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 March 14, 2019
Red Mike and Violets (corned beef and cabbage)

"Red Mike and violets” was hash house slang for a dish of “corned beef and cabbage.” Corned beef is red, cabbage is violet and “Mike” is a traditional Irish name. Corned beef and cabbage is a traditional Irish-American dish that has been frequently served on Thursdays and on St. Patrick’s Day.

“Why, you know—corned beef and cabbage—Red Mike and Violets—same thing, you know” was printed in The Sun (New York, NY) on May 17, 1914. “Corned beef and cabbage or ‘Red Mike’ and ‘Irish Turkey,’ as they referred to the popular dish” was printed in the Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle on June 24, 1916. ”Violets—cabbage” was printed in the book Hash House Lingo (1941) by Jack Smiley. Hash house slang was only infrequently used after the 1950s, and “Red Mike and violets” is of historical interest today.

“Red Mike and violets” was a favorite dish of John Francis Hylan (1868-1936), who served a mayor of New York City from January 1, 1918 to December 30, 1925. Hylan, who had red hair, was often himself called “Red Mike.”

The dish of corned beef and cabbage has also been called “Irish turkey” and “Jiggs dinner.”


Old Fulton NY Post Cards
17 May 1914, The Sun (New York, NY), “A Tough Club Which Enjoys Fifty Years of Responsibility,” fourth sec., pg. 8, cols. 2-6:
“COME over to the Tough Club and meet Red Mike and Violets.”
(...) (The Tough Club is located in a four-story building on 242 West 14th Street.—ed.)
“Come into the back room,” said he, “and we’ll show you how we fix up Red Mike and Violets to meet strangers.”

“Red Mike and Violets,” I whispered.

“Sure,” said Mr. Clancy, “you always meet them here on St. Patrick’s night. We have a big time on that date. We prepare a big lot of ‘em.”

“A big lot? Might—will—would you mind telling me who Red Mike and Violets are?”

“Why—ha, ha—haven’t you met them before? Why, you know—corned beef and cabbage—Red Mike and Violets—same thing, you know.”

19 July 1914, Denver (CO) Post, “Old-Time Navy Man Spins Yarn of Soft Times on Today’s Ships,” sec. 2, pg. 4, col. 5:
Here are some of the pet names for what we ate:

“Canned Bill—corned beef.
“Red Mike or Goldfish—salmon.
“Red Lead—ketchup.
“Sourbelly—barreled pork.
“Salt horse—extremely tough corned beef.”

24 June 1916, Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, “Brooklyn Boys Working Hard in Soldier Camp,” pg. 3, col. 3:
Irish Tackle Commissary Summers.
No Corned Beef and Cabbage?

Offsprings of natives in the Emerald Isle were somewhat disappointed at not getting in a feed of corned beef and cabbage or “Red Mike” and “Irish Turkey,” as they referred to the popular dish before leaving for Peekskill.

3 December 1918, Buffalo (NY) Enquirer, “New Day by Day” by O. O. McIntyre, pg. 6, col. 5:
(From a Thieves’ Dictionary.—ed.)
Red Mike, noun; canned corned beef.

Old Fulton NY Post Cards
22 May 1921, The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY), “Here 12 Years Ago With Few Cents, Beefsteak King Acquires a Fortune: Steve Christie Has Won His Way to Top,” pg. 6, col. 5:
Broadway (New York City—ed.) has abandoned the tender diets and exquisite delicacies of early days in favor of ham and cabbage. “Red Mike,” formerly known as corned beef and cabbage, beef stew, beefsteaks of great proportion and lamb choops that weigh a pound each.

16 May 1924, Boston (MA) Evening Globe, “My Favorite Stories” by Irvin S. Cobb, pg. 2, col. 4:
Three stories up above his head a housekeeper placed a large platter of corned beef and cabbage—a combination affectionately known in New York as “Red Mike”—on the front window ledge of her tenement.

25 June 1924, Adrian (MI) Daily Telegram, “Dempsey’s Benevolence Aids Those Who Helped Him in Slim Days of Ring Career” by L. C. Owen, pg. 7, col. 7:
One of the first things Dempsey did when the movie boat landed him here (San Francisco, CA—ed.) was to seek our little waterfront restaurant which long has been known for its sustaining and toothsome “Red Mike,” or corned beef and cabbage.

Google Books
Valentine’s Manual of Old New York
By Henry Collins Brown
New York, NY: Valentine’s manual, Incorporated
1925
Pg. 92:
“Slaughter in the pan,” indicated beefsteak. “Red Mike wit a bunch o’ violets,” indicated corned beef and cabbage.

15 June 1925, Wilkes-Barre (PA) Record, pg. 1, col. 2:
RED MIKE AND VIOLETS IS THE FAVORITE DISH
New York, June 14—(By the Associated Press)—Corned beef and cabbage is the favorite dinner dish of most New Yorkers if the poll just completed by the United Restaurant Owners’ Association gave an accurate picture of the metropolitan appetite.

Of the 180,000 votes cast, “Red Mike and Violets,” as the succulent dish is known in less ornate caravansaries, led with more than 23,000.

14 March 1936, Courier-Post (Camden, NJ), “Bugs Baer” syndicated column, pg. 21, col. 2:
In the old days we called a popular dish Red Mike and Violets. The Rd Mike was corned beef. The Violets were cabbage. The combination had an odor that would make a goat back up against a buzz saw.

Google Books
Sports Extra:
Classics of Sports Reporting

By Stanley Bernard Frank
New York, NY: A.S. Barnes & Company
1944
Pg. 220:
After the “red mike and violets"— corned beef and cabbage to you— and some lilting Irish songs by Morton Downey, the boys were in the proper mood for the entrance of Kelly.

11 October 1972, Daily News (New York, NY), “On the Town” by Charles McHarry, pg. 79, col. 1:
Irish Turkey
A few columns back we asked how come restaurants often feature corned beef and cabbage on Thursdays. Here with a handful of answers: ...

Google Books
Appetite City:
A Culinary History of New York

By William Grimes
New York, NY: North Point Press
2009
Pg. 117:
But the catalogue of lunchroom argot allegedly included “slaughter in the pan” (beefsteak), “Red Mike wit’ a bunch of violets’’ (corned beef and cabbage), “drop one on the brown” (browned hash and poached egg), “eggs in the dark” (eggs fried both sides), “white wings with the sunny side up” (eggs fried on one side), “two shipwrecked” (two fried eggs, over easy), and “a sheeny funeral with two on horseback” (roast pork and boiled potatoes).

Google Books
Hash House Lingo:
The Slang of Soda Jerks, Short-Order Cooks, Bartenders, Waitresses, Carhops, and Other Denizens of Yesterday’s Roadside

By Jack Smiley
Introduction by Paul Dickson
Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.
2012 (Originally published in 1941.)
Pg. 172:
VIolets—cabbage

Twitter
Janet Kenworthy
@theroosterswife
James Maddock at the Spot, Sunday, March 17. Doors at 6, show at 6:46.
Sharing the evening with The Black Feathers. Of course, there will be red mike and violets for supper, and a nice pint of stout from Southern Pines Brewing Company https://www.facebook.com/134959248762/posts/10156278566688763/
12:33 AM - 11 Mar 2019

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Thursday, March 14, 2019 • Permalink