The Friars Club

Friars_Club_NY.jpgOK, so if someone asked you, “Do you want to go to the Friars Club for dinner? It’s fish night, so there’ll be 90-year-olds on oxygen wearing lobster bibs in the corner,” what would you say? You’d say, “Hell yes, I want to go to the Friars Club! Let me grab my chest-high pants and I’ll meet you at the front door!”

The Friars Club, for those of you not in the know, is a members-only club in midtown Manhattan that is most famously host to the Friars Club roasts where old-school insult comedians say terrible, sometimes funny things to and about some poor celebrity sap who has to just sit there and take it. (Between you and me, roasts make me cringe more than they make me laugh, but I seem to be in the minority.) Membership is invitation only and is all show biz types. Carol Channing, Milton Berle, George Burns, Billy Crystal type place. Heavy on the comedians but including Frank Sinatra and his ilk too.

The place is so much more than we could have every hoped. It’s like a Poconos resort threw up 1950-1955 all over the place. It’s a five-story mansion with curved carved staircases, tiny elevators, ornate dark wood paneled walls, a billiards room, a sauna, and headshots everywhere of all the famous members, from Jerry Lewis to Tom Hanks.

No cell phone usage is allowed: if you need to take a call – I’m not kidding – they bring you a cream-colored rotary phone and plug it into the jack in the banquette. Every table has one. Think Rock Hudson/Doris Day. Each bathroom has an old-school glass pump with blue mouthwash in it. The men sport big rings. The ladies have all had face lifts. It is, in a word, awesome.

So we went for dinner.

The waitstaff wears ill-fitting polyester suits and when you ask about their red wine selection, they say, “We have a burgundy, a pinot noir, and a merlot.” None of this modern bullshit about grape blends organically grown in Australian or Argentinian or Sonoma going for $12 a glass. You’ll order by type and you’ll like it.

The dinner menu’s the same. Appetizers? Shrimp cocktail, crab cocktail or salad with blue cheese. The shrimp cocktail comes with red cocktail sauce. Same for the crab. None of this frou-frou garbage with anise-seed consomme and sea nettle foam. You’re having the shrimp, you get the shrimp. That’s it. Fuck you.

Dinner? Steak, lobster, roast chicken or sole. And that’s exactly what you’ll get: nothing else, just a giant 20-oz. steak, a freakishly large 2.5-lb. lobster or the largest sole I’ve ever seen. It’s like they were bred at Costco in the steroids aisle. If you want sides, you order them but no one’s bringing you your fish on a pressed disc of maple-glazed pork molars. Spinach? Steamed. In a white dish. Done. Potatoes, brocolli or french fries. Enjoy. No white asparagus, no bamboo stems, no essence of baby swamp grass.

Dessert? This is the best part. Peach melba. That’s right, there’s a place in 2010 that still serves peach melba. Vanilla ice cream, peaches (listed as fresh but clearly Del Monte cling from a can), and raspberry sauce served in a cocktail glass. Brownie. Or ice cream. I was really hoping that a bowl of Jell-O might be an option, but no such luck.

I gotta tell you: everything was really good. Straightforward, uncomplicated and tasty. It was kind of refreshing. Don’t knock 1952, people.

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Categories: Eat, NYC (there)


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2 Comments on “The Friars Club”

  1. Emma
    March 11, 2010 at 8:54 am #


  2. October 24, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    It was nice meeting you at the blogher conference- humor mentoring group. I love this post especially since I was a member a couple of years ago That was until I was reminded that I wasn’t 95 with a penchant for shrimp cocktail.
    I’d love to add you to my blog roll. Check out my blog and let me know what you think.
    All the best,

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