A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from January 16, 2019
Cadillac of Burgers (P.J. Clarke’s bacon cheeseburger)

P. J. Clarke’s is a saloon, established in 1884, at the corner of 915 Third Avenue and East 55th Street in Manhattan. American singer Nat King Cole (1919-1965) supposedly had a bacon cheeseburger at P. J. Clarke’s in 1958 and called it the “Cadillac of Burgers” (or “Cadillac of Cheeseburgers"). “Cadillac” is the name of an automobile that became associated with the attributes of “excellence” and “quality.”

The source of the quotation has not been found in print, but “Cadillac of burgers” became widely cited in the 2000s. The menu of P. J. Clarke’s features a “‘Cadillac’ Breakfast Burger” of “Double Smoked Country Bacon, Fried Egg, American Cheese.”

P. J. Clarke’s has been nicknamed the “Vatican of saloons.”


Wikipedia: P. J. Clarke’s
P. J. Clarke’s is a saloon, established 1884. It occupies a building located at 915 Third Avenue on the northeast corner of East 55th Street in Manhattan. It has a second location at 44 West 63rd Street on the southeast corner of Columbus Avenue.
(...)
Notable visitors
The bar has catered to a number of notables over the years:

. Nat King Cole proclaimed in the late 1950s that his P.J. Clarke’s bacon cheeseburger was “the Cadillac of burgers!”

Wikipedia: Cadillac
Cadillac /ˈkædɪlæk/ is a division of the American automobile manufacturer General Motors (GM) that designs and builds luxury vehicles. Its major markets are the United States, Canada, and China. Cadillac vehicles are distributed in 34 additional markets worldwide. Cadillac automobiles are at the top of the luxury field within the United States.

P. J. Clarke’s—Our Roots
1958
MAKING THEIR MARK
Buddy Holly proposes in the restaurant (to a woman who he had known for all of five hours) and, in the same year, Nat King Cole proclaims that P.J.’s bacon cheeseburger is “The Cadillac of burgers!” The name, as they say, has stuck.

P. J. Clarke’s—Menu
CLARKE BURGERS
Bread & Butter Pickles, Sea Salt Fries

ADD:
Fried Egg, Béarnaise
American, Buttermilk Bleu, Aged Gruyere, Vermont Cheddar
Avocado, Double Smoked Bacon, Sautéed Onions

THE CLARKE BURGER
Tomato, Lettuce, Onion

THE “CADILLAC” BREAKFAST BURGER
Double Smoked Country Bacon, Fried Egg, American Cheese

15 October 2000, New York (NY) Times, “Daniel H. Lavezzo Jr., 83, Owner of Famed Saloon, Dies” by Douglas Martin, sec. 1, pg. 48:
He was one of many celebrities who came to [Clarke]’s while Mr. Lavezzo owned it. Buddy Holly proposed marriage at Clarke’s, and Aristotle Onassis took Lee Radziwill there years before he married Jacqueline Kennedy. Gov. Hugh L. Carey swore that he did not visit with the frequency newspapers suggested. Nat King Cole named the bacon cheeseburger ‘’the Cadillac of burgers,’’ a moniker that stuck. Table 23 was Frank Sinatra’s any time he wanted it.

17 June 2003, Daily News (New York, NY), “P.J. Clarks’ Back Room Boss Dies,” pg. 52:
Frank Ribando, who hobnobbed with celebrities as the matre d’ of the old P.J. Clarks fabled back room, has died. He was 78.

Ribando, who grew up in Manhattan and lived in midtown, died Friday after a brief illness.

From 1955 to 1991, Ribando ran the back room of P.J. Clarks, the saloon on Third Ave. and 55th St.

“The back room at P.J. Clarks was where a lot of celebrities and politicians would go when they didn’t want to be seen, and my father got to know a lot of them,” Frank Ribando Jr. said.

Nat King Cole once bit into the tavern’s bacon cheeseburger, turned to Ribando and said, “This is the Cadillac of cheeseburgers.” The cheeseburger then had a new name.

Google Books
Vanity Fair
Issues 529-530
2004
Pg. 158:
Nat “King” Cole called the bacon cheeseburger “the Cadillac of burgers.”

Google Books
Competition Demystified:
A Radically Simplified Approach to Business Strategy

By Bruce C. Greenwald and Judd Kahn
New York, NY: Penguin
2005
Pg. ?:
Cadillac once had an equivalent position in the United States, and its name entered the vernacular as a mark of quality—“the Cadillac of burgers” (Nat Cole’s commentary on a P. J. Clarke hamburger in the 1950s), “the Cadillac of bassinets” (http://www.epinions.com), “the Cadillac of PCs” (BusinessWeek, May 19, 1999).

Google Books
Challenges Met and Some Memories
By Floyd Allred
Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse
2009
Pg. 201:
Nat King Cole, who performed for friends sometimes in the private room downstairs, described Clarke’s hamburger as “the Cadillac of hamburgers”. Soon thereafter there was a “Cadillac Burger” on Clarke’s chalkboard menu.

Google Books
Over P. J. Clarke’s Bar:
Tales from New York City’s Famous Saloon

By Helen Marie Clarke
New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing
2012
Pg. ?:
Adding to the “mythical” nature of P. J. Clarke’s, singer Nat King Cole pronounced Clarke’s bacon cheeseburger as the “Cadillac of burgers,” and the New York Times declared that P. J. Clarke’s was the “Vatican of saloons.”

Eater—New York
23 Excellent Midtown East Restaurants and Bars to Try
Topnotch ramen, iconic steak and burgers, and numbing Sichuan are in the mix

by Alexandra Ilyashov and Stefanie Tuder Updated Jan 16, 2019, 4:02pm EST
(...)
5. P.J. Clarke’s
915 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10022
(212) 317-1616
The original outpost of the reliable bar with a signature, standout burger is housed in Midtown East. It’s one of the city’s finest patties; in fact, the cheeseburger at P.J. Clarke’s was once dubbed the “Cadillac of burgers” by Nat King Cole circa the 1950s.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityRestaurants/Bars/Coffeehouses/Food Stores • Wednesday, January 16, 2019 • Permalink