“He that would bring home the wealth of the Indies must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.

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Copyright 2019 by Joyce Huntington.  All Rights Reserved. 
Website by Monte Blanco Design 

 wHere TO eat 

Breakfast at Tiffany's

It blows my mind a little that decades after Breakfast at Tiffany's wowed readers across the country - Tiffany's opened up a little breakfast place on the fourth floor of its flagship store in New York City. And even crazier - it's tough to get in. It's booked every single day. And the minute a table becomes available the booking app sends out a notification to thousands of people and in seconds it's gone. That is the power of the pen in the hands of the right person - let's say, Truman Capote. So get busy on Resy. You'll definitely want to go to Blue Box Cafe - but you've also got to hit some other iconic New York restaurants Capote takes us to in Breakfast at Tiffany's. They're places you may never have thought of going - and that, of course, is the beauty of tripping on books.

Upper

east side

The Brownstone

Joe Bell's Bar

Loeb Boathouse 

Central Park Zoo

19th Precinct

5th Avenue Parade

Duke Mansion

Frick Museum

The Pierre Hotel

tripping by

neighborhood

Lower

east side 

Blue Box Cafe

                                              727 Fifth Ave 

New York, NEW YORK  10022

 
“I knew damn well I’d never be a movie star. It’s too hard; and if you’re intelligent, it’s too embarrassing. My complexes aren’t inferior enough: being a movie star and having a big fat ego are supposed to go hand-in-hand; actually, it’s essential not to have any ego at all. I don’t mean I’d mind being rich and famous. That’s very much on my schedule, and someday I’ll try to get around to it; but if it happens, I’d like to have my ego tagging along. I want to still be me when I wake up one fine morning and have breakfast at Tiffany’s. You need a glass,” she said, noticing my empty hands. “Rusty! Will you bring my friend a drink?”   -- Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

In The Story:

Holiday Golightly dropped the term "breakfast at Tiffany's," - she coined it right there - while she described to Fred why she didn't want to become a movie star.  And those few words have set into motion a multigenerational desire to do just that - have breakfast at Tiffany's. 

 

In Real Life:

These days - you ACTUALLY CAN have a little breakfast at Tiffany's. In 2017, the company remodeled its fourth floor. So, a trip up the elevator delivers you to Blue Box Cafe, which, to me - a seeker of interesting locations -  is the greatest jewel in the store. I might add, however, to have that breakfast you have to be aggressive and lucky. 

      

When I Got There:

It turned out - I was neither. I called first - the host informed me there would be no reservation taken on the phone - EVERYTHING goes through the Resy APP.  So I got to work. I planned to be in New York for a few days so I started with reservation times that worked for me. Then I expanded to times I could make work - and finally, I went with every minute of the time I was in New York City. The Resy app tried, it really did. I got many - about five a day - alerts that a table was ready for me.  However - each time I clicked on it - the table was already snapped up. I went anyway - and peered into the restaurant. It looked like everyone was having a great time. I'm sure I looked slightly pathetic and left out so the hosts allowed me to take pictures from the doorway.

 

the Loeb Boathouse

169 E 71st Street 

New York, NY

In The Story:

First of all, can we just take a moment to appreciate those two final gorgeous sentences? Pause. Onward. So, we know Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s sometime before 1958. However, the narrator, whom Holliday Golightly calls Fred, is looking back on the time he spent with her in the autumn of 1943. At that time, there was an old wooden boathouse – but the narrator in the story tells us it’s long gone.

 

In Real Life:

All that matches up in real life. By all accounts, there was a wooden boathouse in Central Park until the ’50s. It fell into disrepair, some say it burned down – and then, suddenly, it was gone. Everyone agrees that a new boathouse burst onto the scene in 1954. It was made possible by Carl M. Loeb, who – with his wife Adeline – donated three hundred thousand dollars to the project. However – Truman Capote stayed true to real life and wrote about the old boathouse even though all that was gone at the time he wrote the novel.

 

When I Got There:

When I got to the park – I approached the boathouse from across the lake. It looked beautiful nestled in the trees at the waterline. I walked past what seemed like hundreds of little row boats. Rentals, I figured. I had to stop and take pictures of them because it was such a rare sight – a mass of identical boats. If I had time I would have rented a boat to tool around on the water to look for “leaves floating on the lake.” I got up to the boathouse. I didn’t bother to find the railing – knowing it wasn’t the actual railing of the old boathouse. I noticed the new boathouse is much more than the “concession,” I’d read the old boathouse offered. It’s an example of what I call a “big score,” in my literary travels – when a location becomes a food opportunity. And this one offers a lot. It’s a few things really – a Lakeside Restaurant in which you can sit at a nice table – preferably lakeside and order and enjoy the view and the boats. And then there’s an Express Cafe which allows you to grab food and sit outside. And in summer, something called the Outdoor Bar seems to attract a crowd.​

We ate at the cafeteria in the park. Afterward, avoiding the zoo (Holly said she couldn’t stand to see anything in a cage), we giggled, ran, sang along the paths toward the old wooden boathouse, now gone. Leaves floated on the lake; on the shore, a park-man was fanning a bonfire of them, and the smoke, rising like Indian signals, was the only smudge on the quivering air. Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring; which is how I felt sitting with Holly on the railings of the boathouse porch.  -- Breakfast at Tiffany's
 

21 CLUB

 21 West 52nd Street  

New York, NY 10019   

Once a visiting relative took me to “21,” and there, at a superior table, surrounded by four men, none of them Mr. Arbuck, yet all of them interchangeable with him, was Miss Golightly, idly, publicly combing her hair; and her expression, an unrealized yawn, put by example, a dampener on the excitement I felt over dinner at so swanky a place.”  -- Breakfast at Tiffany's

In The Story:

It’s a funny passage. In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote describes how Fred is feeling a little cheated at his swanky dinner – when he spotted Holiday Golightly almost yawning at one of the coolest tables in the restaurant. Capote knew a lot about New York’s social scene. And it’s great he mentioned 21 Club because it gave me a reason to dine out at one of New York’s most iconic restaurants.

 

In Real Life:

The restaurant opened on 52nd Street on New Year’s Eve, 1929, after a few years of being a speakeasy in a few locations around town. When prohibition ended it was on the hot list of the Cafe Society set. And it seems its popularity never waned – in the 1950’s it was the place to go among the Jet Set, the crowd Truman Capote ran with. And today it's still attracting all the biggest names. In fact, 21 is so proud celebrities of all kinds dine there, it keeps a list of who’s been served there lately.

When I Got There:

So – I made reservations there one year for my book club. We weren’t actually reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s – we were reading another book – and the author of that book also stage a scene at 21. It was a “two bird” situation for me. I told the reservationist we were a book club – from California – and we were celebrating the book Rules of Civility – and since the characters dined there we wanted to dine there too.  She was in love with the concept – I could tell. When we arrived, the host announced: The book club is here!  And we could hear mutterings to that effect around the restaurant. Our evening carried on with the same tone – like we were celebrities. The reception we got was warm and wonderful, the service was great – and for a moment I glanced around the room wondering which table bored Holly and dampened the narrator’s time at 21.

 

P.J.CLARKe'S

915 3rd Ave  

New York, NY 10022 

“On the way home I noticed a cab-driver crowd gathered in front of P. J. Clarke’s saloon, apparently attracted there by a happy group of whisky-eyed Australian army officers baritoning, “Waltzing Matilda.”  As they sang they took turns spin-dancing a girl over the cobbles under the El, and the girl, Miss Golightly, to be sure, floated round in their arms light as a scarf.”    -- Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

In The Story:

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Fred spotted some Australian army officers spinning Holiday Golightly around to the tune of Waltzing Matilda. I didn’t see that when I arrived at P.J. Clarke’s. However, I did encounter a “cab-driver crowd” of my own. It was a nice crew of drag queens and they took my cab. I looked up but I didn’t see the Third Avenue El, the elevated line that ran through the P.J. Clarke’s neighborhood in 1944 – the year in which Capote set the novel. I figured out the El was dismantled in 1955. It’s interesting to note – when Capote wrote the novel in 1958 – he actually wrote the El back into existence making the novel historically correct – where the El is concerned.

 

In Real Life:

And the existence of P.J. Clarke’s is also historically correct. A bar opened on the spot in the late 1880s but it didn't get its name until 1912. That's when a bartender - yes, P.J., bought it. He creatively navigated prohibition and landed on the other side of it - still in business. The restaurant is very proud of the famous regulars it's attracted over the years - faces like Buddy Holly and Nat King Cole who described the P.J. Clark's burger as the “Cadillac of hamburgers.”  It's website even brags that Jackie Onassis brought her kids in for burgers on Saturdays. The restaurant is proud of those star guests - but those aren't the only people it serves. By all accounts, P.J. Clarke's is a place where a few famous faces rub shoulders with the rest of New York City.

When I Got There:

When I walked in, it was hopping. It looked like a place where a lot of fun has been had over the years. The bartenders are nice and chatty. I was surprised, however, no one seemed to know about the role the restaurant played in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. One of the bartenders wanted proof. I pulled out the book and showed him the passage. He seemed proud. And even though the restaurant doesn't make a big deal about how Truman Capote wrote it right into Breakfast at Tiffany's, for one night at least - I had the whole bar talking about it.

NOM WAH TEA PARLOR 

13 Doyers St

new York, NY 10013

 
“Frequently when he was out of town (I’d developed hostile attitudes toward him, and seldom used his name) we spent entire evenings together during which we exchanged less than a hundred words; once, we walked all the way to Chinatown, ate a chow-mein supper, bought some paper lanterns and stole a box of joss sticks, then moseyed across the Brooklyn Bridge, and on the bridge, as we watched seaward – moving ships pass between the cliffs of burning skyline, she said: ‘Years from now, years and years, one of those ships will bring me back, me and my nine Brazilian brats.'”  -- Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

In The Story:

In Breakfast at Tiffany's, Holly and Fred ate a chow mein supper in Chinatown. Now - Truman Capote doesn't say where that happened. However, I got to thinking about it and decided to figure out how many restaurants in Chinatown have been open since 1944 or so when Holly and Fred trekked across the city and ended up there.  I came up with one, exactly. So I went for it.

In Real Life:

It's called Nom Wah Tea Parlor. It opened in 1920. It was seemingly a bakery for many years - thus the Tea Parlor in the name. But then in 2007, Wilson Tang bought the restaurant from his uncle and turned it into a Dim Sum hot spot. I read its overrun by foodies and hipsters - that was promising. I like to go where people are going.

 

When I Got There:

My daughter and I stopped in one night. It's in an alley in Chinatown which is interesting - and a little romantic. We walked in just as the restaurant was closing. The host would not seat us but he did allow me to take pictures of the place.  I saw enough to make up my mind that while this might not have been the exact place Capote had in mind for Holly and Fred's chow mein supper - it's close enough. 

BG cafe

754 5th Avenue,

New York,  NY  10019  

 
“‘Not at all.  I figured Bergdorf was trying to collect.”  -- Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

In The Story:

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly figured Bergdorf Goodman was trying to collect. That's great because it takes you right into that fantastic store - an adventure that's recounted here. However - that's not the end of it.

 

In Real Life:

Bergdorf Goodman gets double billing because of the incredible food opportunity it creates - the BG Cafe. It's on the seventh floor - overlooks Central Park - and it shares the floor with the home store - my favorite. One of the designers who's always featured in the home store has put a permanent mark on the restaurant - Kelly Wearstler. She remodeled it a few years ago and it's quite the space.

When I Got There:

I arrived alone, got a table and looked around at the women - yes, mostly women. They all seemed cut from the same cloth, a little New York and some international types. I tried to overhear conversations. I couldn't gather much. My daughter arrived - we ordered Tuna Tar Tar and Roasted Cauliflower - a thick slab of it soaked in an aioli. Ridiculous. I tried to picture Holliday Golightly at one of the tables. I felt she would fit right in. On the way out we loitered along a wall of famous visitors and noticed a framed letter from Jackie Kennedy. She wrote to Bergdorf Goodman in her first days at the White House to arrange a personal shopper. Don't miss it. Where else can you see something like that?

the plaza 

 FOOD HALL 

768 5th Avenue  

New York, NY

 
“Onward: across the park and out into Fifth Avenue: stampeding against the noon-day traffic, taxis, buses that screechingly swerved.  Past the Duke mansion, the Frick Museum, art the Pierre and the Plaza.”  -- Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

In The Story:

It’s no surprise Truman Capote used the Plaza Hotel in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to track Fred’s wild jaunt on a horse through Central Park. It’s one of the most recognizable landmarks – when it comes to hotels in New York City – and probably even the world - which we talk about here. 

 

In Real Life:

However, there are also some great food opportunities at the Plaza - you can have tea at Palm Court, which takes a long time. I saw Rod Steward there one day - and gaped. You can have champagne at the Champagne Bar - which seems fussy. Or you can go to the Plaza Food Hall, which I prefer because I'm always on the move.

When I Got There:

Everyone says there's no great food in Midtown - but I have to say I think it's just hidden in places where you generally don't expect to find great food - in hotel lobbies and in stores.  And the Plaza Food Hall is a great example of my theory. All you do is make your way through the lobby of the hotel and find the escalator and take it down to the food. I dragged my book club there one afternoon on our visit to the Plaza. We descended into a distant cousin of a suburban mall food court. And we fanned out into a sea of higher-end food options - everyone grabbed something and we met back at the table to people watch.

 

the ROTUNDA

2 East 61st

New York, NY  10065  

“Onward: across the park and out into Fifth Avenue: stampeding against the noon-day raffia, taxis, buses that screechingly swerved.  Past the Duke mansion, the Frick Museum, art the Pierre and the Plaza.” -- Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

In The Story:

Truman Capote used the Pierre Hotel as a marker to tell everyone where, exactly, the wild horse was taking Fred, the narrator of the tale, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Now. Fred galloped by it, stuck on a horse, but you should stop and check it out - specifically The Rotunda - it's a rare thing. The Pierre has its own history - which I recounted here

In Real Life:

Over the decades, the Rotunda played various roles in the hotel - it's been the center of attention, an afterthought or even unused.  However - right now - the Rotunda is back in the spotlight. The oval room in the Pierre seems to have reflected the times it passed through. When it opened it was formal and opulent. The depression hit and the opulence gave way, as reported in this New York Times article - to a clubby look. During the war - at the time Holly and Fred were running around New York - the rotunda had a patriotic feel with a mural that showed off New York in colonial times. In the '50s the hotel painted that over and suspended a glass bar from the ceiling. And finally, in 1967, Peter Dowling of Carlyle hotel fame took over and went all "Versaille." That's when the mural you see today went up. The artist even painted in some big-name New Yorkers like Jackie Onassis - you can find her going up the stairs. And now in the present day - the mural remains but the room's been updated by the hand of decorator Daniel Romualdez

When I Got There:

I happened into the Rotunda several years ago during a swing through the hotel to take pictures. I lingered there for a while not really realizing what I was seeing. Then, the year the Pierre reopened the Rotunda for tea and supper - it came back onto my radar as I was working up itineraries for a couple of New York books - including this one. I always go for one of a kind experiences and I don't think you can beat dining in the Rotunda - it's unusually fantastic.

(Click here to see what didn't pan out)