Luchow’s German Cookbook

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At the time of the first printing  of this cookbook in 1952, Luchow’s Restaurant in New York City had been operating for 70 years.  It was founded by August Luchow in 1882.  The restaurant on 14th Street was New York’s musical and cultural main street.  Luchow’s  faced the five-block thoroughfare of Irving Place, where there were more luminaries of the theatre, art, and literary worlds in residence than in any other neighborhood in the nation.  The restaurant patrons included Teddy Roosevelt, O. Henry, H.L. Mencken, Andrew Carnegie, Toscanini, and Caruso.  The list in the book reads like a Who’s Who of America.  Another frequent guest was Diamond Jim Brady.  He was known to host lavish banquets at Luchow’s, where he would find chorus girls to accompany his friends to dinner.  When the girls arrived, they found they were thanked by Mr. Brady with $500, along with diamonds, tucked into their napkins.  Diamond Jim certainly lived up to his name.  He was also a very large man with a huge appetite.  On one of his visits, he brought along his own personal cook and sent her to the kitchen to obtain a recipe for one of his favorite dishes at the restaurant.  The Luchow chef wrote it out and, handing it to her, explained “This recipe is for fifty servings.”  “Thank you,” the cook replied, “Then I won’t have to change it for Mr. Brady.”
I love reading about old restaurants such as Luchow’s.  The descriptions read like a movie set and one can only imagine the atmosphere of earlier eras.  Luchow’s had two entrances to its baroque, dark brown exterior.  Once beyond the doors, it sounds like a different world.  Their door on the right, toward Broadway and Union Square, led into a “Gentleman’s Grill,” where a man could eat or drink there, safe from the company of women, if that was his pleasure.  He would find himself confronting a vast mahogany stretch of bar with its mirrored expanse surmounted by hand carvings brought to this country from Germany.  On one of the walls was a shaggy buffalo head obtained at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.  An oil painting of Bacchus appropriately surveyed this scene from an opposite wall.  The other entrance, for the family trade, would lead directly into a small reception room, where a plaque advised you, “Through the doors of Luchow’s pass all the famous people of the world.”  The first room entered paralleled the bar, but was completely walled from it.  It had a nineteenth century serenity, that air of high-ceilinged spaciousness which set the tone for Luchow’s.  Everywhere on the walls were oils by German and Dutch artists, a porcelain statue of Frederick the Great, and an admirable collection of steins which lined the walls of the room.  The intricate carvings on the steins were of religion, hunting, and battles, reminders of the Luchow heritage, which goes beyond its American beginnings to the eating and drinking places of Munich and Hamburg.  Can’t you just picture it in your head?  And we haven’t even talked the recipes yet!
The restaurant with its 28 chefs turned out classic German fare such as sauerbraten, Black Forest torte, spatzle, bratwurst and sauerkraut casserole, hot potato salad, potato pancakes with applesauce, and their special German ragout, not to mention the endless varieties of beer.  Imagine eating some of these dishes at Christmas time, when Luchow’s would have the largest indoor tree in the city, aglow with five hundred electric candles and original nineteenth century toys imported from Germany.  The holy village was beneath the tree, with the church bells chiming hymns and the Apostles revolving in the tower, all hand-carved by famous wood-carvers in Bavaria, and an orchestra would play carols while the diners sang.  The Christmas menu was always the same:  oxtail soup, boiled carp, roast goose with chestnut stuffing, creamed onions, pumpernickel, plum pudding with brandy sauce, and ice cream Santa Clauses.  I doubt Santa would have left diamonds under the napkins as did Jim Brady, but who needs diamonds when you have the splendor of Luchow’s?


12 Responses to Luchow’s German Cookbook

  1. November 28, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    This was one of my first cookbooks as a kid! 48 years later I am still cooking professionally.

  2. November 28, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    What a great story! Thank you for writing.

  3. June 28, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

    I often dined here as a child, a guest of friends of my parents. Even at a young age, I have fond, endearing memories which will last a lifetime. A very sad day when Luchow’s closed.

    • June 29, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

      Thank you for writing, Charles! I have heard from many others who have fond memories of Luchow’s.

  4. June 17, 2018 at 7:28 am #

    I found this cookbook in a thrift store yesterday.. love the story and the recipes… after reading the whole book last night recipes and all. I had to find out more… since I am in Canada I did not know of this restaurant.. so sad it is gone

    • June 17, 2018 at 11:34 am #

      Hi Bev- You are so lucky to have found the Luchow book! I have received many emails over the years about it from people who either remember it or found it. I lost my copy in the flood and I miss it. It’s one that I am going to find again. Thanks so much for writing.

  5. July 13, 2018 at 2:52 pm #

    Luchow’s was where we celebrated special occasions when I was growing up. My mother came here from Bavaria after the war, and it reminded her of her home. To a child’s eye, it was the swankiest, most glittery place you could imagine. The best part of the whole meal was at the end. My Mom would let us share an apple pfannkuchen and a waiter with a big mustache would flambe it right in front of us. Fire! Fancy! Fifty years later I still cherish this cookbook because it reminds me of the best of times.

    • July 17, 2018 at 7:00 am #

      Hi Liz- I love hearing stories about this cookbook! It was one of my all-time favorites but unfortunately it was destroyed in a flood. I hope to replace it soon. Not only do I miss seeing it on my shelf, but I often am asked to look up a recipe in the book for someone who also has fond memories of the restaurant. Thank you for sharing your heart-warming story. I can picture the waiter with the big mustache flaming the dessert!

  6. July 14, 2021 at 2:15 pm #

    As a young dutchman who wanted to see a friend whom he had met in Madrid, I sailed in 1964 with the Holland America Line to New York.
    One day we went to Lüchow’s to eat Sauerkraut.

    • July 14, 2021 at 6:34 pm #

      I love your story. Gerrit! Thanks for sharing. I love hearing memories of Lüchow’s.

  7. March 21, 2022 at 12:56 pm #

    My father was a milk truck driver in New York City. He delivered milk to restaurants, stores, hotels, etc. He delivered milk to Luchow’s and other famous restaurants and would tell us about them. When my older brother was in high school he worked in a deli near Luchow’s and would walk by it when he went to work. He thought to himself when I graduate from college and have a good job I will go eat at Luchow’s. Eventually my brother got a Ph. D in engineering and taught at Columbia University. He was involved in developing fire and police response deployment. At a meeting with NYC officials, he met the owner of Luchows and told him the deli story. The owner took out a business card wrote on it and told my brother to come to the restaurant with his wife and parents. They were treated to a magnificent dinner. I do have a copy of the Luchow’s Cookbook that I downloaded from the internet.

    • March 22, 2022 at 12:37 am #

      Thomas, you win the prize for the best Luchow story! Thank you so much for sharing. I love it!

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