Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gene's Restaurant: One of New York's Best Spots for Civil Service

By Mitch Broder

The main thing I knew about Gene’s was its claim to have opened in 1919, which I understood to limit my chances of having a chat with Gene. So I went to its Web site and saw an old post card that said “Established 1923.” I was impressed by a place that gets older in both directions.

I read some MenuPages comments, and almost all of them praised the food. But some of them knocked the restaurant. Those are what got me to make reservations.

“This place is old-school,” one said. “It’s not a youthful environment,” another said. “The atmosphere is a little depressing, it’s really not a restaurant for young people,” a third said.

I was once youthful. Or at least younger. I didn’t like noisy joints then, either. I now questioned equating a non-trending place with bingo night at the morgue.

So I went to Gene’s, and I found it peaceful and soothing, which to me is almost the opposite of a little depressing. But it is indeed old-school. It has paintings and mirrors and wrought-iron bars, which make it seem enduring, and waiters in waiter jackets, which make them seem like waiters.

My waiter coached me on my decisions, perceptively sensing my decision issues. I had the ravioli, my companion had the pasta special, we shared a profiterole, and we could hear ourselves speak. Everything was delicious. Other people smiled at us. All of this also seemed almost the opposite of a little depressing.

I spoke to Danny Ramirez, who runs Gene’s with his brother, David Ramirez. Gene, as I guessed, is no longer available for interviews. Danny acknowledged that the restaurant appeals to older people, but not exclusively: “Most of the kids want something wild and crazy, but there are some young crowds that like the old-fashioned stuff.”

Good for them. They’ll have all the parmigianas to themselves. And they’ll still live longer due to reduced nerve damage. And maybe one of them will have the ambition I didn’t to determine whether the place was established in 1919 or 1923.

Meanwhile, I was ambitious enough to determine the meaning of “old-school.” Urban Dictionary defines it as follows: “A positive appellation referring to when things weren’t flashy but empty of substance, were done by hard work, didn’t pander to the lowest common denominator, and required real skill.”

I’m just quoting.

Feel youthful at Gene’s Restaurant, at 73 West 11th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, in Manhattan.


  1. The chairs give it away as pretty old school as the wavey backs! Sounds nifty. Glad you found it!

  2. Way good blog. Mary S told me about it and it's luvely. Very Broderesque. Now that I've buttered you up, how about talking to my class this fall. There's a free diner in it for you, though not necessarily a posting. But guess that could be arranged.
    Hey, I do have an idea. Fashion related but could be a fit.

  3. "bingo night at the morgue" love it.
    As far as "old school" goes, I'd just call it "refined" and there's not enough of that these days!

  4. I agree with Patty! "I now questioned equating a non-trending place with bingo night at the morgue." is classic.