There’s a couple of reasons why I’ve been thinking about glass ceilings in restaurants this week. I took a look at the total number of visits to my top posts and, apart from the various Taste of a decade posts which draw a lot of traffic, Swingin’ at Maxwell’s Plum is #1. An elaborate stained glass ceiling was one of the most striking features of Maxwell’s Plum in New York City, and another was created for the San Francisco Plum (pictured) which opened in 1981.
The second reason is that last Sunday I went to the antique paper show Papermania in Hartford CT and brought home a 1970s-era menu from a pizza restaurant in St. Louis that I used to go to but had forgotten all about. It too had a glass ceiling though, as I recall, it was fairly plain. I won’t name the restaurant but will say that it was located in the vicinity of Washington University where I went to graduate school and there was a second place in Creve Coeur.
On one occasion I went there with a group of friends and we witnessed a kind of free floor show – only it took place inside the glass ceiling. We heard the sounds first, of little claw feet scratching on glass. Then we looked up. We saw silhouettes of a legion of four-footed creatures with long tails which were furiously scrimmaging above us, as though playing a game of football. We laughed, considered leaving, but ended up staying. If the management noticed anything amiss they certainly didn’t show it. No one came over to explain away the incident (not that I know how you’d do that), no one offered us free drinks, nothing!
The menu from this restaurant which I just acquired displays on its cover a pledge of quality accompanied by the signature of the restaurant’s owner. One of the sentences jumps out at me: “More ingredients go into our pizza than the normal recipe calls for.” Yikes, say no more!
© Jan Whitaker, 2010
6 responses to “Decor: glass ceilings”
I just came across this when doing a search for Maxwell’s Plum restaurant. I was a young flight attendant assigned to fly out of JFK and after just a few months we were laid off. I lived in New York just across the street on 64th and got a job as a cafe waitress and also worked in the offices with Robin Hollis and was also assigned as a maitre d’ at the restaurant. I also was an innovator, suggesting that instead of veal which many people at that time were not inclined to order, the kitchen should use chicken for the Parmesan, picatta, etc. Of course there was sneering and being asked what on Earth was I thinking. But when I mentioned that the price would be immensely favorable and that we would make a lot more money they changed their minds. I believe that we were the first to serve chicken instead of veal on a large scale and those dishes became highly popular.
Ethel Merman was often there and you could always tell by her very presence and loud voice as she filled the restaurant with her unique ambiance. Rock Hudson was another frequent visitor along with many other celebrities. Sheena Easton was new on the scene with her hit single and her manager kept trying to explain to us why she was so important to be treated well. It was quite amusing for so many of us who have grown up in Hollywood and had dealt on a regular basis with celebrities as I have. Besides, as Robin Hollis knew, I treat everyone with the greatest of respect and provide terrific service without question.
There was a man who would sit outside at one of the cafe tables whom everyone detested serving, especially some of the back room and lead cafe waiters. He would only leave a dollar tip no matter what was ordered. One day I just got tired of seeing the man being treated so rudely so I offered to trade tables in my good section inside with the lead waiter who was very anxious and happy to make the trade. From then on I would always wait on this mam and just serve him as I would any other person. He brought someone who I thought was maybe his daughter. After a few visits I noticed he left $2. When I did not respond any differently he looked at me and made sure I knew he left $2. I told him I did notice and was very appreciative because I knew it had to be significant. He looked at me and told me “back in the day I was lucky to make 25 cents working hard for people on a whole trip. so $2 is a lot for me to tip but you deserve it.” We enjoyed a quiet and respectful relationship from then on. It was not until I saw the PBS special that I finally understood that this man was one of the original Pullman porters who had been on strike. What an honor it was to have served him and make him happy.
Thanks again for bringing back some beautiful memories. I still do make the hot chicken salad and really enjoy the wonderful memories from that beautiful restaurant at the height of its beauty. In fact we had my brother’s reception dinner upstairs. I also made up some drinks for the bar to serve. So many awesome experiences! I did visit the San Francisco location and it was very disappointing. It could not even closely compare to the original.
Just for fun, I ended up working with all of the technologists originally assigned by president Kennedy who created the space race and NASA. I am so proud that I worked with each of these individuals as their assistant to their companies and ask groups to develop all digital and wireless communications. Also did a lot of work in Hollywood and film, TV, and recording.
Maxwell’s will always be one of my favorite ever experiences. If I visit New York again some day, I look forward to going to the Tavern on the Green, always a huge treat. Again thank you so very very much! Always wishing you the best!!!
By the way, since childhood I also have done energy healing — way before that became known as Reiki, shiatsu, another integrated healing methods. Since covid I have been doing a lot of supportive and healing work pro Bono for many people and animals globally.
Thanks for sharing your memories!
I know exactly the place you are talking about. I’ve visited the Creve Coeur location, but never visited the UCity location. Even so, I have heard countless stories of the mice in the glass ceiling. So much so that when I saw the title to this blog, the image popped in my head. I can never hear the term “glass ceiling” without thinking of the mice at T’s.
I knew someone would figure out that I was referring to T’s!
Lovely picture. It’s amazing that such a physically cold substance, glass, can render such warm and inviting image. The environment in which we eat definitely affects how we experience the food.
Quite a mood setter, though in this case it didn’t bring success. Maybe it was those pink tablecloths and flowers.