A favorite name for Colonial-styled restaurants, the Bird & Bottle was actually a relic of Gilded Age New York, when "lobster palaces" vied for the patronage of millionaires (and their showgirl mistresses) along the Great White Way in and around Longacre Square.

The ritual was unvarying: a celebrity, having informed the restaurant of their impending arrival, would arrive after a show in her carriage, with her escort, who held the bouquets she'd garnered at the end of her act, would enter the building somewhen around midnight. The orchestra would stop playing for a moment before she walked, ahead of the man, spotlit, diamonds winking, head at just the right angle, to her table, to the tune of "her" signature song. Time for a Bird and Bottle!

The Bottle was almost always Champagne: Rector's, who made this kind of thing their specialty, devoted most of one of two columns to champagne, non-vintage (at about $80 a bottle, or $40 a glass, after inflation), vintage, ($120, and up) and magnums (about $160). (In comparison, a glass of beer cost about two dollars.) And this was only the tip of the iceberg...a Complete Wine List would be furnished on request. The Bird was usually a game bird (market hunting was still allowed), a red head duck cost about sixty dollars, while chicken was only available as a half, and cold, yet. Other possiblities were plover, grouse, and English snipe at much lower prices. Little wonder that Eugene Field, winkingly aware of the double entendre, stated his favorite menu was "A large cold bottle, and a small hot bird"!

The Lobster Palace era ended with the Great War, and was totally wiped out during Prohibition. However, the Bird and Bottle, as a menu item, remained a staple of cabaret dining, supper clubs, soirees, and the like, well into the 1950's.


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