Jotted by: Tania
I am a creature of habit. I am not a seeker of change. Although I have moved from apartment to apartment, I still live on the same square block as I did when I first moved to Brooklyn in 2002. The neighborhood where I live however, Williamsburg, has changed dramatically. Gone are the days where a kid out of college could afford (with their own hard earned money) to rent an apartment one block from the Bedford L and an art gallery on Kent Ave. Gone are all the places I didn’t really care all that much about until they were gone – like Kings Pharmacy. A restaurant around the street from me recently closed and someone covered the brick building with yellow tape that read “Gentrification in Process”. I think they are a bit late to the party. “Gentrification Complete”.
They say change is the one constant in life- Williamsburg has changed, the East Village has changed, New York City has changed. I hear people say all the time how they miss the old New York. It’s just not like it used to be, is it? Sometimes it is, actually. To all the change haters out there – I give you Fraunces Tavern. For those of you who think that New York has lost its grit – I say what is grittier than the Revolutionary War?
On a recent weekend, Bonnie and I boarded the J train at Marcy Avenue headed for Broad Street. We tried to recall if we had been to Broad Street, and what we might expect when we exited the station. The best we could come up with was ‘some official looking buildings – maybe’.
What we did not expect was to have the shortest hunt for a restaurant in End of the Line dining history. I would say that the exploratory phase of our excursions usually lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Within 5 minutes of exiting the train we both locked eyes with this beautiful old building, the kind of place you might drive 5 hours to New Hampshire to visit. It looked so warm and inviting, it drew us in. I figured it must be prohibitively expensive, and certainly not that kind of place we could waltz in with our jeans and sweatshirts, but I was wrong. You could not find two more pleased ladies than Bonnie or me as we entered Fraunces Tavern.
Not only do I take extreme please in saying the name “Fraunces”, but I also took extreme pleasure in the dining and museum experience it had to offer. Yes, museum. I am going to take the liberty now of quoting from Wikipedia, so please forgive me, but I really think you should know these facts. Fraunces Tavern dates back to 1762. The location played a prominent role in pre-Revolution, American Revolution and post-Revolution history, serving as a headquarters for George Washington, a venue for peace negotiations with the British, and housing federal offices in the Early Republic. It has been owned by Sons of the Revolution in the State of New York Inc. since 1904, which carried out a major conjectural reconstruction, and claim it is Manhattan‘s oldest surviving building. And guess what – you can eat there too!
We were seated in one of many dining rooms with long wooden tables and a lovely fireplace. We decided we could not pass up the $30 brunch special – one appetizer, one entrée and 2 mimosas or bloody marys. Bonnie selected mimosas, scotch eggs and the Gotham’s Palate (smoked salmon), and I had bloody marys, clam chowder and eggs Florentine. For those of you who don’t know what a scotch egg is, it’s an egg wrapped in meat and fried. I’ll leave that to Bonnie. We both really enjoyed the food, it was exactly what you would want in a brunch.
After we ate, we decided to explore the restaurant and take advantage of the complimentary admission to the museum that was offered. Each room was more incredible than the next. There was a beautiful old whiskey library, a dining room with ornate murals and a proper tavern where they play traditional Irish music on Sundays. How have we never heard of Fraunces Tavern before? So many wasted opportunities to have amazing birthday gatherings or a place to bring relatives visiting from out of town. Perhaps New York’s best kept secret.
Bonnie and I ascended the stairs to the museum and started off with a video about history (an area where my expertise is shockingly nil). I decided I was going to pay attention. I learned that I was standing in the very same spot where George Washington said farewell to his troops and that there were lots of tears and hugs. Bonnie did not have the opportunity to learn this because she was fiddling around on her phone taking care of some apartment maintenance issue. She did rejoin me, though, in time for some fun in the flag room. As a consolation prize for not learning as much about history as I did, I decided to buy Bonnie a quill pen. It was also very reasonably priced.
Bonnie and I left the restaurant and dabbled in a bit more history as we winded our way to the Sephora to buy eyebrow pencils. In the event that you are interested, Bonnie and I both have eyebrows that are naturally lighter than our chosen (Bonnie) or given (Tania) hair colors and neither of us know anything about applying eyebrow pencil. A day of learning indeed.
We discovered in the subway, that our new best kept secret was prominently displayed on a sign of places to visit in the vicinity of that stop. I’m not really worried though – who looks at those? Fraunces Tavern – I hope you never change – you have made a really good run of it up until now. For all of you that seek old New York – I don’t think it gets older than this.
Update: Bonnie sent me a postcard using her new quill pen. She has awful quill penmanship and it was hardly legible. Good effort though. The pen has now been repurposed as a cat toy.