On last night's episode of Mad Men, "The Beautiful Girls," Roger Sterling takes Joan to The Tip Toe Inn, a Jewish delicatessen on the corner of Broadway and 86th Street. Roger explains that he used to take her to the restaurant back when they had an affair because there was "no chance of running into anyone, and of course, the cherry cheesecake." A Chowhound thread recalled the cherry cheesecake: "I've never seen anything like it anywhere else. It was in a pie crust, with a lattice crust on top -- a shiny cookie-like crust."
Information on the restaurant is very slim — we couldn't even find a single photograph or a mention of its closing (presumably 1970s?) — but here's what we do know: It was founded by Aaron Chinitz in 1918 (other sources say 1915), alongside its sister restaurant, the C&L Restaurant on Broadway and 74th Street which opened in 1919.
According to Chinitz's obituary, he was born in Russia in 1873 and immigrated to the United States at 22 years old. He would go on to serve in an executive capacity with the old St. Regis Stores in 1924 as well operating the chain of restaurants Sherman Cafeterias. He also worked as a real estate developer.
The Tip Toe Inn at its core was a classic Jewish delicatessen. A 1970 New York magazine listing described it as "haute Jewish cuisine." Philosopher and writer Alan Watts wrote in his book In My Own Way: An Autobiography of "the gourmandise of kosher dills, smoked sturgeon, cheese cake, lox, gefilte fish, and borscht." Mimi Sheraton wrote in her memoir Eating My Words: An Appetite For Life: "Another splurge was to take the subway up to the old Tip-Toe Inn on Upper Broadway and buy turkey sandwiches on rye with coleslaw and Russian dressing, then eat them in a taxi going back to the Village."
Doris Friedensohn wrote in her 2006 book Eating as I Go: Scenes from America and Abroad:
When we kids were taken out for a Sunday or holiday lunch, the destination was often the locally renowned Tip Toe Inn. I loved the big, airy dining room, the double layer of thick white tablecloths, and the formerly attired waiters, who presented the menu with a flourish. The place was famous for its not-too-lean corned beef and its peppery pastrami sandwiches, served hot on platter-sized plates covered with white doilies. Choosing between these two succulent specialties was anguish. It was a social center: Patricia Volk described it in Stuffed: "People ate there all the time. They came at three in the afternoon for dinner because you could get the same meal at lunchtime prices. It was the kind of place you heard people eat and saw people talk." A 1987 letter to the editor at the New York Times described it as "a major gathering place, filled with families on Sundays."
Matchbook and Logo
Mad Men got the restaurant's logo correct — compare a flipped image from the show to that of an original matchbook:[Photos: eBay]
The Baked Goods
A February 1945 New Yorker article, written mere months before Chinitz's passing, profiles Abe Wiegan, The Tip Toe Inn's head baker, on the occasion of his creating a six-foot-high cake commemorating the Red Army's 27th Birthday that was to be displayed at a Russian War Relief celebration:
"[W]e decided to have a talk with the baker rash enough to take on such a monster in an era of scarcity," says the article, as World War II would end only months later. Wiegan was apparently some sort of Duff Goldman of the era: "We were especially eager for the interview because we had been reliably informed that he is regarded as the veritable Saint-Gaudens of bakers in our times." Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848–1907) is of course the famed Beaux-Arts sculptor, monument creator, and coin designer.
While the article mentions "Napoleons, open cherry tarts, and glazed strawberry tarts," Wiegan described his operation: "We're on a twenty-four-hour basis here... just like a war plant. Cakes, pies, and breakfast muffins we're making all night. Now we're making a few thousand cookies and rolls and decorating fancy cakes... I got about twenty bakers under me and I'm keeping busy keeping them busy."
The bakery's renown continued, in Gael Greene's 1971 New York magazine review of The Colony Restaurant, she called their complimentary petits fours "pathetic," writing, "they’d never make the first-string cookie team at the Tip Toe Inn."
Video: The Tip Toe Inn on Mad Men
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