Wivel, New York 1945
From the 1930 edition of Dining in New York" by Rian James:
"No epicurean adventure is complete without a one-meal stop-over at the Wivel. What if the Wivel is off the beaten path? What if you've never heard of it? Travel over to Manhattan's East Forties, stop the first man from Sweden you come to, ask him if he's ever heard of the Wivel, and watch him roll his eyes to heaven, close his lips caressingly, and murmur, as in a dream- "Yah, the Wayvil!"
For the Wivel is to the Northlander what Papa Moneta's is to George Jean Nathan, what Sardi's is to Daniel Frohman, what the Algonquin once was to Heywood Broun. The Wive! is Swedish. Also, the Wivel has somewhat of an air. The air is composed of quite the awfullest three-piece stringed orchestra you've ever heard; an orchestra that blithely, innocently, mutilates the very best musical pieces current on Broadway and you can dance to them if you must.
But the Wivel isn't the place to go when you're looking for sprightly tunes, or an acre of dance floor. Your business at the Wivel is that of a person with a one-track mind. In short, you visit the Wivel to eat and you had best pay close attention to your prime purpose. For it is at the Wivel that the huge round table of Smorgasbord causes jaded appetites to come about sharply, and eyes that are weary of searching out some succulent specialty on the average menu, to quicken with new life.
On the Smorgasbord table a new world awaits you. Pickled herrings crowd radishes as large as your fist; luscious stuffed eggs are side by side with sardines the size of small pike; Swiss cheese, Swedish cheese and "hand kase" interlope on olives large as plums, and celery, stuffed to overflowing with Roquefort cheese paste, bristles beside a bowl of pickled mushrooms; pate de foie gras honest to goodness pate de foie gras, and no liverwurst-and-butter combination, either and when you've come this far, you've come only a skimpy quarter of the way. For there are some forty odd varieties of cold Smorgasbord; some six varieties of hot Smorgasbord, including aromatic grilled chicken-livers, and a toothsome, steaming hot, egg-and-sausage combination. And when you've had some of all and not until you've tasted all does dinner really begin at the Wivel."
Courtesy Private Collection.
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