Tag Archives: Prohibition

Famous in its day: Tip Top Inn

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As the massively solid Pullman Building was under construction on Michigan Avenue in Chicago in 1884, a young Adolph Hieronymus was traveling to Chicago from his native Germany. Within a few years he would run a restaurant of renown on the building’s top floor.

tiptopinnpullmanbldgThe building was to be the new headquarters of the Pullman Palace Car Company which manufactured sleeping and dining cars used by major railways. When the imposing building was completed, the company occupied two and a half of its nine floors while the rest of the space was rented for offices and what were known then as “bachelor apartments,” probably lacking anything but the most rudimentary cooking facilities.

For the first few years the Pullman company ran its own restaurant, The Albion, on the 9th floor. It was considered advanced at the time to locate restaurants on top floors so that cooking odors would not drift throughout the building. In addition, diners at The Albion, and later the Tip Top Inn, had excellent views of Lake Michigan.

tiptopinnFrenchRoomDuring the Columbian Exhibition in 1893 Adolph Hieronymus left his job as chef at the Palmer House and took over the Pullman building restaurant, renaming it the Tip Top Inn. Under his management, it became one of Chicago’s best restaurants, hosting society figures and professional organizations. Until the Pullman company expanded its offices onto all eight floors below the restaurant, men living in the 75 or so apartments on the upper floors were also steady customers of the Inn, often having meals sent down to them.

The space occupied by the Tip Top Inn was divided into a bewildering number of rooms, at least five and maybe more. Each had its own decorating scheme. Over the years – but surely not simultaneously — there were the Colonial Room [pictured at top ca. 1906], the Nursery, the Whist Room [pictured below], the Charles Dickens Corner, the Flemish Room, the French Room [pictured above], the Italian Room, the Garden Room, and the Grill Room. The Whist Room was decorated with enlarged playing cards and lanterns with spades, hearts, diamonds, and clubs. The lantern and suits also decorated the Inn’s china and menus.

tiptopInnmenu1920The outlawing of alcoholic beverages proved challenging to the Tip Top Inn, as it did to other leading Chicago restaurants of the pre-Prohibition era such as Rector’s, the Edelweiss, and the Hofbrau, all of which would go under before the ban on selling alcohol ended. Perhaps to attract new customers, Hieronymus created an associated restaurant on the 9th floor called The Black Cat Inn, with somewhat lower prices than the Tip Top Inn and a menu featuring prix fixe meals.

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The Black Cat was unusual at the time for having a staff of Black waitresses – who served in restaurants far less often than Black men. The Tip Top Inn, just like the Albion and the Pullman dining cars, had always been staffed with Black waiters, some of whom worked there for decades. It was said that anyone who worked at the Tip Top could find employment in any restaurant across the country. “Black Bolshevik” Harry Haywood wrote in his autobiography that he quickly worked his way up from Tip Top Inn busboy to waiter and then landed jobs on the ultra-modern Twentieth-Century Limited train and with Chicago’s Sherman Hotel and Palmer House.

By 1931 when the Tip Top Inn restaurant closed, it was regarded as an old-fashioned holdover from a previous era. Its extensive menu of specialties such as Stuffed Whitefish with Crabmeat and Suzettes Tip Top, some of the more than 100 dishes created by Hieronymus, was no longer in vogue. Aside from Prohibition, Hieronymus attributed the restaurant’s demise to the death of gourmet dining. Hieronymus died in1932 but he and his restaurant were remembered by Chicagoans for decades. The Pullman Building was demolished in 1956.

© Jan Whitaker, 2014

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From tap room to tea room

Cities in the United States were generously supplied with saloons before national Prohibition took effect. Saloons occupied some very choice sites, often on corners or other desirable spots. So it was quite a boon for other types of businesses such as drug stores and eating places when those locations became available en masse in 1919.

San Francisco’s Temple Bar was an English-style ale house established in the 19th century. Its name played upon London’s Temple Bar – which was a gatehouse, not a drinking place at all. One of its greatest assets was a magnificently carved rosewood and birch backbar said to have been made in Philadelphia in the 1840s. The saloon sat at the end of a quaint little cobblestone alley off Grant Avenue named Tillman Alley or Tillman Place. Just as Prohibition was set to begin, one of its best customers, on a whim perhaps fueled by too many drinks, declared he would buy it; William Davenport, a commercial illustrator who was used to capping off his afternoons there with colleagues from work, paid $300 for the place.

A few months later he and his young wife Hope opened it as the Temple Bar tea room and gift shop. It was also a circulating library which rented books for a small fee. Young Chinese women, dressed in Asian costumes, served lunch and afternoon tea.

William, who was known in artistic circles as “Davvy” and had designed posters for telephone companies up and down the West Coast, decorated the tea room in yellows, blues, and oranges, and fashioned an eye-catching orange sign. To liven up the outside he installed boxwoods in planters. However when they died, victims of the lack of sunlight, he replaced them with modernistic conical-shaped trees he constructed out of painted galvanized iron.

templebartearoomThe alley was inhabited by other interesting businesses and studios such as that of metal craftsman Harry Dixon whose work was exhibited and sold in the Temple Bar gift shop. Another alley denizen was Ye Old Book Shop where George Hargens rapidly gained fame as a seller of rare old books. Grant Avenue was the city’s most fashionable shopping venue in the 1920s, so the Temple Tea Room and its neighbors on Tillman Place were well positioned to catch the attention of affluent shoppers from businesses such as the White House department store just across from the alley.

Hope died in 1932. Davvy carried on the Temple Bar until at least the 1950s when a reporter found him behind the bar mixing dry martinis and old-fashioneds for lunching shoppers. Since his time the location has had many reincarnations as restaurant, bar, and place of entertainment. The backbar was removed to Berkeley in 1990.

© Jan Whitaker, 2012

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Taste of a decade: 1910s restaurants

Like the decade following World War I, this was an eventful period in the development of the restaurant. Social and economic changes favored the growth of eating out. Even before the U.S. entered the war in April of 1917 restaurant patronage was on the rise and by the following year the Food Administration, under the direction of future president Herbert Hoover, estimated that more food was consumed in restaurants than in homes.

It was a schizophrenic decade. It opened with an accent on the high life but ended in austerity mode. Luxurious cabarets and “lobster palaces” of the early decade would sink into oblivion near its close. But at the same time urbanized speed-up and intense modern work regimes inclined people to seek more outlets for pleasure. Increasing numbers of single male and female white-collar workers in cities abandoned the old home-based courtship tradition; the new custom of middle-class dating brought a search for entertainment and swelled restaurant going. With better public transportation and the feminization of downtowns, more and more women patronized tea rooms and restaurants in and around department stores.

Due to growing sentiment against drinking, the saloon free lunch was on the skids by mid-decade. State-wide prohibition spread and the majority of the nation’s population soon lived in areas where the sale of alcohol was illegal. Saloon keepers remaining in the larger cities saw that their days were numbered and began to take out restaurant licenses. Authorities suspected that many of the restaurants did not actually serve meals but just wanted to evade laws which forced saloons to close on Sundays. Nevertheless, the trend would increasingly become genuine and bars would be turned into lunch counters and soda fountains.

In a tight labor market accompanied by Food Administration conservation measures that discouraged frills, most of the new restaurants were lunch rooms of the self-service type. In them customers avoided tipping and enjoyed lower prices for simple ready-to-eat meals.

American involvement in the war encouraged anti-ethnic sentiment, particularly toward Germans. Many restaurants took steps to appear more American, such as changing their names. Patrons expressed a wish to see menus with no French or other foreign terms. With the sudden end to European immigration, culinary labor unions took the opportunity to strike for shorter hours and higher wages. Frequently restaurant owners responded by replacing striking male waiters with women, who were believed to be more docile.

Highlights

1910 Measured as a ratio of restaurant keepers to total population, the nation’s top five restaurant cities are: 1) Seattle (1:434); 2) San Francisco (1:449); 3) Los Angeles (1:560); 4) Kansas City (1:580); and Manhattan (1:583)*. Los Angeles claims the reason for so many restaurants is its wealth of tourists and single men.

1911 Until legal counsel advises this would be a discriminatory misuse of police powers, the Massachusetts Legislature bandies about the notion of making it illegal for women under 21 to enter Chinese restaurants.

1912 New York City’s first Horn & Hardart Automat opens. – Speedy service is prized even at Casebeer’s Lazy J Cafeteria in Waterloo, Iowa, where the slogan is “One minute service – We don’t waste your time.”

1913 The diary of an executive secretary in NYC shows her eating in restaurants over 100 times during the year, including her first-ever restaurant breakfast. Among her favorites are Childs, Schrafft’s, The Goody Shop, and The Vanity Fair and The Rip Van Winkle tea rooms.

1913 NYC’s cabarets and “lobster palaces” such as Murray’s, Martin’s, and Shanley’s, formerly open all night, take a hit as the mayor orders 1:00 a.m. closings.

1914 Despite earning only $5.85 a week, a woman working in an Ohio playing card factory spends 30% of her food budget on restaurant meals, most costing 25 cents.

1915 An exact replica of a white-tiled Childs lunchroom is featured in a scene of a Broadway play directed by David Belasco.

1916 On one short block near Boston’s Newspaper Row, twelve restaurants serve 40,000 meals daily. – In the novel The Thirteenth Commandment a young couple gets engaged after a “a typical New York courtship [in which] they visited restaurants of all degrees.”

1917 Although the managers of Chicago’s Bismarck Hotel station an American flag at the entrance to the dining room (the Berlin Room), it is damaged by dynamite just a few months after the U.S. enters war with Germany. — The Kaiserhof Cafe in NYC changes its name to Cafe New York.

1918 Restaurants place glass on tabletops to save linens and laundry for the duration of the war. They remove sugar bowls, take cheese dishes such as Welsh rarebit off their menus, and feature more hors d’oeuvres, fresh vegetables, salads, fruits, seafoods, and organ meats.

1919 In response to labor agitation, restaurant men organize and hold the first National Restaurant Association convention in Kansas City MO. – Louis Sherry announces he will close his deluxe Fifth Avenue restaurant due to hardships imposed by Prohibition and “Bolsheviki waiters.”

* By comparison a recent NYT story reported that the U.S. city with the highest number of restaurants per capita is San Francisco, where the ratio is 1:227. NYC is 1:347.

© Jan Whitaker, 2011

Read about other decades: 1800 to 1810; 1810 to 1820; 1850 to 1860; 1860 to 1870; 1870 to 1880; 1890 to 1900; 1900 to 1910; 1920 to 1930; 1930 to 1940; 1940 to 1950; 1950 to 1960; 1960 to 1970

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Taste of a decade: 1930s restaurants

wonderbar1941Even as the Depression deepens, the number of full-fledged restaurants continues to increase, from 134,293 in 1929 to 169,792 in 1939. Immigration slows in response to restrictive legislation of the late 1920s, reducing the supply of professional waiters and cooks. Female servers make up more than half of waitstaffs. The economical fixed-price meal, which had virtually been replaced by a la carte service, returns to popularity. Promotions such as “all you can eat” and “free coffee refills” are featured. After the repeal of Prohibition nightlife revives. Many diners, accustomed to speakeasies, show a preference for small, intimate restaurants. All-white interiors give way to imaginative decor which mimics ships or European courtyards. Federal financing facilitates modernization, encouraging restaurants to add streamlined fronts and air-conditioning. Deprived of bootlegging revenues, racketeers infiltrate unions and extort restaurants, dispatching picketers and stench bombs to those that don’t play along.

Highlights

veneto351981931 Restaurants drop prices and see patronage rise. In Chicago prices go down by 10% to 12%.

1932 Stores install lunch counters to lure shoppers and capture a piece of the flourishing lunch trade. Architect Ely Jacques Kahn designs a sleek tea room with vermilion-topped tables and green and black terrazzo floors for the Broadmoor Pharmacy on NYC’s Madison Ave. – Chains such as Schrafft’s, Childs, Horn & Hardart, Lofts’, and Bickford’s expand as they take advantage of reduced rents and absorb failed competitors.

1933 Expecting all alcoholic beverages to be legal by the end of the year, liquor suppliers court restaurateurs. In Amherst MA a small lunchroom operator receives complimentary wine and champagne from the S. S. Pierce Company. – The Afro-American proprietor of the Launch Tea Room in Sheepshead Bay decides to cancel plans for wintering in Palm Beach and turn her Long Island tea room into a free dining room for the poor.

1934 In post-Repeal California Ernest Raymond Baumont-Gantt opens Don the Beachcomber, while Victor Bergeron starts Hinky Dinks, forerunner to Trader Vics. In accordance with state law both must include food service with their bar operations. – In NYC, the president of the Downtown Restaurants association acknowledges, “We know now that repeal of prohibition has saved the restaurant business from utter annihilation and saved it just in time.”

1935 The pro-America mood of the 1920s continues, exemplified by a column in a restaurant trade magazine which asserts preposterously that Delmonico’s got its recipes from Southern plantations while in the 1880s French chefs “flocked to this country” to learn American cooking. — Many restaurants remodel their fronts (see above illustration) as towns across the country launch “Modernize Main Street” campaigns backed with federal money.

brassrail371971936 An investigation reveals that Jack Dempsey’s, Lindy’s, The Brass Rail, and numerous cafeterias are among the NYC eating places that have capitulated to shake-downs by mobsters.

1937 The nationwide Childs chain reports that 47% of all alcoholic drinks served in their dining rooms are cocktails, 22% are highballs, 8% are wines (mostly sherry and port), and oldfashioned195the remainder are cordials. Beer is the most popular drink in summer.

1938 The president of the National Restaurant Association warns members that the number of places serving meals has quadrupled in the past 15 years and only the ingenious will survive.

1939 A book on how to run a tea room notes that 30,000 restaurants are managed by women and advises prospective proprietors to make inquiries such as, “Do the racketeers expect you to pay for protection?”

Read about other decades: 1800 to 1810; 1810 to 1820; 1820 to 1830; 1860 to 1870; 1890 to 1900; 1900 to 1910; 1920 to 1930; 1940 to 1950; 1950 to 1960; 1960 to 1970; 1970 to 1980

© Jan Whitaker, 2008

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Taste of a decade: 1920s restaurants

The 1920s is an important decade because it marked the birth of the modern restaurant industry. The advent of national prohibition stripped away liquor profits, shifting emphasis to low-price, high-volume food service. More people ate out than ever before. Restaurant owners formed professional associations to raise industry standards, counter organized labor, and lobby for their interests. Famous pre-war restaurants closed, while cafeterias, luncheonettes, and tea rooms thrived. Female servers began to replace men. Restaurant chains incorporated and were listed on the stock exchange. While critics bemoaned the demise of fine dining, the newborn industry and its patrons celebrated simple, home-style, “American” fare.

Highlights

1920 After a strike of 1,100 cooks and waiters in Chicago, the Congress Hotel hires a crew of waitresses. – Milwaukee restaurateurs report that Sunday has become their biggest day because of families eating out.

1921 A character in Alexander Black’s novel The Seventh Angel observes, “Life is just one damned restaurant after another,” then asks plaintively, “Is there any home-eating any more?” – A restaurant trade magazine reports that half of all restaurant meals in Los Angeles are sold in cafeterias and other self-service eateries. – In New York City, a former “lobster palace,” Murray’s Roman Gardens, advertises sodas and candy in its Ice Cream Salon.

1922 The International Association of Hotel Stewards endorses the elimination of French terms on menus.

1924 A brochure from the B/G Sandwich Shop chain boasts of “Food selected and prepared as in your American home; served by the sort of people you find at home, – high class ambitious young Americans who do not desire to submit to the European custom of depending upon the master’s gratuities.” – Cafeteria chain manager Harry Boos, president of the National Restaurant Association, declares: “Men and women want their goods quick and clean. The restaurant business is a greater industry than ever before in history.” – “Quick and Clean” is also the slogan of the White Cafeteria in Indianapolis.

1925 After the closure of his once-celebrated NYC nightspot restaurant “Jack’s,” owner John Dunstan complains “The town’s full of cafeterias.” – Henri Mouquin’s famed French restaurant is demolished to make room for a Princeton Cafeteria.

1926 The Cordleyware Co. advertises that its champagne buckets for restaurants can be used as carriers for soiled silverware.

1927 The journal Restaurant Management reports that from 25% to 30% of all meals in cities are eaten in restaurants and that close to 60% of restaurant patrons are women. – A restaurant of the Happiness Candy Stores chain opens on the Fifth Avenue site once occupied by Delmonico’s.

1928 In recognition of the growing number of women in the restaurant business, the American Restaurant journal begins a special section called “The Restaurant Woman.” – Chicago’s corned beef sandwich mogul, John P. Harding, known for catering exclusively to men, opens a restaurant especially for women.

1929 A restaurant trade magazine editorial asserts that the industry has finally won respectability. There is, it notes, “tremendous change in popular feeling toward a business once thought precarious – as well as beneath consideration, socially.”

Read about other decades: 1800 to 1810; 1810 to 1820; 1820 to 1830; 1860 to 1870; 1890 to 1900; 1900 to 1910; 1930 to 1940; 1940 to 1950; 1950 to 1960; 1960 to 1970; 1970 to 1980

© Jan Whitaker, 2008

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