12. Keen’s Steakhouse (1885)
The walls of this Keen’s Steakhouse are covered in old playbills and theater memorabilia. That’s because when this high end steakhouse and oyster establishment opened in 1885 under the managerial leadership of its namesake, Albert Keen, it was mainly used by actors and performers from next door Garrick Theatre as a place to freshen up between acts. The actors starring in Abraham Lincoln’s last show were once among them, hence a wall of Lincoln memorabilia that includes the final show’s playbill on one wall of the restaurant.
The other unusual decor that will catch diners’ eyes are the long clay pipes that completely cover the ceiling of every room of the restaurant. During the turn of the century, Keen’s became a Pipe Club, or an inn in which travelers could check their pipes, a business niche that originated because clay pipes were too fragile to be carried on long journeys on horseback. Members could stop by Keen’s for a smoke, and then have their personal pipe kept behind the desk. Each pipe now hanging on the wall represents a member, including names like Teddy Roosevelt, Buffalo Bill, Babe Ruth, and Albert Einstein. Broken pipes signify a deceased member, as the stem of a pipe was broken when its designated owner passed away.
Among Keen’s many moose-head and chandelier clad rooms is one known as the “Ladies Room.” Keen’s was originally a male only club, up until 1905, when glamorous actress Lillie Langtry won her lawsuit against Keen’s, forcing them to designate a room for women members.
Nowadays, Keen’s provides a gilded, old-world dining experience. Their mutton chops are especially renowned, and were praised by James Beard as putting “everyday chops momentarily in the pale.” Come for the flavor, stay to pick out the well known names on the pipes that line the wall.