Gone, Gone, Gone

January 11th, 2018 § 2 comments

The bustling, noisy, fragrant Fulton Fish Market on Fulton Street and the East River in lower Manhattan is long gone. Together with the produce market that flourished on the lower west side of the borough. Both moved to Hunts Point in The Bronx. Yes, there’s better refrigeration facilities there plus transportation advantages. However, the Fulton Fish Market had a certain ambiance that was unique. Joseph Mitchell, the late New Yorker Magazine writer, liked to hang around there. He captured its essence in “Old Mr. Flood” and “Up in the Old Hotel” (about the building that housed the Sloppy Louie’s Restaurant). Close to Louie’s was the venerable Sweet’s seafood restaurant (Founded in 1845 and closed in 1992). HG dined there often circa 1959-1962 when business brought HG downtown. One dozen oysters on the half shell. Fried smelts and cole slaw. Martini before lunch. Bass ale and Guinness with the food. Cost: Six bucks. Yes. Check out the 1960 menu on the New York Public Library website and be dazzled. Louie’s was plain spoken but not sloppy. (Opened in 1930 and shuttered in 1998). The owner, Louis Morino, served very fresh seafood at low prices. There were some surprises. HG had his first taste of sea urchin roe (Uni) there. Old fogey HG mourns the transformation of the meatpacking district into a high fashion zone. (However, HG loves Daughter Victoria’s Cookshop Restaurant on Tenth Avenue, the lovely High Line promenade and the wondrous Whitney Museum). The gritty Bronx Terminal Market in the shadow of Yankee Stadium still bears the name but has become a vast shopping center with the usual tenants and dining highlights like Subway and Applebee’s. Before its dread metamorphosis, HG was the battling public relations spokesmen for the wholesale fruit and vegetable merchants that occupied sprawling stalls there. The merchants were fighting displacement. HG fought the good fight but dubious “Progress” won out. And, another colorful, lively bit of New York was erased.

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§ 2 Responses to Gone, Gone, Gone"

  • Tom says:

    Hi Gerald,

    Just a quick comment from across the pond to say how much I love your blog and writings, which completely transcend the medium. I stumbled across the site last year sometime to read about Christ Cella (I can’t remember how or why). I have read everything since. You remind me of the highly evocative New Yorker writers like John McNulty, Liebling and of course Joseph Mitchell. Both in the quality and style of writing and the sublime content focussed on the pleasures of the table and imbibing and the sense of place.

    This makes me sound older than I am (‘only’ 30) but partly because of all that writing, I made a food pilgrimage to NYC and it was everything I could have wanted. Apart from the ‘Meatpacking’ district and no more Fulton. In pursuit of Joseph Mitchell, I did manage to have 50 beers (25 each) in McSorley’s with a long-time drinking buddy. Small measure, mostly head and an undisclosed ABV. Magical. Still impressed one surly bartender, who exclaimed ‘are you guys still here!’ A Canadian asked us at one point why we were wasting our time in ‘an old Irish bar’ when we could be looking at skyscrapers and seeing shows, ‘don’t you have really old pubs at home?’ By this point, I was a little too inebriated to go into the finer details of Joseph Mitchell’s 1940 masterpiece and in any case we DO NOT have pubs or bars remotely like McSorley’s ANYWHERE. This was bookended by lunch ‘at’ Russ and Daughters and dinner at Katz’s, astonishingly with a final house beer.

    Other highlights were burgers at Veselka around 1:30am and thanksgiving dinner (ie porterhouse) with all the sides and a bloody mary at Peter Luger’s.

    When I’m your age, I hope that I dine as well, and have such a seemingly wonderful family surrounding me.

    P.S. thanks for the NYPL link for the menus. Was not aware of this and as a former archivist and current menu collector, find it extremely satisfying.



    • Gerry says:

      Tom: Very moved by your appreciation. Since you are a young man (albeit with a wise ability to pick out the best of New York) I hope you make many more visits. Take time for Flushing, The Bronx, Rockaway in season, Queens (where more than a hundred languages are spoken) and, of course, Brooklyn, culinary capital of the world.

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