In 1905 Lillie Langtry, actress and paramour of King Edward of England, took Keens to court for having denied her access to its gentlemen-only premises. She won her case, swept into Keens in her feathered boa and proceeded to order one of our famous mutton chops.
From the Keens Steakhouse Website
“For much of her life, Lillie Langtry was known as the most beautiful woman in the world,” says Sandra Smires, curator of the The Lillie Langtry Collection and Former Langtry House Historian. (See Traveling Around, Reading Around, and Filming Around for other stories on Lillie). “But she didn’t rest on that laurel. She worked almost every day of her life as a stage actress.”
For Lillie, the world was her stage. One can just imagine that day when she burst into Keens. A force to be reckoned with, Lillie paved the way into Keens and now you can follow. Don’t stop there. Visit the other restaurant with a link to this British beauty, Lillie’s near Union Square.
Keens is the more upscale (read expensive) of the two. (A burger at Keens is $15, at Lillie’s, $10). Lillie ordered the mutton chop, Keens signature dish. James Beard, Frank Bruni and others have praised this meaty entree. (The restaurant devotes a page on its website to this selection). Mutton chop not your thing? No problem. Besides mutton chops, Keens menu boasts a fabulous lineup of steaks, including an aged prime Porterhouse for two or three, Chateaubriand for two, double lamb chops, lobster, and Dover sole. Dining at Keens you may begin to feel a little like Lillie, sans boa. Wherever you are seated—the main dining room, the pub room, or the Lillie Langtry Room itself (photo, top)—you will be treated like royalty. Service is first class, the food well prepared and presented, and the ambiance conducive to whatever gathering you have in mind. A romantic tete a tete? Seated side by side on a banquet will make for a cozy evening. Meeting friends before a sports outing at Madison Square Garden? Keens pub room is the perfect place for burgers and beer. A special occasion? Keens has banquet rooms available for that celebration.
If you would like to channel Lillie but are looking for a bustling social scene where you can get together with friends for drinks, then head to Lillie’s on East 17th Street. Lillie would have loved this place! The crowd here is young, professional, attractive, and upbeat. Billed as an Irish Victorian Bar and Restaurant, Lillie’s is a favorite after work haunt for hard working New Yorkers up for meeting and greeting. On a recent weekday night, Lillie’s was filled wall-to-wall with a well-dressed crowd. Animated conversations were taking place at the numerous tables and at the bar. A waitress was passing out samples of a Belgium beer. In short, a good time was had by all.
Lillie’s is truly a monument to its namesake. The walls are adorned with all things Lillie—paintings, photos, and memorabilia. Lillie’s antique carved wood bar and furnishings were actually acquired from a Victorian mansion in Belfast and transported across the ocean with great care. The sample of the Belgium beer was just one of many. The restaurant serves a wide range of domestic and international beer (25 on tap and 30 bottled), as well as an impressive listing of whiskeys and wines, including some from the Langtry Estate in California. (See our story in Traveling Around).
The food at Lillie’s is traditional Irish Pub Fare. Looking for a late night or early morning place? Lillie’s is open from 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. daily.
Lillie fell in love with a rich New Yorker, Freddie Gebhard. We like to think that she also fell in love with New York and that she would appreciate these two restaurants keeping her memory alive.
72 West 36th Street, Between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
13 East 17th Street, between Broadway and Fifth Avenues