In honor of restaurant week, New York historians and playful podcasters "The Bowery Boys" have put out a new episode explaining the origins of fine dining in New York, starting with John, Peter, and Lorenzo Delmonico in 1830. The restaurant served New Yorkers the first business lunch, the first a la carte menu (no prix fixe or set dinner time), and the first separate wine list.
Turns out, Delmonico's may have been the first farm-to-table restaurant in the city as well—the brothers D. bought a plot of land in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and grew their own endives, artichokes, and tomatoes (all three were completely foreign to New Yorkers at the time). An early menu (with signature dishes like eggs benedict and baked alaska) can be viewed here.
The first review of the restaurant in the Times (which was also the first dining review in the paper, period) appeared in 1859:
"No noblemen of England--no Marquis of the ancienne noblesse--was ever better served or waited on in greater style than you will be in the private room at Delmonico's. The lights will be brilliant, the waiters will be curled and perfumed and gloved, the dishes will be strictly en regle and the wines will come with the precision of clock-work that has been duly wound up."
Now the mighty have fallen--renowned Ilo and Buddha Bar chef Rick Laakkonen took over the kitchen last summer only to decamp right away (perhaps the bad reviews could have had something to do with it)--and now the once best restaurant in New York is little more than an institution.
And there you have it.
MORE:Podcast Rewind: Reservations at Delmonicos [Bowery Boys]