Stork Club, New York 1940
The Stork Club was a famous and fabled nightclub in New York City from 1929 to 1965 that was owned and operated by Sherman Billingsley (1896–1966), an ex-bootlegger from Oklahoma. The club was the symbol of café society. Movie stars, the wealthy, showgirls, politicians and sports heroes, all mixed here. El Morocco had the sophistication, Toots Shor's had the sporting crowd, but the Stork Club mixed power, money and glamour. Unlike its competitors, the Stork stayed open on Sunday nights and also during the summer months.
This menu is a subtler expression of the Stork Club sensibility than the famous Albert Dome double page illustration of stars of film, politics, and social status that would appear on the Stork Club menu cover from the later 1940s on. There is a certain charm here though with the two nesting storks showing their own kind of sophistication as they gaze over a provincial town that could be anywhere in the U.S. or even in the south of France.
The Stork Club was never short on gossip or anecdotes that the public would regularly and eagerly consume. One night in 1940, back in New York, Hemingway had grandiosely tried to pay his bar bill at the Stork with a $100,000 royalty check he had gotten for the screen rights to For Whom the Bell Tolls. (A hundred thousand dollars in 1940 would be $1.2 million today.) Billingsley shook his head; no way he could cash that check, not then. But if Hemingway could wait until closing time ... Then, amazingly, Billingsley did cash it, although it is hard to imagine how, with the club then grossing —officially, anyway —by Billingsley's account, $3,500 a night. Now Billingsley needed a favor back. Could Hemingway recommend a good lawyer in Key West? There was this Stork Club there ...(From Ralph Blumenthal’s book, Stork Club).
Excerpt from the 1948 guide to eating called Knife and Fork In New York, a precursor to the Zagat dining guide. Written by Lawton Mackall, who was described as a noted man-about-town, journalist and veteran gourmet.
"Stork Club: Sherman Billingsley’s “glammer school,” strict in its standards any infraction of good manners in punishable by quiet but prompt expulsion and permanent blacklisting. Even the atmosphere you breathe is specially cleaned and filtered. Lighting is just right and service incredibly wonderful. Food? Anything you desire. Drinks? Any brand you name. If your party is sizeable and squired by someone of the successful business-executive type, the waiter will look surprised if no champagne is ordered.
Layout consists of; islanded bar confronting you as you enter; cocktail lounge, off which are the glassed-in main dining room ( dining and dancing) and the Club Room ( small, quiet, seating only about 100) and upstairs a small Loners’ Room for singleton eating and the Blessed Event Room for private-party occasions.
The Stork Club opens at 11 am for the benefit of late breakfasters. Packed at lunchtime with the Cub Room operating on a men-only basis. Cocktail time, crowd has a choice of the bar, the lounge or the main room where there’s music for cocktail dancing – followed by music to eat to. If you’re elegantly thrifty in a leisurely sort of way, you’ll take the flat-priced five-course BT (before taxes)( Dinner. Should you prefer to be fed faster, there’s a BC Dinner at stepped-up tempo for theater curtain beaters. Dance tempo ( and cabaret tax) resume at 9 with never a skipped beat till closing, and with a continuous two-way traffic of Stork glamorites arriving and departing. Attire is optional but when tables are scarce, strangers may find it to their advantage to present themselves at entrance chain ( solid gold) in their best evening togs. A young college man escorting a dazzling goddess is sure to get in, because Mr Billingsley is proud of having his tables embellished by the fairest. Sunday opens at 1pm."
Courtesy The Culinary Institute of America
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