My wife and I happened to be around 11th Avenue and 48th Street last night, so we decided to drop in to the Landmark Tavern, an authentic old-time saloon on 46th & 11th Ave. We hadn't been to the Landmark in some time (at least six years) but we remembered it as a reasonably good neighborhood joint where you could get a reasonably good meal at a reasonably good price. It had (and still has) the attractive look of a genuine old-time saloon from way back when, and even the toilets have the water tanks on top, the old type that require you to yank on a chain to flush. And they had one of the great single malt scotch selections in the city, perhaps not in Keens' league, but still impressive.
So it is with real sadness that I have to say how completely disappointed we were in the place as it is now. We got there around 7:00 PM only to find it practically empty, with one other couple sitting at the bar. We initially took a table in the dining section of the bar, an area that we used to avoid because of the heavy smoke. Last night, though, we ended up moving into the back dining room, not because of smokers (more on that later), but because the one other couple in the place conversed by shouting at each other. Of course, this wasn't the Landmark's fault, but it set the tone for the evening.
We were the only couple in the dining room, which I always find a little disconcerting and a little sad. Two gentlement did come in for dinner about halfway through our meal, but that was it.
Maureen had the bangers and mash (it's an Irish joint, after all) while I ordered the rib steak, accompanied by a 2000 Kenwood Cab. The Cab was by far the best thing about the meal, although the Irish Soda Bread was pretty good, too. Maureen's bangers were mealy and barely warm, while my rib steak provided enough gristle to resole my shoe.
When we sat down I asked the waiter about the single malt scotches and he said they were paring down their list in preparation for ordering more, which left me a little confused (ie, why not just go ahead and order more?)... So I figured this was his way of saying they were not maintaining their single malt inventory anymore. He said they only had a few at the moment.
Our waiter maintained a distant and aloof manner throughout the meal. He acted like he knew we weren't coming back, so why bother. Let me hasten to say that he never neglected us and he did all the right things, but with the slightest air of being burdened by it all. If the place were jumping and he were overburdened I could see it, but for the first half of our meal we were the only diners, and for the second half there was only one other table occupied.
Then about halfway through the meal I could smell cigarette smoke. By now the one couple at the bar had been joined by several others, and damned if they weren't all smoking. The smoke wasn't overwhelming or anything, but it was noticeable even in the dining room. In the interest of full disclosure, you can count us among the group of citizens who are quite happy with the smoking ban, so the aroma of cigarette smoke wasn't at all welcome.
So we finished up, paid the bill and left, walking by the bar full of smokers.
All in all, a disappointing and somewhat depressing experience, especially when we have such fond memories of how much better it used to be.