|City||New York City|
Established in 1963, Elaine's is famed both for the writers and other New Yorkers such as Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, George Plimpton, Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, William J. Bratton, Peter Maas, Clay Felker, Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer, Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Motherwell, Mario Puzo, Mark Simone, Sally Quinn, Chris Noth and Sidney Zion, who had been regulars over the years, and for its late chain-smoking namesake and proprietress Elaine Kaufman, who ran the restaurant for over four decades. Visitors included Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Mick Jagger, Clint Eastwood, Leonard Bernstein, Eli Wallach, Kirk Douglas, Michael Caine, Elaine Stritch, Luciano Pavarotti and Willie Nelson, among others.
The restaurant was noted for its Oscar night, where celebrities and visiting Hollywood stars congregated to watch the Academy Awards ceremony.
The quirky owner, Elaine Kaufman, was known for not mincing her words, for booting less-favored customers to seat new arrivals, and for forbidding hamburgers in her establishment. She was once arrested after a physical altercation with a visiting Texan. Elaine also once had a cat fight with the actress Tara Tyson and then claimed that the thespian had set her ablaze with a lit cigarette.
Billy Joel immortalized the establishment in his song "Big Shot" supposedly about a date gone wrong which included a stop at the eatery with the lyrics, "they were all impressed with your Halston dress and the people that you knew at Elaine's". A scene from Woody Allen's Manhattan was filmed at the restaurant, as was a short sequence in the 2010 film Morning Glory of Elaine Kaufman herself at the bar of Elaine's (where the producer played by Rachel McAdams is trying to track down the television host played by Harrison Ford and Elaine relates at what time he left). In the 1988 hit comedy Big Business, to divert a mismatched set of twins (played by Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin) from upsetting an important shareholder vote, Midler's alter-ego character offers to take them to Elaine's. Elaine's is also immortalized in the Stone Barrington novels by author Stuart Woods. The first chapter always begins with "Elaine's. Late".
In 2003, New York City banned smoking in restaurants. Kaufman claimed to have quit smoking several years earlier, but was unhappy about her customers being forced to forgo tobacco at their seats. She died from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and pulmonary hypertension on December 3, 2010, aged 81. Kaufman willed the establishment to longtime manager Diane Becker. Becker later explained her reason for closing the restaurant, "The truth is, there is no Elaine’s without Elaine...the business is just not there without Elaine."
- Enid Nemy (December 3, 2010). "Elaine Kaufman, Who Fed the Famous, Dies at 81". The New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2010. "Elaine’s, in fact, was a scene, a noisy restaurant and bar celebrated as a celebrity hangout that all but shouted “New York” to the rest of the country, if not the world. For Billy Joel, in his 1979 hit “Big Shot,” the very name connoted the uptown in-crowd. (“They were all impressed with your Halston dress/And the people that you knew at Elaine’s.”) And in the new movie “Morning Glory,” with Harrison Ford, Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams, the indomitable Ms. Kaufman herself makes a cameo appearance."
- Heilpern, John (June 2009). "Dining (and Duking) with Elaine". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 4, 2010.
- Ross, Barbara (mARCH 21, 2013). "Actress Locks 25m Mansion Sale". NY Daily News. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
- kludt, Amanda (May 2011). "Elaine's to Close Six Months After Founder's Death http://ny.eater.com/archives/2011/05/elaines_to_close_six_months_after_founders_death.php". Retrieved October 10, 2011.