• P.J. Clarke’s

    Culture | Food & Drink | Prep Essentials  

    I’m running a bit late to the corner of 55th & 3rd. Max Wastler and I have a lunch date. After a handful of text exchanges, I spot him in the red brick saloon—penny-tile floors, carved mahogany bar, tin ceiling and stained-glass transoms. P.J. Clarke’s is a vestige of a better time—another century all together. It also serves a legendary burger. It’s wall-to-wall packed with suits (and deals were certainly being made) but we manage two stools at Doug Quinn’s bar with a bit of timing and keen eyes.

    It’s a UES landmark nestled on a corner of what the locals have deemed “Hamburger Row.” Once owned by Patrick J. Clarke, an Irish emigrant, he was hired in the early 1900s by a Mr. Duneen who ran the saloon. After about ten years working for him, the eponymous owner bought the bar and changed the name. The building has squatted this corner since 1884, a holdout on the block despite the taunting 47-story skyscraper ominously waiting to swallow it up. P.J. Clarke’s has counted Frank Sinatra (an extremely generous tipper) and Jacqueline Onassis as patrons—Jackie’s choice fare being a spinach salad and a quick hamburger. The preppy patronage stretches back further than the legacies at Dartmouth.

    Clarke’s burgers are served atop a thin sliced raw onion (supposedly to keep the bottom bun from soaking) and a hefty pickle spear. Quinn, arguably one of the best bartenders in the city, slides the storied burgers up next to our beers. He is always in a bow tie. It’s his thing for reasons serving function as much as form. And the burger, well, it tastes like a era when Americans made things better.

    P.J. Clarke's
    915 3rd Avenue
    New York, NY 10022

    Sep 30, 2010 | Permalink (15) Total Comments

    Derek left a comment on 1/27/2014 at 6:23 PM:

    This would be my first stop on a NYC visit. My father used to lunch here sometimes during his youth. P.J.‘s is mentioned quite often as an post-work meeting place on MAD MEN.

    The pic is awesome too…was it taken with a filter of some sort (Instagram, etc.)? Kind of a vintage-y photo effect!

    DonnellOat39 left a comment on 6/26/2012 at 5:01 PM:

    Excellent flair for writing.

    Pete left a comment on 1/30/2012 at 8:55 PM:

    Largely overlooked in comments thus far is Doug Quinn, referenced by FEC.  To me Doug epitomizes what it means to be a bartender.  By all means go for an excellent burger, but skip the table and sit at the bar.  You won’t regret it

    UnapologeticallyMundane left a comment on 10/15/2010 at 1:53 PM:

    A preppy friend pointed me here today, and I just had to comment to say that one of my friends loves to tell the story of how his uncle was the original maitre d’ at P.J. Clarke’s and how his job mostly consisted of making sure celebrities who were in the midst of feuds didn’t get seated near each other.  Sounds like my kinda job.

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 10/6/2010 at 1:15 AM:

    @Kenneth—I used my iPhone to create this photograph.

    Kenneth left a comment on 10/5/2010 at 2:50 PM:

    Great photo- what did you use to take the photo? looks like a vintage photo.

    ginny enstad left a comment on 10/1/2010 at 7:22 PM:

    P.J. Clarke’s is always my first stop upon arriving in NYC!! have loved it for years..thanks for posting!

    Josh left a comment on 10/1/2010 at 1:12 PM:

    Great photo of a fantastic place and iconic NYC fixture, but I have to agree with gbourgeaiseau, JG Melon is the way to go (better burger too, imo).

    DAM left a comment on 10/1/2010 at 9:47 AM:

    Another NY institution is headed towards DC - following Carmine’s opening of the largest restaurant in Washington with it’s China Town outpost, PJC’s will be taking over the old Olives on 16th street only mere yards from the Oval Office.

    The Sluice Box left a comment on 9/30/2010 at 9:42 PM:

    Wonderful photo…very atmospheric.


    Tom Bosché left a comment on 9/30/2010 at 8:28 PM:

    Young Man - Appreciate the variety of your posts, and particularly the history and your personal experiences at the establishments you feature. Please keep up the excellent reporting!

    S.O, left a comment on 9/30/2010 at 5:42 PM:

    A block away from my school!!

    gbourgeaiseau left a comment on 9/30/2010 at 1:34 PM:

    Like the photo but Melon is so much better…

    S.N. Carpeaux left a comment on 9/30/2010 at 1:25 PM:

    Adding it to the establishments to visit during my next NYC trip. Great shot, F.E.!

    pat s left a comment on 9/30/2010 at 1:22 PM:

    Thanks!  I have been waiting for you to feature PJ Clarks.