(Blogger’s Note: Every Friday an excerpt from the soon to be published book, Faux Pas is French for Restaurant appears on this blog.)
JG Melon is a New York culinary success story built on simplicity. America´s answer to the French Bistro, Saloons sporting stylish burgers and fashionable garb catered to the dinner jacket sect of New York society as the Upper East Side added "Tony" to its moniker.
Over three decades old, it became an icon the day after it opened.. It´s styled after old money. Worn quality mahogany is highlighted by the preppy wasp colors of watermelon- pink and green. Whether the owners, Jack and George, knew this would have stylish closet appeal when they chose the name and décor still remains to be seen by the patrons who use the corner almost as though it were a private club that allows visitors with cards of reciprocity. The color palette resembles many Hampton´s social event.
Society rovers begin packing the house each day at 11:30 and fill the cramped, narrow, wooden floor space until closing. It´s famous for something as simple as simplicity. Well done simplicity, often the most difficult to obtain, is the standard of operating procedure at Melon´s. If it has a trademark, the burger stands tall next to its Sunday Morning Bloody Mary. The concoction, hand built in a flared Coca Cola styled glass, with just the right combination of dashes, dollops, shakes and stirs, the Bloody Mary certainly holds the award for the most drinks made at Melon´s. The martini is second I am sure. I contributed heavily to the ranking of these drinks in the number one and two positions soon after my arrival in Manhattan.
During my second week in The City, Autumn Sunday mornings at Melon´s were a ritual. The bar rail would be lined up with 16 oz. glasses filled with ice awaiting the Upper Eastside crowd to arrive after a morning of communal genuflection at area houses of worship or homes of promiscuity. Libation sipping while watching whatever game was on the small corner TV, while congregating and conversing was as much a part of Sunday as The Times. The mission scheduled for my second Sunday in New York was to build business for myself and Allen´s. Planting myself on the first stool at the corner of the hook, by the door, one seat over from the TV I waited for customers to fill the bar. Hal Sherman, an Allen´s alumni bartender worked the Brunch crowd and had taken me under his wing in a brotherly, bartender sort of way since we first met earlier in the week. He made me feel comfortable, asked enough questions to be caring, but not so many to be nosy.He told me a bit about his past and my future. He wasn´t a clairvoyant, but had seen the scene before.
By the time four o´clock came, I had purchased a substantial amount of drinks for people while encouraging them to come to Allen´s to view my waitering skills. Many of my new acquaintances knew Cobb from when he owned the first Allen´s, a successful saloon cash machine, a block away at 73rd. and Third Ave.
By the time I showed up for my shift, at Allen´s, Kelly and Cobb were sitting at the bar in deep conversation. Kelly greeted me with an air of depression in his nightly "Hello, Johnny". He looked as though they had just gotten notice they poisoned the mayor. Actually if that had happened they probably wouldn´t have looked as bad. Lokking back, the first week numbers tanked. He place wasn´t the rocket ship they were used to.
"We decided not to open tonight, John. We don´t have a lot of food and we think that we are going to change the menu tomorrow when the new chefs start. This past week hasn´t been very busy and we are not doing the numbers we should be doing." Cobb said.
"What do you mean we´re not opening? I just spent 175.00 of my money on public relations and promotion over at
Melon´s. There are a lot of people coming here tonight. You have to open." I said and then repeated it again this time backed with the Bloody Mary styled enthusiasm.
"Kelly, listen to this. Finally a waiter who knows public relations and promotional procedures. How long have we been looking for a guy like this? Cobb asked.
"Well, Gorilla, since the very beginning. We always said we should have stolen a guy from the agency before we opened Allen´s on 73rd. Nothing beats a waiter with an advertising background."
"Yeah, Bill didn´t the kid that worked for us at the 73rd. Street Allen´s have a copywriting background or something."
"Which one, Gorilla,"
"You know the one that worked there about a week when we first opened."
"Oh,maybe. I don´t remember him."
"Yeah, nobody does." Cobb said, waspy diction, smart ass smile, in tact as he directed his stare to me.
"John, I´m pleased to see you learned so much about the business in your first six days. We´re both glad we could teach you so much." Cobb said.
"I don´t. I just don´t think it´s wise to close on the first Sunday night we´re supposed to be open."
"We don´t think it´s wise either. But, we have had a tough week. The chef that we hired didn´t show up. We had to
hire a new guy and frankly, I don´t want to cook tonight. And, Kelly here wants to be home in Riverdale with Morley Safer, Mike Wallace, and some Chinese food." Cobb said.
Kelly and Cobb looked at each other and shook their heads.
"How much cash do you have in your pocket? Kelly asked.
"Almost 500.00" I said.
"Kelly, give Foley the keys. Let´s see how good he is. Cobb said.
"This reminds me of McCarty, Kelly."
"Yeah, right Gorilla."
"John, put your money in the register for a bank. You open up tonight. Pull your cash out at the end of your night, take out another 30.00 for your shift pay and put the remaining money from the register in a plastic bag, and stuff it in the ice machine, 1/3 of the way down. Lock her up when you´re done and we´ll see you in the morning.
“I can’t do this. There are no other people here. You sent the staff home. I’ve never done this before.”
” And you don’t think we have either.” Cobb said.
As he handed me the keys he turned to Kelly. "Let´s go to Melon´s, there´ll be plenty of room at the bar."