Thursday, June 19, 2014

El Quijote 2

Last month I shared the distressing news, thanks to known and reliable tipsters, that the management of El Quijote would be changing hands. I was told it would be taken over by the new owners of the Chelsea Hotel, in which El Quijote has stood, unmolested, for 84 years. I was also told that the beloved restaurant would never be the same again.

When I shared this information, people panicked. My tipsters panicked, too, and I removed most of the details in the post by request, leaving only the warning: "if you'd like to experience it as it's always been, go have a good, affordable meal while you still can. Changes are coming."

I got some angry comments for sharing the intel, including: "this is completely untrue, as in false rumor. There's not even a hint of truth to it. Allegedly reliable sources should pull their heads out of their a## and Jeremiah you should pull the post. Youre [sic] making El Q's life more difficult." The restaurant denied to the press that any changes were in the works. At Grub Street, one Chelsea resident insisted the information was "completely untrue" and "1000% incorrect."

While this is not the sort of news I like to be vindicated about, my intel has been confirmed as fact. Yesterday, Eater reported that El Quijote "is in the process of being acquired by Chelsea Hotels, the new company that owns the building," run by the controversial Ed Scheetz.

A rep for Scheetz said the new owners will "retain the signature look and feel of El Quijote" while "maintaining its authenticity."

My tipsters were correct about the hotel taking over the restaurant. Should we assume they're also correct about the rest of it? They told me that the expected changes will be similar to what happened to Minetta Tavern. In other words, they hear it will be an upscale reboot with higher prices and a fancier menu.

Time will tell.


Anonymous said...

While I hate to see the old guard being destroyed in this town -- which IS happening -- what is your SOLUTION to the "self-congratulatory apologias begin? We're preserving it! We're paying homage! If we didn't take it over, El Quijote would have become a bank!"
The damned truth seems to be, these joints WILL become a bank!
I think the dudes who run Carbone are dipshits, but at least Rocco's is back to being a seemingly tasty -- I aint goin! I aint payin' those prices! -- Italian restaurant. I liked old Rocco's, but it wasnt really that good anymore. If it just closed up, it'd prolly become something even lamer than a hot-people-hot-spot. Or worse, it'd be like Joe's Muzz -- HAD to close, now left fucking empty; my blood boils.
So my question is: what are we actually supposed to do here?
I love this blog and the important reporting you're doing on these joints we should all be patronizing more. But I never hear any solutions. Just people being mad. What's the actual solution? Yeah, we SHOULD be going to the little shoe repair joints, and we SHOULD be going to the mom n' pop beauty supplies and markets, etc. And I certainly try as hard as I can to do that.
But the reality is: I'm broke. I cant prop up these joints spending $7 here and there.
We all whine about them closing, but how many times do we just walk by em and go "oh I love that old school joint!" instead of actually, you know, buying shit there.
I'd love to keep all the Olympia Diners open in this City -- but I aint got the $$ to eat out for really any of my meals. Its always been my reality -- I'm poor. I'm not complaining, but its reality.
So what are we actually supposed to here?
I mean if the Quijote changes hands and is still a restaurant with the same interior and sign -- how is that that bad? Are you guys really going there every day/week and hanging out like the bohemians of old? No, you're prolly not. So saying that a new owner doesnt have the right to revamp the menu is kind of meh to me.
If you're tired of these joints closing/having to change hands -- you gotta go there and actually patronize them regularly. You gotta buy muzz every single week and get to know your local joints and community members, not once in a few months cos you're in the area. But it's an uphill job, and we're not gonna take the mountain back whining about it or acting like someone doesnt have the right to revamp a burnt out joint just cos of what it 'used to be'. I'm not saying Quijote is burnt out -- its still decent, but its never ever really been the best Spanish food in town. It's been a really weird joint w/ a great bohemian past. That's why you went there when you first checked out the City/Chelsea Hotel, lets be frank.
And 1 more thing cos I've been here a long time and I've seen a lot of good and bad changes these new waves of out of towners have brought: most every single one of us complaining now were once part of a wave of out of towners too. We were, lets not lie. Whether you're from NJ or Connecticut or Ohio or California -- most of us werent born and bred here. And that's fine -- NYC has ALWAYS been that way and ALWAYS will be. But I know the old guard hated us as much as we whine about them now. In the 80's, I can distinctly remem old ladies in the EV being very uncool to me and my bizarre looking friends saying we were the reason the hood was in flames.
It's all cyclical. But in order to preserve what we love we need SOLUTIONS. Not just anger.
Sorry for the rant.

laura r. said...

so lets be clear, all the bs means higher prices. thats the bottom line. welcome to more expensive "authentic" new york. another touristy new comer attraction.

Space Pope said...

'A rep for Scheetz said the new owners will "retain the signature look and feel of El Quijote" while "maintaining its authenticity." Oh, the slippery wording on that one! What does it really mean?'

Oh come now Monsieur Moss, you and I and several of your regular harassers know perfectly well what that wording means. In short, it translates to 'we'll retain a thin veneer of the original place, but fill it with so much crap you'll think you were dining in New Jersey.' This is the wording some of the old guard from the 'Boogie Down' would use.

I'm still waiting for the facade to completely fall from Nouvaeu York (tm) to reveal the freeze-dried and corporate-packaged pap that it is fast becoming.

King Ning said...

It's truly a sad state of affairs that anything and everything in this once great city has to be transformed into something to accommodate the pretentious and loathsome tastes of self absorbed fauxhemian poseurs. I'm sick and tired of seeing the annoying catchphrase "A quirky, new take on the classic ______ (fill in the blank with whatever comes to mind)" attached to every "artisanal", "curated"(another word which has been hijacked and used in a totally convoluted context) culinary abortion by the less-than-useless proprietors in order to impart some skewed sense of exclusivity and legitimacy to the crap they peddle. As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

As an example, there is a place called the Park Luncheonette, on the corner of Driggs Ave. and Lorimer St., across the street from McCarren Park. The original Park Luncheonette was in business from the early 1930's until about nine or so years ago. It was a neighborhood fixture. you could go into this joint and order normal stuff like hot dogs, knishes, burgers and the like and wash them down with an egg cream served in a paper cone cup with a steel holder while listening to a jukebox which hasn't had the records changed since 1961. The new owners still sell franks.......12 bucks each! The frank comes with purple slaw, "house made" pickles, country pate, grain mustard aoli and is served on a potato bun. You get a choice of fries or salad. Never mind the garbage included with the hot dog, Who the fuck orders a salad with one?!? My son and I laughed at the counter clown when he told us the price. We bought some dirty water dogs from the wagon right by the park $1.25 each, with mustard sauerkraut and onions), came back and ate them in front of the idiots sitting in the "LOOK AT ME!" outdoor tables. The counter clown took exactly thirty seconds to get pissed off and demand that we go somewhere else. We laughed at him again and I told him to go to hell. We weren't within the property line and I could do whatever I wanted.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:49

1) Vanishing New York has regularly suggested that the readers go and patronize these businesses and have on a few occasions announced 'cash mobs', so you can't say they're not trying to be proactive in keeping these places alive.

2)When these places say they're going to renovate and change the menu it usually means more or less, that they are pricing out their old customers. It's already happened with a couple of old school favorites in the West Village. Not saying this will happen with El Quijote, but we'll just have to see won't we.

On some of your other points I'll say this:
I read this blog on a daily basis and pretty much support and share its views across the board. At the same time I'm starting to slowly accept the fact that although there were still a few outposts that kept the old flame going, the culture of this city and most of what it stood for have been completely destroyed. El Quijote and the garage flea market seem to both be representative of that. These places are personally two of my absolute favorites and one is going away for good and the other is-most likely-going away in spirit. I've lived in NYC for almost 30 years now and I'm running out of lifelines here. People like to argue that the city is always changing. No shit! The world and the universe are always changing too. The problem with this argument with regard to the city is that it's one thing to change a bad neighborhood into good one, but to make it only affordable to the wealthiest is not what I call progress. That's called displacement, culturally and financially. When I arrived here in the 80s the city had changed since the generation before that was here in the 60s, but the sentiment and energy from so many generations even before that was still there. The Gen-X/20-somethings at that time were more than happy to carry the torch. We came to the city for what it still was and what it had been, not for how it could change to accommodate our consumerist habits.

What I'm starting to realize now though, is that it's almost useless to complain anymore. It's like complaining about bad weather. You can talk about it and rant about it, but that certainly isn't going to change it. If a storm's heading your's heading your way. Leave the area or take cover, and that's really the choices we have as long-time New Yorkers. The damage has been done. There's no campaigning, no causes to rally for, no 'solutions'. Leave or take cover. End of story. If you told me when I arrived here in the mid-80s that the city would turn into what it's turned into, I wouldn't have believed it. I'm angry and disappointed and eventually I'm going to have to have a plan to get out of here because this is NOT what I signed up for.

Anonymous said...

Shame on you, new Chelsea Hotel owners. You are greedy villains. May you never have a moment's peace in your new venture.

Anonymous said...

The Gen-X/20-somethings at that time were more than happy to carry the torch. We came to the city for what it still was and what it had been, not for how it could change to accommodate our consumerist habits.


I came here with an eye on history and an interest in the old timers stories and experiences and the overwhelming majority of my contemporaries felt the same way.

I see none of that from this new crop. As a matter of fact all I see from them is disdain for those that came before them and a complete lack of interest in the citys history.

I have an apartment for life in the most beautiful neighborhood in the city. Am financially secure and never have to leave.

But I have to. There is just nothing left for me here.

And it breaks my heart...

Anonymous said...

Hey guys, I'm the one w/ the 1st post -- I just wanna clarify:
I'm angry too.
That's why my post is a rambling rant.
I do apologize, I certainly dont mean to sound like VNYC blog never notes solutions like "go patronize, cash mob places, help places" -- not my intention and if it came off that way, I'm sorry. I love this blog. And if the readers are as sincere as they say, I love you too.
But yeah, I'm angry also. I feel helpless against the onslaught too sometimes.
It's just frustrating.
But I do think we gotta try to be as positive as we can.
We cant give up hope.
You cant say "I could stay here but I wont." I dunno....where else could you possibly go?
I do know that yes, the new wave of kids showing up here arent the best....but where else can you walk after dinner of any kind of cuisine in the entire world you could think of except on streets like these? See every single one of movies that come out. See all the bands that tour. See the architecture of old (Fuck knows the new shit aint right tho! Who fucking designs that shit?!? THAT is what pisses me off -- those glass monstrosities.) The theater is second to none. The smells -- the best. The Park; c'mon, where else?
1st Ave and the 20's. 80's and 90's York Ave. Chinatown/LES line -- these hoods are all still weird. Especially at night. Still pulsing with the heat only one place in the world has.
Dont give up hope. That's lame.
You gotta do your thing. Be proud. Be yourself -- and remember that not everywhere in the world you truly CAN wherever and whenever you want.
But you can here. In New York Fucking City. You always could. And you always will be able to. Long after all us old curmudgeons are gone, and long after all the douche bros are too.
So count your blessings sometimes.
Yeah, life sucks, boo hoo.
But at least the City still never sleeps. And at least it still dont give a fuck about you at all.
And that DOES give me some comfort.
Now. What can we DO about this onslaught of moneyed complacency and suburban BS?
Yeah, I guess that's where we're all frustrated eh?.......
I'd better head to Joe Jr. and get a burger and mull it over....have a good weekend my brothers and sisters.
(Sorry again for the rant.)

JAZ said...

@ Anon 12:49pm

Plenty of us patronize the mom n pops, the shoe repair joints, the unfashionable barber, etc. but when a landlord throws down a rent increase of double or triple previous amount, it does not matter how successful or viable the business is anymore.

While I think there should be more proactive measures taken by endangered industries (for example I've long been a proponent of independent bookstores and record stores teaming up to share space), the fact remains that when the landlord wants to price out the mom n pop, it is over for them regardless of their bottom line.

Walter said...

Every time I come on this site I get more and more depressed. The least you could do, Jeremiah, is pick up half a tab of valium for me as a regular. Haha, case in point, this blog considers valiums a misspelling. PS: Just because I'm old and stupid shouldn't mean ...oh well

Walter said...

June 19, 2014 at 12:49 PM: Wow, you must have a lot of time o your hands.

Caleo said...

Agree with anon. 12:01, and have stated much the same many times here over the years reading this great blog.
To anon. 8:45- leave and go where ? There is no large or even mid sized city in North America that isn't experiencing everything that is happening in NYC, albeit on a smaller scale.
San Francisco has maintained more of it's architectural integrity, and a disdain for chain stores, but is just as expensive, and filled to the brim with hipster tech workers. The tech workers who can't afford San Fran have spilled over into Oakland, and are gentrifying/altering it at a dizzying pace.
You won't escape this "process" by moving to another city. So either you learn to love rural living and escape to some farm, or dig in and keep the candle flame burning as a new dark age begins, much like some monk in a remote monastery keeping the memory of Classical civilization alive after the fall of Rome.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 10:14 - Right On! Goddam it, yes, some shit is closing down, but there are still the boroughs, and if you can expunge the ghosts of Manhattan pasts, there is still the now! Did you know you can still drink at a Blarney Stone; walk thru the Death Star that is WTC; glimpse the Brooklyn Bridge; and grab some Halal with the volks? Dammit, you can't do that ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE USA! Look, I'm as torn up about the wealth as anyone, have had my ass kicked around this city by rising rents for more time than I like to think, but if you think this is bad, go live in a real suburb for a week - there's a reason they all have tats now and won't leave the house without a cane: the rest of the country is going down the shitter even faster than us! That's good news, aint it NYC?!? ;') Seriously, happy Solstice, take a stroll in the city, drop in those dive bars, and see what we still have; there's still beauty to be savored.

Anonymous said...

Caleo yes I will be going to the mountains for some authenticity and a healthiy and active lifestyle while i am still reasonably young. I intend on skiing everyday, and kayaking in the summer, planting a garden, getting a couple of big dogs, playing my guitar on my wraparound porch as I watch the sunset and supporting generational family owned businesss.

Nyc for me has always been about the people and I just do not like the people who have colonized the0is town.

By the time I leave it will have been 35 years here. Thats enough. My intent was always to stay and buy a place in the mountains but I see no reaon to be here any longer.

Pat said...

People make places, places don't make people. I was in the supermarket the other day on line for the checker and I glanced down the aisles and saw another checker who did not look busy. I left the line and went to the other checker and saw she had the closed sign there. OK, I went back to the aisle I was in before and a young blonde woman had taken my place in line - I got behind her and did not say one word to her. Then she looked down the aisles and she left to look at the checker not knowing there was a closed sign there. I chuckled and took her place in line. She came back and said to me "I was ahead of you." I should have said " and now you aren't" or "a likely story." No, I said to her I was ahead of her, I made the same mistake she did, I left the line to look at the other checker. Then, I added, in a nice way, I only have a few items to check out anyway. She snapped back, "I only have a few items too." What bothered me the most about this interaction was that she was rather decent looking, in a pug nosed Irish way, she had clear skin and good teeth, was not dressed badly, was not white trash. Her parents took care of her skin, her parents took care of her teeth. I am a senior woman in my 60's, don't color my hair, people give me a seat on the bus for dog's sake, you would think she would cut me some slack even if she thought she was right. She was one of those ones, who has to have everything her own way. They are taking over here so stand your ground. This has nothing to do with the El Quijote but on the bus the other day I heard a young man on the 23rd Street crosstown tell someone else that the El Quijote was the only Spanish restaurant in NYC that serves mole. You can't make this stuff up. He had been here 10 years and was quite an expert. I wish I could have introduced him to the blonde girl so they could have ridden off into the sunset together, far, far away from me.

Andrew Porter said...

I think this stuff has been going on for decades, likely centuries. In the Olde Days, you'd write a letter to the local newspaper—which they wouldn't publish. Nowadays, with blogs and the rise of the anonymous comments, everyone has an opinion, and they're all published, at least here on the internet.

I've lived in Brooklyn Heights since the 1960s, and at least here, the old buildings aren't being replaced with enormous new stuff (thank you, Landmarks Law!). The stores, however, come and go, based on the cold, heartless reality of modern commercial real estate rules. I too miss stuf that used to be around here but isn't any more.

Every time I walk along Court Street into Cobble Hill, more and more stores are replaced with trendy new ones—unless the owners were smart enough and prescient enough to buy their buildings.

Anonymous said...

Pat @ 9:08 - I think places DO help make people; not always overtly or explicitly, but certainly the physical aspects of any given space or environment influence behavior and, ultimately, how the people come and go (looking or not for michaelangelo...) This, I believe, is at the core of sadness when places like El Quijote change hands; even with the best of assurances, we know the physical place will be altered, and that this will have a disruptive affect on the people we're accustomed to having around us - and, ultimately, to whether we still feel welcome. And in this regard, I can't help think of the recent announcement of another privately-run food court being installed in the former public waiting room of Grand Central; those new Dutch menus and fancy digs will as surely make the people as the decades-old, comfortably worn oak benches that had been there before.

Mish said...

My husband has been going to El Quijote for 35+ years, as a couple we've been going for 20. It's our go to for all special celebrations. Saw this coming, but didn't want to face it. Really depressed, I have no faith in the new owners.