The Russian Tea Room (RTR) was opened in 1926 by former members of the Russian Imperial Ballet
at 150 West 57th Street
in New York City, next to Carnagie Hall
. Russian emigrants
who sought refuge in the U.S. after the revolution
flocked to the conventional tea room for pastries
and the social scene.
marked the end of Prohibition
and the soda fountain
was replaced with a bar that stocked over 20 varieties of vodkas from all over the world. The menu was also embellished to include classic Russian dishes such as stuffed cabbage
. The Russian Tea Room gained popularity among other New Yorkers
, not just Russians
, and business started to take off.
After World War II
a group of investors decided to get in on the action, among them, Sidney Kaye
, a former high school chemistry teacher. In 1955
Kaye bought all the partners out and became the sole proprietor of the RTR. Through his financial shrewdness and his flair for the dramatic The Russian Tea Room became one of the most well known and frequently visited places in all of Manhattan
Under Kaye's direction the RTR became the place for cultural and literary icons to see and be seen. The dining room was transformed by it's guest list into a veritable Hollywood
who's who. Kaye's reign lasted until his death in 1967 and ownership was then transferred to his widow who expanded the business to include a second floor cabaret
In 1995 Warner LeRoy
purchased the RTR and the restaurant underwent a massive 4 year renovation and expansion to the tune of 20 million dollars. The new RTR occupied seven stories and housed a two story ballroom when it reopened in October of 1999. LeRoy contracted artisans from around the world to fill the restaurant with show stopping pieces in accord with the restaurant's history. He contracted a Murano
glassmaker to create 36 one of a kind hand blown glass eggs that hung from a gold tree in the second floor dining room. At the opposite end of the same room, a 15 foot tall revolving glass bear aquarium filled with live clown fish
stood on a podium. Above them both, a 504 square foot stained glass
ceiling (the only one of it's kind) was backlit by 60,000 watts of light.
LeRoy, a self professed child of Hollywood (his grandfather
founded Warner Brothers Pictures
) came to the RTR after a string of previous successes. Among them were the famous New York eatery, Maxwell's Plum, Six Flags Great Adventure
, Tavern on the Green
, and the resturaunt Potomac
in Washington DC
Unfortunately, earlier this year, the Russian Tea Room's famous doors were closed until further notice.