8. P.J. Clarke’s, Third Avenue and East 56th Street

PJ Clarkes holdout building

P.J. Clarke’s has been a New York cultural institution since it opened in the 1860s. Celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, who claimed Table #20 for himself, Jackie Onassis, Nat King Cole, Johnny Depp flocked to the restaurant. P.J. Clarke’s reputation as a local institution began long before and lasted beyond its popularity with the celebrity set.

As the Third Avenue El came down, real estate prices soared and Third Avenue saw an influx of new developments. The family who owned the restaurant, the Lavazzos, refused to sell. In an unexpected twist, Tishman Realty, the developers responsible for the adjoining skyscraper, decided they too wanted to preserve the restaurant, and made plans to build around it, allowing the restaurant to continue operating.

P.J. Clark’es makes an appearance in our articles on 15 Vintage NYC Restaurants, Bars and Cafes, our Mad Men Guide to NYC, 10 of the Oldest Surviving Bars in NYC, and classic film locations in NYC.