Dean Poll isn’t sure yet what he’ll do with the see-through meat locker, but he assures you that you’ll still know Gallagher’s Steak House when you see it.
“It will unquestionably be recognized as a restaurant that’s eighty-five years old,” he told me yesterday. “We will certainly maintain its heritage.”
Dean, who owns the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, has bought Gallagher’s from Marlene Brody, the widow of Jerry Brody, its previous rescuer. The two are holding a press conference at noon tomorrow at Gallagher’s, a theater-district destination since it was launched by a Ziegfeld girl.
The conference is a good idea, since a wave of reports in October declared Gallagher’s dead, based on circumstantial evidence. As of today, New York magazine’s online listing still said: “This venue is closed.” This venue is not closed. And now it won’t be closed.
Dean, in fact, told me that he may not touch the place much for a year. So you have some time to grab a last look at Gallagher’s untouched. Go now to see the wooden revolving door, the knotty-pine walls, the log lights, and the famous locker. You never know what’ll make it through.
“It’s not going to be a new restaurant, but it needs some work,” Dean said. “But I’m not going to make it into a brand-new, shiny, lawyer restaurant. You will know you’re in Gallagher’s, and you will know you’re in a place that has connections to theater, sports, and politics.”
That sounded good not only to me but also to Marlene Brody, whom I spoke to today. “That reassures me,” she said. “Not because I don’t want it to change, but because when people redo things completely and just keep the name, the place loses its soul.”
“He’s been wanting it a long time,” she said. “He tried to buy it off me after Jerry died. … He really understands the essence of it.” She did add, however: “The meat locker, he has to leave. It’s the only restaurant in the world that has that. People come to take pictures of that.”
Seeing stacked raw meat when you enter a restaurant is indeed an oddity — but not any more of an oddity than the history of the restaurant.
After repeal, Helen and Jack turned Gallagher’s into a steakhouse. It had a lot going for it besides Helen and Jack’s friends. It was near not only dozens of Broadway shows but the old Madison Square Garden. It got theater and sports people along with other Ziegfeld girls and bookies.
Helen died in 1943; Jack died in 1963. He left the restaurant to Irene Hayes, his second wife (and his second Ziegfeld girl). But Irene was a florist and had no use for a steakhouse. She sold it to Jerry Brody, one of the city’s great restaurant impresarios.
|At the center, Marlene and Jerry.|
So Dean finally gets Gallagher’s, with its past patrons ranging from James Cagney to Frank Sinatra to Jacqueline Onassis to Mickey Mantle. He gets the walls full of pictures and portraits of celebrities, politicians, and racehorses. Not to mention the big painting of patrons including the Brodys.
As we spoke, he invoked P.J. Clarke’s, the century-old bar on Third Avenue that a decade ago was renovated but put back the way it was. That’s his model for Gallagher’s, he said: “I don’t consider it a restaurant in New York. I consider it part of the fabric of New York.”Step back at Gallagher’s Steak House, 228 West 52nd Street, between Eighth Avenue and Broadway, in New York City.