Another New York culinary landmark may be gone for good: The New York Times reports that because of a legal struggle, the Rainbow Room on the 65th floor of 30 Rock remains partly abandoned and partly rented out. “The bar that was so popular in the 1990s has been chopped into sections,” writes James Barron, “and some restaurateurs say that part of the floor below the Rainbow Room itself—the floor with the big banquet room and the gleaming kitchen—has been leased to an accounting firm.” Meanwhile, the restaurant’s owners, the Cipriani family, and the building’s landlord, Tishman Speyer Properties, continue to spar—the Ciprianis are hoping for a historic landmark designation that will soften any kind of rent spike.
There are still a few places in Manhattan where you can dine overlooking the city—the View over at the Marriott Marquis for instance. But there was only one Rainbow Room—Anthony Bourdain remembers the intensity of working there and describes a magical moment in Kitchen Confidential when Frank Sinatra made a surprise appearance:
One foggy night around ten, with only a few customers left in the main dining room, an electric current seemed to run through the floor staff. There was a sudden gang-rush to the upstairs bus station, where one could just barely see and hear what was going on in the Room. “Frank is here! Frank is here!” was the battle cry. Even the cooks abandoned their stations to see what the commotion was about. Sure enough, the Man Himself had come to dinner: Frank Sinatra was in the house—and he was singing! Sinatra had swung by with a posse of thick-necked pals, ordered up some bottles and snacks, and now, backed by the house orchestra, was belting out tunes to an awestruck audience of about twenty customers who had been lucky enough to linger over dessert. These few tourist who, up to now, must have been bemoaning the bad weather, the lack of visibility ruining the famous view, the empty dining room and the miserable food, were suddenly the luckiest bastards in town….
Still one of my favorite food books of all time.