PJ Clarke’s has been an old favorite weekend spot for me for many years, I have many fond memories of Sundays tasting such home-made delights as Blue cheese wedges, Meatloaf and Reuben Sandwiches. Since 1884 PJ’s saloon as been doling out mugs of ale and jovial chatter to a patronage which can read as a who’s who from the history books, yet still keeping the feeling of an everyman’s bar. PJ’s has been affectionately loved by those who frequented her stools and red checked tables. After long time owners lost hold in 2002 it was painstakingly renovated by actor Timothy Hutton and restaurateur Phil Scotti. Not being able to secure a table, I opted to perch myself at the bar and watch punters guzzle their Boddington’s Ale and Bloody Mary’s which were expertly flung to them by bartenders donned in white antique style aprons. I stared amazed at the history and nostalgia plastered on the walls above the gigantic mahogany bar that had seen the likes of Frank Sinatra, Jackie O and Louis Armstrong lean on while waiting on their favorite pint.
PJ ‘s menu consisted various nouveau pub fare items, including a day by day menu featuring old-time favorites such as lasagna, Short Rib Sandwich and Lobster Roll. Of course I was going to sample the creation named by Nat King Cole in the late 50’s as “The Cadillac Burger” . While I waited for my anticipated delight I wasn’t short of entertainment, with the Olympics playing on a big screen and the patrons jostling for positions to get their much-needed hangover cure , I was reminded that after so many years this place could still pull in a hefty bar crowd ! I could see my burger stationary at the other end of the bar, I watched with impatience as it was overlooked again and again by the busy staffers. “That’s mine, that’s mine” I cried ! Starving beyond belief with hunger drool collecting in each corner of my mouth, I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever taste this illusive beefy delectable. At last a competent and speedy bus-boy snatched up my order that was lonely sitting at the end of the bar and rescued it from the impending spills and hand gestures of the staffers, and into my capable clutches. My first bite was fresh and tasty, with the flavor and blend of the meat flowing through my mouth with hints of charcoal and cheese. The bun was moderate in flavor but rather small in size. Despite the first couple of bites being decent, the burger then began to diminish in flavor and ended quite ordinary, the meat was just not cooked to perfection as this burger had been in the past for me and I was left with a ho-hum state of feeling about the “Cadillac” of burgers.
The French fries that accompanied the “Cadillac” burger were crisp and scrumptious, crammed into a wrapped aluminum tin, they were what satisfied my hunger after my less than large burger was inhaled. PJ Clarke’s is an iconic New York establishment wrought with history, fame and nostalgia. The flavor of the staff and the patrons of this 126 year old saloon is what make this a great place to spend a weekend meal with friends and family. Unfortunately the flavor of the burgers today was not that memorable.