|Founded||~1914 (original); 1976 (chain)|
|Key people||Charles Chessar (original); Larry Ellman (chain)|
|Parent||Beefsteak Charlies, Inc. (-1985); Lifestyle Restaurants, Inc. (1985-87); Bombay Palace Restaurants (1987-?)|
Beefsteak Charlie's was a well-known Manhattan restaurant in the early 20th century, and later a restaurant chain based in the New York metropolitan area, which grew to over 60 locations in the early 1980s.
The original restaurant
Charles W. Chessar was a New York City restaurateur who was nicknamed "Beefsteak Charlie," a name given him by Howard Williams, a sports editor for the New York Morning Telegraph. Chessar opened his first restaurant around 1910, and moved to Fiftieth Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue in 1914, which he operated until 1934. The restaurant was filled with horse racing photographs and frequented by sports enthusiasts, and the specialty of the house was a steak sandwich. A fire in March 1933 caused the loss of many of the racing pictures, though some still remain in the family of the subsequent owner, William Soshnick.
After Chessar left, his namesake restaurant was owned and operated by William Soshnick, who migrated to the U.S. along with his family to avoid anti-semitic oppression in Russ-Poland. Soshnick was one of five immigrant brothers that eventually owned and operated small markets, butcher shops as well as the White Rose bars in New York City. William Soshnick sold Beefsteak Charlie's upon his retirement in the late 1960s and moved to Tucson, Arizona. During Soshnick's ownership the restaurant became a popular hangout for jazz musicians in the 1950s and 1960s.
The "Beefsteak Charlie's" restaurant chain was started in early 1976 by restaurateur Larry Ellman, whose "Steak & Brew" chain (part of the Longchamps organization) had filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in the fall of 1975. Steak & Brew, Inc., was renamed Beefsteak Charlies, Inc., and many Steak & Brew locations were converted into Beefsteak Charlie's. As the chain first filed for a trademark on the "Beefsteak Charlie's" name in March 1976, and no prior trademark existed, it appears there was no direct connection to the namesake restaurant which inspired the chain.
Beefsteak Charlie's marketing concept emphasized an all-you-can-eat salad bar, as well as unlimited beer, wine, or sangria. Early 1980s advertising featured an actor in early 20th century dress playing the role of Beefsteak Charlie, later joined by his nephew "Beefsteak Chuck." Two of the chain's famous indulgent slogans were "I'll feed you like there's no tomorrow" and "You're gonna get spoiled."
As of 1984, the chain had over 60 locations, located mostly along the East Coast. Corporate owner "Beefsteak Charlies, Inc." changed its name in 1985 to "Lifestyle Restaurants, Inc." In August 1987, the chain was acquired by Bombay Palace Restaurants, via a merger with Lifestyle Restaurants for a reported $8.4 million in stock. At the time of the 1987 merger, it was reported that the chain had 48 locations, but had closed 20 locations and lost $20 million since 1984. When Bombay filed for bankruptcy two years later, the chain was reported to have only 35 outlets.
At least a few locations of the chain hung on into the 1990s and early 2000s. In 1992, the chain was advertising only two remaining locations in Manhattan—at 51st Street and Broadway (originally the famous Lindy's location), and at 45th Street and Eighth Avenue (though other outlets may still have been open). In 2000, franchise restaurant operator Riese Organization converted its 45th Street location into "Joe Franklin's Memory Lane Restaurant". A Manhattan location on Eighth Avenue at the Howard Johnson's Plaza hotel appears to have closed shortly after September 11, 2001.
At least as of March 2003, one "Beefsteak Charlie's" was advertised as being open in Elmsford, New York, though it is unclear if the restaurant had any connection to the prior chain, as the chain's trademarks had expired, and a new registration was filed for in 2001. In 2009, reports surfaced of a new Beefsteak Charlie's opening in the Westfield Sunrise Mall in Nassau County, New York, which closed shortly thereafter.
Beefsteak Charlie's in popular culture
- The restaurant was parodied in a 1980 Saturday Night Live skit as "Pre-Chew Charlie's", ostensibly a steakhouse where the waiters come to your table and chew your food for you.
- In a 2002 episode of the sitcom Will & Grace (Season 5, Episode 6, "Boardroom & A Parked Place"), Will takes a group poll which decides to dine at the restaurant, despite one holdout voting for T.G.I. Friday's.
- In a 1998 episode of the sitcom Friends (Season 4, Episode 13, "The One With Rachel's Crush"), Chandler gets drunk at the restaurant after thinking his girlfriend cheated on him. He drunkenly calls the restaurant "Beefsteak Chulie's" prompting Rachel to correct him.
- Possible origin of the name. Story by O'Henry. "The High Abdication". A hobo is asked about his past:
"Me?" answered Curly. "Why, I adopted that profession when I was an infant. Case of had to. First thing I can remember, I belonged to a big, lazy hobo called Beefsteak Charley. He sent me around to houses to beg. I wasn't hardly big enough to reach the latch of a gate." "Did he ever tell you how he got you?" asked Ranse. "Once when he was sober he said he bought me for an old six-shooter and six bits from a band of drunken Mexican sheep-shearers. But what's the diff? That's all I know." O'Henry died in 1910. So it might be the earliest source of the name.
- "Beefsteak Charlie Gives Up Business". The New York Times. October 3, 1934.
- "Beefsteak Charlie Dead At Age of 77". The New York Times. January 25, 1946.
- Rian James. Dining In New York p. 58-60 (1930) (2007 reprint, ISBN 978-1-4067-8347-6)
- "Fire In Restaurant Drives 50 to Street". The New York Times. March 11, 1933.
- "Polish Refugee Joins Family Here". The New York Times. November 18, 1938. ("... a reunion celebration started at the restaurant known as New Beefsteak Charlie's, at 216 West Fiftieth Street. Beefsteak Charlie's is one of four restaurants owned by the (Soshnick) brothers ...")
- Sanford Josephson, Jazz Notes: Interviews Across the Generations p.84 (2009) (ISBN 978-0313357008)("Beefsteak Charlie's, a hangout for jazz musicians in the 1950s and early 1960s")
- Tom Piazza, Setting the tempo: fifty years of great jazz liner notes (1996) (ISBN 978-0385480000)("In the early evening of March 29, 1960, I walked into Beefsteak Charlie's, a midtown Manhattan bar frequented by jazz musicians")
- Frank Büchmann-Møller. Someone to watch over me: the life and music of Ben Webster p.169 (2006) (ISBN 978-0472114702) ("Ben (Ben Webster) spent most of his free time at places his musician friends frequented, either Beefsteak Charlie's on Fiftieth Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue...")
- Mark Schoifet (April 7, 1986). "Lifestyle goes back to Beefsteak Charlie's concept". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved December 21, 2009.
- "Complaint names David Barnes, others". SEC News Digest. December 13, 1976.
- "New York Magazine Steak & Brew Advertisement". New York (magazine). January 4, 1971. Retrieved December 22, 2009.
- "New York Magazine Beefsteak Charlie's Advertisement". New York (magazine). April 9, 1979. Retrieved December 22, 2009. (some locations are identical)
- United States Patent and Trademark Office, Registration Number 1118970 (filed March 11, 1976, now dead) and Registration Number 2732020 (filed October 21, 2001)
- Edwards, Jeo (November 30, 1987). "Bombay Palace breathes new life into ailing Beefsteak Charlie's". Nation's Restaurant News.
- "Say, 'Fill 'er up,' but don't expect full service". The Miami Herald. May 11, 1989. Retrieved December 21, 2009.
- "Beefsteak Charlie's Advertisement". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. July 24, 1981.("I'm Beefsteak Charlie. Meet my nephew, Beefsteak Chuck.")
- ""You’re gonna get spoiled" (Beefsteak Charlie’s)". The Big Apple. April 2, 2006.
- Dougherty, Philip H. (April 30, 1984). "Beefsteak Charlie's Picks Smith/Greenland". The New York Times. Retrieved April 26, 2010.
- "What's In A Name? Chance of Change". Chicago Tribune. January 3, 1986. Retrieved December 21, 2009.("Among other notable 1985 name changes: ... Beefsteak Charlie's Inc. switched to Lifestyle Restaurants Inc.")
- "Restaurants' Auditor Quits". The New York Times. May 5, 1988.("Last year, it acquired the 50 Beefsteak Charlie restaurants along the East Coast.")
- Carlino, Bill (October 2, 1989). "Bombay Palace files Ch. 11". Nation's Restaurant News.
- "Company Briefs". The New York Times. February 21, 1987. Retrieved December 21, 2009.("Bombay Palace Restaurants Inc., New York, said it had agreed to acquire Lifestyle Restaurants Inc., the parent company of Beefsteak Charlie's, for $8.4 million in stock.")
- "New York Magazine Beefsteak Charlie's Advertisement". New York (magazine). March 20, 1992. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
- Peter Grant (August 4, 1999). "Times Sq. Eatery for Talk-Show Icon". Daily News (New York). Retrieved December 21, 2009.
- Paul Frumkin (January 22, 2001). "Riese sees sales of some NYC assets as route to renewal". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved December 28, 2009.
- "Bartender still jobless a year after Sept. 11". Filipino Reporter (newspaper). September 26, 2002. Retrieved January 21, 2010.("A year ago, Filipino bartender Mario Sibayan was laid off from his five-year-old job at Beefsteak Charlie's at the Howard Johnson's Plaza Hotel on Manhattan's Eighth Avenue as a result of economic and tourism aftershocks wrought by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.")
- "Wellesley Inn Opens in Elmsford, New York". PR Newswire. March 20, 2003. Retrieved December 28, 2009.("Adjacent to the hotel is a Beefsteak Charlie's restaurant, providing room service and serving lunch and dinner. The restaurant also features a lounge and live entertainment in their nightclub and comedy club.")
- Topix.com, Review: Beefsteak Charlie's, Accessed December 21, 2009
- The SNL Archives, February 9, 1980 episode, Retrieved December 21, 2009