Joe King's Rathskeller

Posted by Don Manley on

I acquired an interesting souvenir (pictured below) from the former Rathskeller Restaurant in NYC. They're not uncommon to find but the associated history is interesting. There's a photo and penned notations on the inside. The folder is dated Sept, 28, 1945. From as much as I can decifer, the group of young folks in the photograph are engaged in a farewell celebration. Based on the handwritten notes, one of the women photographed may be leaving her job and moving on to new adventures. The souvenir is from the former Rathskeller restaurant, known as "The Fraternity House" and owned by Joe King and Jack Lichtenberg. Established in 1936, it was located at Third Avenue and 17th Street in New York City. The folder was printed by Bernat Press of N.Y. and sold by W. & L. Concessionaires, 480 Lexington Ave., NYC.

The building that housed The Rathskeller is know as "Scheffel Hall" and is located at 190 third Avenue. Below is a photo of the building as it appears today. Click here to learn more about the history of Sheffel Hall and surrounding area.

Below is a photo of the interior as it appears today, compliments of the ephemeralnewyork blog. The former Rathskeller is now an exercise studio but the owners have not touched the facade or any of the original detailing on the inside.

The next photo is of "Joe King's Rathskeller." I'm not sure of the date.

The following article was written by "Edgar Schumacher" and published in the November, 1955 edition of the NY Sunday Herald. Schumacher published a regular column titled; "With Knife and Fork." It's an enthusiastic and detailed account of Edgar's visit to The Rathskeller.

"German Cuisine Attracts Gourmet"

Even though I have parted with the gourmets until the end of the year, I find myself unable to resist reporting on my so-called "last filing" with good food for 1955, which took place in New York last week-end. This farewell celebration was held at the German-American Rathskeller, at 190 Third Av, at 17th St.

This establishment is known by its patrons as the "fraternity house of the nation," and if you do not meet Joe King, owner of "this little bit of New York," you are not really living, so to speak. One does not need a floor-show or similar type of entertainment when in this Old Heidelberg, "Student Prince" atmosphere. Joe King is always on hand with his greetings, and you are entertained until early morning by groups of songsters.

The food is, of course, German style and includes such specialties of the house as sauerbraten, wiener schnitzel, bratwurst or knackwurst, pigs' knuckles with sauerkraut, lentil soup with frankfurter, and many other such dishes.

However, the main object of your visit will be a seidel of draft Heineker beer, served with pumpernickel and Salzstangen. And let me tell you –after you've had two seidels, you are ready to join the gang in singing. The Rathskeller has on the walls about 2,000 photographs of famous New York personalities of by-gone eras, such as George M. Cohan and Al Jolson.

Since most of the guests are college men, you will see a great selection of college insignia and fraternity emblems. The dinner trade consists of residents of old New York who sit with happy people from all walks of life and from all over the nation. Joe King introduced me to his general partner, Jack Lichtenberg, a former wrestler who also makes sure every guest is happy.

If you are ever in New York, and feel like enjoying good fellowship, indulging in a tasty German dish, raising your stein and raising your voice, visit Joe King's and learn at first-hand that a little bit of old New York is still alive. 


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