and powdered sugar. Dark beers in chilled mugs within reach, HG and buddies argued about the athletic events. A frequent Blue Ribbon customer was Erich Maria Remarque. His novel, All Quiet On The Western Front, was one of the first books burned by the Nazis. He manged to avoid their clutches by escaping to Switzerland (his sister, Elfriede Schutz, wasn’t as fortunate — she was beheaded by the Nazis for “defeatism”). There are many mentions of the Blue Ribbon in Remarque’s novel about New York in the 1940’s, Shadows In Paradise. Remarque didn’t spend all his time writing and eating. He had a long affair with Marlene Dietrich and a shorter affair with Hedy Lamarr before marrying the beautiful actress, Paulette Goddard. Remarque’s name lives on in New York. Goddard gave New York University $20,000,000 to found the Remarque Institute of European Studies. Permit HG a digression. The first director of the Institute was the late Tony Judt. In HG’s opinion, Judt is the greatest historian of post-World War Two Europe. He was an engaged intellectual who wrote many penetrating studies of world affairs. If you want to have some understanding of the difficult world we live in, you must read his books.

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§ 11 Responses to The Original Blue Ribbon"

  • Stephen Beck says:

    This is so interesting to me. The Blue Ribbon was Jules Beck’s (my paternal grandfather) restaurant. I never met him and have only ever heard stories of him and the special place he created. I once met a former New Yorker political cartoonist in NC who told me that he and Thurber and the gang ate bratwurst and drank beer at my grandfather’s restaurant every Friday.
    Thanks for this.

  • Reginald H Pitts says:

    Listening to one of the late Jean Shepherd’s radio shows that were first broadcast on WOR radio up to forty years ago, and he waxed rhapsodic over the Hassenpfeffer at the Blue Ribbon (this would have been 1968). These days, there are very few great places in Midtown to eat and relax after a ball game or after seeing a show.

  • Ek Paul Prengel says:

    Wow – as a young German student in the 60s I dined at the Blue Ribbon several times, never forgot the good German food. The waiters were not the youngest, with an apron.
    Sad to read it closed, glad to read that Erich Maria Remarque was a frequent guest.

  • Ken Thorn says:

    The Blue Ribbon would serve red cabbage and lentils as the usual two side dishes to an entre, unlike the usual red cabbage and sauerkraut. I really enjoyed the lentils.

  • Donna Kavanagh says:

    My father who is Irish and part German took me to this restaurant when I was a college student at NYU living in Greenwich Village it wasn’t until I happened upon this story that the memories came flooding back of the wonderful basic interior of the restaurant with the European waiters but the great German food that was in the 80s it is now 2017 I’m 65 and I still have vivid memories of that meal with my father thank you for this article I’m sorry to hear that it’s closed all the great restaurants it’s like the Domino Theory one after another keep folding and they just build something less interesting afterwards let’s hope the new chefs will create some memories that we all can have decades later like I did with the blue ribbon thank you peace Eat Pray Love

  • Roland L. Fortin says:

    My recollections of the Blue Ribbon are inevitably linked to their wonderful, huge schnitzel served by jowly waiters wearing white aprons midway up their chests! Accompanied with pan fried potatoes and bathed in an exquisite sauce the dish was, to say the least, a rich and satisfying experience. I had the pleasure of dining there in the early 70’s when I was a young man (I’m now 72 and live far from NYC).
    As a somewhat earnest student of the cooking arts I would love to replicate the dishes I had at the Blue Ribbon, if only to quench my nostalgia (and appetite) for their hearty, succulent cuisine, and perhaps to honor the passing of a venerable restaurant. Do any leads spring to mind? Perhaps on my next visit to the City I’ll indulge in a drink (or two) at the Algonquin and reminisce with my friends with whom I shared many notable entrees at the Blue Ribbon.
    Thanks for providing a brief history of the restaurant and a stimulus for my own recollections.

    • Gerry says:

      Well, Roland, you seem to be a member in good standing of the Hungry Boy Club. Yes, Blue Ribbon catered to men (and women) of hearty appetites. Portions were huge. Quality was tops.

  • Clem Schrader says:

    I also enjoyed the Blue Ribbon in the early 70’s. I was in the shipping business in NC and I believe one of my German clients in Manhattan introduced me to the place . After that I made it a point to eat there every time I was in NYC.
    The comments brought back some great memories from times past .

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