“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. 
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 wHere TO eat 

Rules of Civility

It blows my mind a little that decades after Breakfast at Tiffany's wowed readers across the country - a little breakfast place opened up on the fourth floor of Tiffany's. 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. 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 Truman Capote takes you to in Breakfast at Tiffany's. You may never have thought eating at some of the places - and that is the beauty of tripping on books.

Upper

east side

The Brownstone

Joe Bell's Bar

Loeb Boathouse 

Central Park Zoo

5th Avenue Parade

Duke Mansion

Frick Museum

The Pierre Hotel

tripping by

neighborhood

Lower

east side 

BROOKLYN

Blue Box Cafe

 

727 Fifth Ave 

New York, NEW YORK  10022

212-755-8000 

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany's:

 

“What I’ve found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany’s.  It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets.”  Page 34

 

In Real Life:

 

Holly Golightly found solace at Tiffany’s – thus the name – Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She went there when she had what she called the “mean reds.” She pointed out the “mean reds,” are not at all like the blues, they are  “…horrible. You’re afraid and you sweat like hell, but you don’t know what you’re afraid of.” So, when that happened – she went to Tiffany’s. However, that’s not really the business Tiffany’s is in – helping people find peace. Or maybe it is. Maybe, for some, peace comes in the form of those little blue boxes.

 

Charles Tiffany and his friend Teddy Young founded Tiffany & Co. in 1837.  It specialized in fine things.  Several years later, in 1845, the company sent out a catalog. It was the first mail order catalog in the country. Charles Tiffany took over and in 1853 changed the name to Tiffany & Co. In 1940, the company moved to the location Holiday Golightly visited on Fifth Avenue. It’s still there but now there are Tiffany & Co. stores around the country – sixty-eight in all. There’s probably one near you. This timeline tells a nice story.

I wanted to check out the theory. I walked up to Tiffany’s, opened the door and stepped inside. Yes, there was a definite peace there – a certain beauty. It’s very orderly and protected and there are nice looking men in suits - as Holly describe.  However - now there are women there too - in nice suits – they’re all watching everything the customers do – I guess because there are so many valuables inside. I could see it too. I could see why Capote chose Tiffany’s as the place where Holly might escape the mean reds. It did seem that nothing bad could happen to you in a place like Tiffany’s. It made me want to stay there for a long time.

 

the Loeb Boathouse

169 E 71st Street 

New York, NY

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“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.”  Page 51

 

In Real Life:

 

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. All that matches up in real life. By all accounts, there was a wooden boathouse in Central Park until the ’50’s. 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 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 – the long row 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.​

 

21 CLUB

21 West 52nd Street  

New York, NY 10019    

212-582-7200

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“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.”  Page 14

 

In Real Life:

 

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 I’m 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.

 

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.

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 was the one that bored Holly and dampened the narrator’s time at 21.

 

P.J.CLARK'S

915 3rd Ave  

New York, NY 10022  

212-317-1616

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“On the way home I noticed a cab-driver crowd gathered in front of P. J. Clark’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.”  Page 15

 

 

In Real Life:

 

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 group 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.

 

P.J. Clarke’s has been around forever. By all accounts, it’s the kind of place where everyday, work-a-day people intersect with singers, musicians, actors, politicians, and celebrities of all kinds. I love this line, written by James MacGuire, in 1991 in City Journal. “In good times, New Yorkers come to take the cosmopolitan side of the city for granted, to grow nonchalant about luxury and glitz. But there is another New York, too, and a place like Clarke’s is the crossroads where the two sometimes meet.”

 

When I walked inside, I found what looked like a place where a lot of fun has been had over the years. The bartenders are nice and chatty. I actually got one of them interested in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He wanted proof Truman Capote mentioned P.J. Clarke’s in the novel so I showed him the exact passage. The dining room was hopping. And the cheeseburger the restaurant serves has been described as the “Cadillac of hamburgers,” by Nat King Cole, no less.

 

chinatown

nEW yORK, nY

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

“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.'”   Page 80

In Real Life:

I clocked it. It’s about a five miles – the walk Holiday Golightly and Fred took in Breakfast at Tiffany’s from the Upper East Side brownstone to Chinatown. It would take a couple of hours, but I can’t think of a better way to see New York City. I didn’t walk it though. I took the subway right to Chinatown and found it bustling. It all started with one man, Ah Ken. In 1858 – records show – he arrived in New York and started selling cigars around city hall. It’s said he ran a rooming house for the Chinese who were immigrating to America and he used the money from that to open a cigar shop. A new Chinese neighborhood in America would grow up around that store and it’s all still there today.

I walked through Chinatown and found it’s not much different from the Chinatown in San Francisco which I’m most familiar with. I could see it would be a good place to shop for a few things you might need to bring a little flair to a party – like the lanterns and joss sticks Holly and Fred picked up.

BERGDORF GOODMAN

754 5th Avenue,

New York,  NY  10019  

212-753-7300

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

“‘Not at all.  I figured Bergdorf was trying to collect.”  Page 24

In Real Life:

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s, we discover Holly Golightly shopped at Bergdorf Goodman only because she was afraid they were coming after her for the bill she hadn’t paid. In fact – it was no surprise to me she hadn’t paid her bill – what with the prices there. It’s a store Herman Bergdorf started in 1899 when he opened a tailor shop in downtown Manhattan. He hired a guy named Edwin Goodman as an apprentice. Goodman worked hard and bought into the business in 1901 and then bought out Goodman out five years later when they made the first of a few moves that would take them closer to Uptown. The first put them on 32nd street. In 1914, Goodman moved to where Rockefeller Center is today. He introduced ready-to-wear – which really put the store on the fashion map. Finally – he built the Beaux-Arts style store at its current location near Central Park.

At the time Holly was shopping there, the store had already moved to its current location on 5th Avenue but it was only located on one side of the street. Now – the men’s store is across the street. The store remains a high quality, one of a kind, department store just the way it’s been since it started selling clothing.

I walked in about a hundred and twenty years after Bergdorf opened his tailor shop. I have to say – since the first time I checked it out – every time I go to New York – I peek in. I don’t know if I’m looking for something I can afford  – or if I want to feel like Holiday Golightly for a moment – or if I just enjoy the aesthetic a guy laid out so many decades ago that still exists. It’s a feeling – Bergdorf Goodman – that’s different from any other store in America.​

The

PLAZA

768 5th Avenue  

New York, NY

  212-935-453

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“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.”  Page 83

 

In Real Life:

 

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 very well known – probably more well known than the Duke, the Frick, and the Pierre. It’s one of the most recognizable landmarks – when it comes to hotels in New York City – and probably even the world. It opened in 1907, the first guests moved in – the fabulously wealthy Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Gwyne Vanderbilt – and ever since it’s been a magnet for the rich and famous. When Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s he was neither rich nor famous. He was renting a room in Brooklyn. So, maybe tossing the Plaza onto the landscape of his novel was aspirational. Years later – when Capote was rich and famous – after the runaway success of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and, of course, In Cold Blood, he threw a huge party at the Plaza and invited people he considered “A” list guests.  In fact, Deborah Davis wrote a book about it. It’s called, Party of the Century,  The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and his Black and White Ball.

 

So, back to the hotel – it went from hand to hand over the years since it opened.  Among the owners – Conrad Hilton, who bought it in 1943, Donald Trump – who bought it from Westin Hotels in 1988 and it is poised to change hands again – American venture capitalist Shahal Khan put a group together to buy the hotel.

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s – nothing happens at the Plaza – a horse just gallops by it. But – I’ve tracked a few books in New York City and all but one them take me to the Plaza Hotel. So – I’ve had lunch at the Todd English Food Hall – I’ve stared shamelessly into the Palm Court where Rod Stewart was having lunch, I’ve chatted with the bellmen who star in one of the reads – searched for Suite 1801 featured in yet another and generally taken a lot of pictures of it. It seems to me, no matter who owns the hotel, it just keeps marching on to its own fabulous beat, grounding that corner of Central Park and giving it purpose. And no matter what I’m there for – Truman Capote and his galloping heroine always come to mind.

the pierre

2 East 61st

New York, NY  10065  

212-838-8000

 

In Breakfast at Tiffany’s:

 

“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.”  Page 83

 

In Real Life:

 

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, trapped on a horse, in quite the rush – but I thought I would stop and examine it. The Pierre is beautiful. And that was the plan Charles Pierre Casalasco had when he closed his very successful restaurant in New York City, which catered to the rich and famous and – with the help of investors – set his sights on running a hotel. The Pierre opened its doors in 1930. Bad timing. It just couldn’t survive the Great Depression and it went bankrupt in just three years. Then in 1938, J. Paul Getty – the oil guy – bought the hotel. It regained its footing. It’s cafe – The Cafe Pierre – gave the hotel a boost by attracting everyone who was anyone in the New York City social scene.

 

Let’s pause right here for a minute.  That’s about the time Truman Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s – but also around the time the narrator is looking back to – in the novel – 1943. So, it’s no surprise Capote dropped the name – just like that – in his novel because he was a man ab out town in Manhatten – and he probably hung out at the hotel.

 

Enter me – sixty-something years later.  The hotel has changed hands a couple of times but now it’s a Taj Hotel and it still attracts its big-name guests from around the world. I loitered in the lobby and found it reminiscent of the Carlye Hotel – dignified and serene. Then weirdly – many months later when I was writing this post I discovered the two hotels are connected – by one man Robert Dowling, who managed the Carlye also managed the Pierre for a time starting in 1960.  It says it right here in his obituary.  Anyway – I paused in the Rotunda which has new life as a dining experience. I zipped through the old Pierre Cafe which now calls itself Perrine and has a new Indian chef who seems to be turning the right heads. And then – since nothing really happened there in the novel – I ran out of things to do but promised myself I would come back one day to enjoy the Rotunda or Perrine.

 

Oh – one more thing. I don’t do movies but Audry Hepburn lived at the Pierre while she was making Breakfast at Tiffany’s.​