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Ann Kathleen Otto


Memories of Great Dining

There’s no question that Americans love food. Major and minor life events, as well as lively discussions, are often remembered by where we were, and maybe what we were eating or drinking. Our Yours in a Hurry characters were no different. Here are three examples with excerpts from the book.

John’s Grill, San Francisco                                                          

Addison and Anna Hartle are in San Francisco in 1908 to see Purl off on Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet.

They stepped into John's Grill. "What a lovely place!" Anna said.

Taking notice of Purl's uniform, the maître d' gave them a prime table near the window on the first level and handed each a menu. The dark paneled walls and globed ceiling lamps created an elegant atmosphere. The restaurant buzzed with excitement, understandable given the number of uniformed men. One could barely hear above the tinkle of silverware and the noise of plates banging.

A waiter dressed in a white jacket arrived. "I must apologize for the noise. It's usually much quieter. So much enthusiasm! We hear that President Roosevelt may come later.”

John’s Grill was one of the first restaurants to open in 1908 after the great earthquake. Known for steaks and fresh seafood, the  restaurant today looks quite the same back then- dark oak paneled walls, original period furniture, and white globed ceiling lights. Full of atmosphere. And fortunately for visitors like the Hartle’s, it was within easy walking distance of Union Square and the cable cars line.  

Philippe’s, Los Angeles                                                                                           

Fiance Martin, and friends Lucy and Pete take Anna to Philippe’s restaurant for dinner on her birthday.

The couples went for a light dinner at the new Philippe's restaurant on Alameda Avenue after the motion picture show.

"Happy birthday, Anna!" Lucy gushed as they were seated at one end of the long, communal tables.

"Thank you! I read that the food is good here," Anna replied.

Martin glanced in the direction of the counter. "They have plenty of corned beef for the Irish holiday!"

They perused the menu that listed a variety of meat dishes. "Let's try them all." Pete said. Lucy ordered lamb, Anna pork, Pete beef, and Martin, blood sausage.

Philippe The Original is one of the oldest in Southern California, established in 1908 by Philippe Mathieu, of French heritage. Later Philippe’s was sold to the Martin family from Kansas, and they operated the restaurant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until World War II. When the new Hollywood-Santa Ana 101 freeway came in 1951 Philippe’s relocated to a former machine shop with a hotel on the second floor where it is still a popular attraction.

Sherry’s, New York City                                                                                 

Harriet Quimby selected an elite restaurant to meet old friend Dorothy Gibson, an actress and Titanic survivor.

Shortly after her return, Harriet was curious to get Dorothy Gibson's first-hand account of the Titanic disaster. Dorothy arrived at Sherry's in a high-waisted black and white stripped dress, trimmed with black lace piping and transparent lace from elbow to wrist. Her large white hat with a black underside anchored flowing black plumes, with abundant auburn curls seeming to burst from underneath.

After they ordered, Dorothy commenced her story, her large expressive eyes focused on Harriet's.

Canadian Louis Sherry opened his first New York venue, a small ice cream and confectionary shop at 6th Ave on the south side of 38th Street in 1881. During the 1880’s he catered large public and private events, quickly becoming a New York institution.

He had an ongoing competition with Delmonico’s, so when Delmonico’s moved uptown  in 1897, Sherry followed and opened across the street  in the south-west corner of 5th Ave and 44th street. in a new Stamford White built twelve story building. For the next twenty years, the restaurants existed side by side. One season Sherry’s would be the rage, the next Delmonico’s and then the Waldorf. However, Sherry’s future became secure when Mrs. Astor gave a ball at Sherry’s, and subsequently some of the most important public dinners of the period were held there.

Sherry’s closed in 1919 due to prohibition and what Sherry called ‘war-born bolshevism’ of waiters that lowered the quality of service. However, many felt that the real cause was the passing of the prestige of 5th avenue as the fashionable flocked to new venues on Madison and Park avenues.

Isn't it fortunate that we can still visit two of these iconic restaurants today? Bon appètit!

Sherry’s: Read more: 
Sherry’s Photo: James R. Osgood and Company, Boston - American architect and building news plate 1204 (photo is on two pages) Public Domain,

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