Dark, juicy and intimate, Frankie & Johnnie’s Steakhouse has been a New York institution since 1926. So when owners and regulars found out that the building housing this whiskey joint/carnivorous speakeasy turned go-to porterhouse place on 45th street was coming down, there was much melancholy.
“It was nostalgic, but had a manly, almost dirty feel to it,” says Gus Chimos, son of long-time Frankie & Johnnie’s waiter Peter Chimos, who purchased the landmark restaurant from its namesake owners with his brother-in-law in 1985. “You bumped into everyone when you were there! It was tight, but a unique small gem.”
The place was famed not only for its eats, but for the history embedded into its walls. “We kept it dark and small,” he reminisces of the photos of regulars and favorite customers that once adorned the walls… and are now being put up again as Frankie & Johnnie’s recently reopened in a completely new, revamped, bright and spacious new space just one street away.
After 90 years, one beloved building may be coming down, but Frankie & Johnnie’s is building up — right up the road at 320 West 46th Street. In what was formerly B. Smith’s, the dry aged house serving U.S. prime beef has the chance to truly grow its offerings — and not just the size of its plates! (Chimos joked that in the move, original dishes were uncovered. You might not be surprised to hear that portion sizes were much smaller back then.)
Broadway show posters may no longer adorn every level of the space, but the bi-level restaurant has designated a prominent place of honor for vintage placards and snapshots of its bygone era. No longer so cramped and cluttered, the 140 seat space now even boasts an expansive bar, something the original location found especially challenging.
Staff waxes nostalgic about serving famous faces like Tom Selek (who liked his sirloin steak after a Black Label starter), Hoda and Kathie Lee (a fan of the shrimp scampi), Michael Douglas, Richard Nixon, and George and Barbara Bush. But then, as now, the attraction folks really come to experience is the food.
Mouth watering char-grilled steaks, hearty potato sides and creamed spinach are steakhouse menu mainstays, and of course, over the years raw bar items and fish dishes have been added to further appeal to the Broadway crowd and tourists. Common favorites include the jumbo lump crabmeat cocktail, double loin lamb chops, pork chops served with potato pancakes, and calves liver with sautéed onions and bacon. Chimos himself opts for the bone-in-sirloin… until the restaurant’s new chef put a french style chicken sous vide on the menu. (Yes, it’s chicken… that wows.)
See, tradition is important, but this latest iteration of Frankie & Johnnie’s is out to prove its all that and then some.
*Images credit Noah Fecks Photography