We last wrote about Keens Steakhouse on West 36th Street in September in our very first blog entry. We’re going back to Keens today as we begin a series of features about the restaurants that have generously donated prizes for our “Dine Like a Mad Man” Sweepstakes. (Entry info below. For more on the prizes, click here.) It was called Keens Chophouse in Don Draper’s day, but much about Keens remains the same today. And that’s a good thing because you won’t find a better steak or Caesar salad in New York than Keens’. We’ve often commented, as have others, on Mad Men’s fastidious attention to period detail, including the food and drink. But when we visited Keens last year we noticed that it didn’t resemble the Keens depicted in Mad Men (Season 3, Episode 4, “The Arrangements”) where Don, Pete Campbell and Pete’s friend Horace (“Hoho”) Cook retire to discuss Hoho’s half-baked plans to make jai alai a major national sport. Perhaps its expecting too much for a show filmed in L.A. to recreate the interiors of every New York restaurant depicted, but Keens’ warm, Victorian interior is very distinctive (that’s Keens in the banner of our blog): the ceiling is lined with tens of thousands of clay churchwarden pipes that belonged to members of the city’s Pipe Club which originated at Keens in the early 1900s. We were surprised when Keens Executive Chef Bill Rodgers told us that until we contacted him while writing The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook he had no idea there was a Mad Men scene in a recreated Keens.
If you had been the fourth at lunch with Don, Pete and Hoho at Keens in 1962, the cover of the lunch menu delivered by your waiter would have read, “Here’s Looking at You” and the mutton chop, priced at $6.95, was highly touted: “With special pride we recommend Keens’ Famous English Mutton Chop (There is nothing else like it).” Today, be prepared to pay $45 for what a reviewer for New York Magazine called, “a colossal roasted hunk of flavorful mature lamb.” Keens mutton chop has been fawned over by critics from James Beard to Frank Bruni. The restaurant opened in 1885 and when it served its one-millionth mutton chop it was news worthy of The New York Times…in 1935! (For more on the history of Keens, visit their web site.) We feature Keens excellent Caesar Salad in our book, a recipe that remains unchanged since the Mad Men era. But many other Keens staples remain as popular today as they were half a century ago. According to Bill Rodgers the English Mutton Chop, Filet Mignon, and Prime Rib are still favorites as are the Crabmeat Cocktail, Cape Cod Oysters, Oysters Rockefeller and sliced tomato salad with onion and Stilton cheese. Food fads come and go but Keens remains true to its chophouse origins.
If you want to try Keens for yourself, you’ll have chance if you enter our Dine Like a Mad Men Sweepstakes. Visit our Facebook page and click “Dine Like a Mad Man.” You could win dinner for two courtesy of Keens!