Tim and Jeremy are both waiters at a restaurant in downtown New York City. During slow times at work, to stave off boredom when it is slow, the two young men draw pictures. These pictures are made using ink and what is called the "Triple Dupe Pad," a book of paper used to place orders in the kitchen. The drawings usually take about a week to make, all the while also being used by fellow employees to take orders; this sometimes leads to other collaborators or in a couple cases, to the loss of the work. The drawings are then scanned and colored in Photoshop where they come to life in stunning technicolor! The subject matter varies from piece to piece, as they are made over a long course of time and under various moods and states of mind. They all retain a playfulness that serves as a coping mechanism after spending a night catering to the endless needs of hungry patrons.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

#71 September 10, 2013

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"Garden of Eden"

As my loyal 8 readers know by now, the text in these blog posts really doesn't have much to do with the picture posted above.When I started writing this blog, it was more based on the pictures, but as the years wore on and I struggled with the meaning of the drawings and the meaning of the project in general, the text of the blog started looking inward at the restaurant that the drawings are made in. The space of the restaurant, and the inner workings became as important to the drawings as the drawings themselves. I mean, one could exist without the other, but without the restaurant, the drawings would never have come into form. In fact, these drawings represent a perfect storm of opportunity. The restaurant has gone through so many changes in name, ownership, and time, that if it hadn't been for the exact time and scenario that we were able to find ourselves at Cafe Loup, this blog would be about something completely different.
Which brings me to an awesome event that happened a week ago. We were having a normal Friday night at the restaurant, when a table of eight men of varying ages sat down at Table 8. They seemed to be just a normal table of eight, until they revealed who they really were. It turns out that one of the guys at the table was getting married, and this was his "bachelor party," even though his 12 year old nephew was in attendance and he was in his 60's. So, ok, they were having a tame bachelor party. Big deal, right? That sort of thing happens all the time at the Loup, so why was this party special? Well, the guy who was about to get married at one point tells Edie that his parents used to own the restaurant in the 1960's and that he hadn't been back to the restaurant since he was 11 years old! He had the idea to have the bachelor party at the same restaurant that his parents had owned 50 years prior.

Back then, the place was called "Garden of Eden" and it was a glorious downtown restaurant that seems like it thrived in the 1960's. It was then, as it is now, a family run establishment, serving delicious food and drink. The family goes by the name of Monasebian, although they spell it "Monas'bien" on the menu (as you can see in the picture above, depicting the front page of the menu). The Monasebians built the bar, and put a little pool with goldfish and plants in the middle of the dining room! The bar that they built is still that bar that is in the restaurant today. The pool, sadly, is no longer in the dining room. I am pretty sure that it was right in the middle, where Table 24a and 24B are today, and next time I am at the restaurant I am going to see if I can find some traces of the pool.

Mr. Monasebian in the dining room. 1965

The picture above shows Mr. Monasebian in the dining room. The column to his left is still there, although since the picture is so dark, it is hard for me to get my bearing on which direction we are looking. However, you can see the pool to his right, with flowers poking out next to him. 
When his son was in for dinner, they brought with them an old menu from the place and also a bunch of pictures from the dining room and kitchen. Those are the pictures I am showing you all here. We, as the staff, were so interested that we were all huddled around these guys looking at the pictures and menu while our sections sat patiently on a busy Friday night. Tomoyo even gave the guys a tour into the basement (so that she could photocopy the pictures and menu) and they said it was the same as they remembered. In fact, the picture of the kitchen looks incredibly similar.

In the kitchen of "Garden of Eden" 1965

The kitchen of today still has some of the same things in it, from 50 years ago. In this picture, you can see a metal structure hanging from the ceiling with metal hooks hung from it. That thing still hangs in the kitchen now. The shelf behind the head chef is still there and still in use today. You can see a server in the background under a stack of plates. We no longer keep plates there (we do keep pots and pans there), but it seems like that is where one would pick up food, which is the same as today. I admit, that when I first went into the kitchen at Cafe Loup, I was surprised by how small it was. I was then doubly surprised to see how much food could come out of such a small kitchen. But this being New York, you have to make it work with the space you have. Upon seeing this picture, I realized that they were working with the same size kitchen 50 years ago. Not only that, but it was set up the same way! So, these guys figured out how to make such a small space efficient, and it got handed down from owner to owner until today, where it is essentially the same setup now.

Some of the menu from "Garden of Eden" 1965

The menu was a real treat to look at. Not only for the things that they served, but for the prices! 
Prime Rib for $3.95! Coffee for $.35! 
I'm sure these prices were relatively high for the time, but this is New York! And this is Greenwich Village in it's prime (rib)! This was probably a place where you would dress up and take a special date or go with a group for family style dinners. You'd get some steak and some wine and have a grand old time. One of the great things on these menus, besides the food and prices, are the little sayings on the bottom: "Your Presence is a Compliment to Our Restaurant- Haste Ye Back!" That one is great, but the one on the next page, I think we should somehow incorporate into the current menu....

More menu from "Garden of Eden" 1965

"Dinner Without Wine is Like a Day Without Sunshine." 
Truer words have never been written. This whole page is incredible. When the guys showed us this page, it was literally like finding a treasure chest. From the warning that this new-fangled thing called curry is indeed very spicy to the "Shashlik" served on a flaming sword! This place must've been the best! I mean, you could get three lobster tails for $3.95, served with salad and a Baked Idaho potato! So amazing. 
It seems like they also had some special occasions. I don't know for sure, but the next picture looks like there was a buffet every once and a while. I know that at my grandparents place in the 1960's, they used to have a buffet every Sunday evening. It was that way until the 80's, as I remember having to dress up in a little mini suit and tie every Sunday night to dine at the buffet. It was quite an event! This picture certainly reminded me of that time, even down to the chefs tall hat. The only thing that's missing is the decorative Jell-o molds with lobsters in them.

The buffet at "Garden of Eden" 1965

Yes, it looks like the Monasebian's had quite a place. I don't know where this picture of the buffet table was taken, but I have a theory. It seems like the back wall of the restaurant, which would be where Tables 36-40 are now. Now, there is a large banquette there (and photos of Janis and Jimi), and I know that in the place that replaced "Garden of Eden" this was a live room where bands would play. This seems to be that back, and the wall behind the Monasebian's seems to be lined with marble, as you can see a slight reflection of a light fixture just about the chefs hat. I could be wrong, but no matter what, the place looks so 60's glamorous! 

View from the pool. "Garden of Eden" 1965

Finally, here is a picture from across the pool. It depicts Mr. Monasebian seated while his guests put on their furs and prepare to depart for the evening. The pool is in the foreground and you can almost see the goldfish swimming around in it. 
I am not sure when the Monasebian's sold the restaurant. The son, who was celebrating his bachelor party there two Fridays ago said that he hadn't been back to the restaurant in 50 years, so I am guessing they sold the place right round 1965, or so. Maybe not, maybe they kept it until the 70's, who knows. I don't know when it changed hands, as there is nothing about it on the internet that I can find. I even brought that point up a couple of posts ago, lamenting the fact that I didn't know what was in this space in the 1960's. "The Garden of Eden" must have been the first thing in the building, as the building itself was built in the 60's. What I find fascinating is that the place that I know of that replaced "The Garden of Eden" was called "The Bells of Hell." It's so poetic, and so New York. The owners of "The Bells of Hell" must have known the Monasebian's and known about the "Garden of Eden." They must have thought, "Well, we're not going to run a fancy dining room with live goldfish and flaming swords. We're going to run a honkey-tonk rock n' roll bar, so why not take the name in the exact opposite direction?" I think New York business owners of the past thought about that stuff more than they do today. I mean, Cafe Loup got it's name with the same sort of mind-frame, but that's a different story. I like to think that for the past 50 something years, the little space on 13th St. has been both Heavenly and Hellish, and now serves as a kind of space in between the two. A place with both qualities, and now it lives in the body of a wolf, an earth-bound creature that for centuries has been both feared and respected by all those who come in contact with it. A perfect middle ground between Heaven and Hell.

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