My family very rarely ventured to Brooklyn when I was a kid, except for our annual Good Friday trip to Lundy Brother’s Restaurant in Sheepshead Bay for the “Shore Dinner”
Every Good Friday, we’d venture over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to indulge in Lundy’s specialty, The Shore Dinner. And if we were lucky enough to have good weather, we’d make a stop at Coney Island to walk the boardwalk and take a ride on the Wonder Wheel, an amusement ride that was part swing and part ferris wheel.
I’m not sure how or when my family discovered Lundy’s, but it was the family tradition for Good Friday dinner. Our Good Friday dinner adventure always started with a pot of steamed clams, called “steamers”, and a platter of clams on the half shell. Next, we’d have a bowl of chowder. This clam chowder was unlike what most people think of as chowder, this chowder was made with tomatoes and not cream…..classic Manhattan chowder rarely found on menus, but a lot healthier than the cream-laden New England chowder (chowda).
After having what most people consider enough food for a meal, we moved on to the featured item of the day, the main event. As anticipation of the main event hit a fever pitch, the white-gloved waiters arrived to place bibs on each of us. Steaming pots of lobsters arrived after we were appropriately dressed, and silence encompassed the table, not a sound could be heard as we feverishly worked to dismantle our respective lobsters. As we ate our meal, baskets of freshly baked biscuits arrived at the table. And as the number of biscuits dwindled, new baskets, with fresh warm biscuits, miraculously appeared on the table. These biscuits weren’t ordinary at all, they were tiny half dollar sized biscuits that were easy to pop into the mouth.
While I remember the food with great detail, I also remember visiting the Ladies Room. You are probably asking yourself, “the Ladies Room deserves noting?” Every year I excused myself from the table, just after ordering my dinner, to go to the Ladies Room. I will never forget walking down the expansive stair case in the center of the restaurant, carrying my purse, to visit the Ladies Room. As I entered, I was always greeted by the friendly, older black woman who worked in the rest room. The woman was in charge of turning on the water for guests to wash their hands and offering hand towels. The reason I took my purse with me was so I good grab my change and leave her a tip. The scene is indelible in my memory.
We stopped going to the restaurant in the 70’s, after the owner was killed in his upstairs office in a Mafia shooting. Yes, we are talking New York City. The restaurant was shuttered and but the memories of all of the Good Friday dinners remained vivid.
The restaurant was reopened in 1995, by the Tam Restaurant group, after being closed for 20 years. The menu pretty much remained the same, but the restaurant was subdivided and the serving area decreased from 2400 people to 700. During the time the restaurant was closed, a cookbook and history of the restaurant was written Lundy’s : reminiscenses and recipes from Brooklyn’s legendary restaurant , with many of the original recipes, but not the famous biscuit recipe
Since the restaurant was such a big part of my childhood, I wanted to go back to see it again. On a trip back east with my daughter to visit my relatives in Jersey, I made reservations for lunch. I wanted to share the experience with my daughter and share the good memories with my mother and sister. We drove over from Jersey, a trip that seemed much shorter than I remembered as a kid. As we approached Emmetts Boulevard, where the restaurant stood, I didn’t see any of the fishing boats that had always docked outside the restaurant to sell the day’s catch from Jamaica Bay or the Atlantic. There were no docks left for the fishing boats.
Walking into the restaurant was a walk down memory lane with the black and white tiled floor, the oyster bar that opened to the sidewalk, and the grand stair case to the Ladies Room.
We were there for lunch, my mom, sister, daughter and I. We didn’t want the gluttony of the Shore Dinner so we opted for a much more manageable amount of food, much more appropriate for lunch. The visit was a walk down memory lane in more ways than one, my mom’s memory was being ravaged by Alzheimer’s and we weren’t sure how much she would remember of our family feasts of the past. Not to worry, she accurately remembered her love of clams on the half shell and proudly ordered a platter of the locally caught, cherrystone bivalves. After devouring one platter of clams, topped with more freshly ground horseradish than most people eat in a lifetime, she ordered a second platter.
The food was just as I remembered, and the biscuits were as delicious as always. We talked with the waiter (who didn’t wear white gloves) about our family’s visits to the restaurant and told him about how we would devour the biscuits …and would sneak some into our purses for the long trip back to Jersey. When the bill arrived, so did the recipe for the biscuits. I was flabbergasted, I now had the famous Lundy Brother’s biscuit recipe with the secret ingredient that none of the posted Lundy recipes mention.
After we paid for the lunch, I headed down the grand staircase, with my purse, to the Ladies Room. As I entered, I was happy to see there wasn’t an old woman sitting there to serve me. The one negative memory of our annual trip was no longer there…a person to turn on the water and hand me towels. A smile came across my face and I realized that times have changed for the better.
The weather was beautiful that day we ventured to Brooklyn, and we finished our adventure with a stop at Coney Island…where my sister, daughter and I enjoyed a ride on the famous Wonder Wheel while my mother sat and watched us scream and laugh. My daughter fell in love with Coney Island…and Brooklyn..and this trip was the start of new traditions and memories.
So what’s the secret of the biscuits?
The recipe the waiter gave me revealed the secret of the biscuits…Lundy’s used White Lily Flour , not all purpose flour like the recipes that were developed to mimic the famous biscuits. White Lily Flour is made from soft winter wheat which is low in protein… a traditional flour used in southern biscuits. While I planned to share the recipe in this blog, I realized the recipe is in a cookbook I have stored elsewhere so sharing the secret recipe will have to wait.
I will share with you the classic Manhattan Clam Chowder…or as Lundy’s called it Brooklyn Red. This recipe is from Lundy’s : reminiscenses and recipes from Brooklyn’s legendary restaurant