The Food Maven Diary
Lundy's on My Mind
A few weeks ago, for no good reason other than I was already on ebay.com checking out a piece of pottery I was bidding on, I put the word “Lundy’s” into the search line. Sometimes a fork or spoon comes up from the favorite restaurant of my youth. I have a couple of pieces of Lundy’s flatware now, but you can always fit another fork, spoon or knife into your life. There were no Lundy’s utensils for sale, but there was the 1934 sea foam green and orange mosaic plaque that hung outside the front door on Emmons Ave. and beside the clam bar entrance on Ocean Ave. (There were two.) The plaque says F.W.I.L. on a diagonal band (standing for Frederick William Irving Lundy – let’s call him the main and infamous Lundy) as well as Lundy Bros. horizontally. I have a copy of “Lundy's: Reminiscences and Recipes from Brooklyn's Legendary Restaurant” by Robert Cronfield, and the plaque is pictured in it. You can also read the whole story about Lundy’s in “Arthur Schwartz’s New York City Food.” I have a facsimile recipe for the famous biscuits there, too.
I knew about this plaque because, about 10 years ago, when I was looking for old photos of Lundy’s for my book “NYC Food,” I discovered Brian Merlis, who is THE collector and dealer in Brooklyn memorabilia, as well as a genuine Brooklyn historian. He’s published numerous books filled with his vintage photographs, each on a different Brooklyn neighborhood. Back then, he showed me the Lundy’s plaque – he calls it an escutcheon – which he had recently bought. I have had it on my mind ever since, and when I saw it on ebay at a Buy It Now price I could not afford, I called Brian immediately. We negotiated and it’s mine now.
Before it was Brian’s, it was owned by Ed Gil, the son of the founder of Goya Foods. Before that, it must have been hanging on the Lundy’s building, which is an official New York City landmark. The restaurant closed in 1977, after a scandalous episode that involved F.W.I.L. sniping at cops from a second-story window. The plaque must have been removed soon after.
By the way, the Lundy’s building, in what the New York City Landmarks Commission calls Spanish Mission style, now houses, among some other smaller businesses, including a Turkish coffee house, Cherry Hill, an upscale Russian market with imported groceries, every meat and fish known in the old Soviet empire, and a galaxy of prepared foods which, strangely, you cannot eat on the premises, even though there is a café.
Brian Merlis had the forethought to have our picture taken when he handed the sign over to me at his home in Freeport, Long Island, and the photo ran, along with a brief story about the purchase, in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, where Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz read about it. He sent me a beautiful letter congratulating me on the purchase, thrilled that it is still in Brooklyn. I am thrilled that it will hang in my dining room, when we can figure out how to do that without the wall falling down. It is very heavy, a three by two-foot shield banded with bronze and filled with cement.