old New York
Prostitutes were at one point working out of numbers 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16 Delancey Street. The sale of alcohol was outlawed on Sundays, yet nearly every bar or saloon had side and rear entrances. Casinos catered to both low- and high-end customers. And the police profited from nearly all of this illicit business. Big Bill Devery, when appointed captain of the notorious Eleventh Precinct on today’s Lower East Side, charged madams a $500 “initiation fee” and $50 in monthly protection money.(1)
By the time it had come to early 20th century New York—especially those in Brooklyn and the Bronx—the Charlotte Russe had taken on dramatically simplified form. There, it was made from a thin disk of sponge cake topped with a lofty spiral of whipped cream and crowned with a Maraschino cherry. Variations included sprinkles, chocolate-flavored whipped cream, or a spoonful of jam nestled between the cake and the cream. The treat was available seasonally, typically autumn through spring while the weather was cool enough to support a food primarily made out of whipped cream. It was sold from pushcarts, candy stores, and bakeries (primarily, but not exclusively Jewish ones) mainly to eager school kids seeking the ultimate afternoon snack.(6)
Before there was Chipotle or Applebee’s, and before Starbucks and McDonald’s came to populate every other New York City street corner, there was Childs.
When brothers William and Samuel Childs opened the first restaurant on Cortlandt Street in 1889, they catered to downtown Manhattan’s bustling lunchtime crowd. The brothers’ model of delivering high-quality America-style fare at reasonable prices (which at the time was quite novel) proved popular. Just a decade after that first restaurant (originally called Childs’ Lunchrooms), Childs boasted a total of nine locations across the city, and was well on its way to becoming one of the first national restaurant chains.(6)