June 17, 2015
Why do I even have these menus? No idea. I suspect that a reader sent them to me, as a special treat, when I was at the Los AngelesTimes. Otherwise I have no explanation for the presence of a menu belonging to a restaurant that closed about the time that I was born.
But I do remember my parents talking about Cafe Chambord, which opened in 1936; Mom said it reminded her of the bistros she went to in Paris when she was at the Sorbonne. It was, she said, small and rather rustic. At least in the beginning. Then, in 1942, owner Roger Chauveron got his hands on a great wine cellar at a bargain price. He'd worked at all of New York's one-named big-deal hotels – The Ritz, The Plaza, The Astor, The Commodore – and now he raised the level of the food to match his swell new wine list. Before long it had become a favorite haunt of the French emigres flooding to New York to escape the war. They were soon joined by prominent New Yorkers (the Rockefellers), and movie stars (Greta Garbo was a fan).
Chauveron sold the restaurant in 1950 and went back to France. He didn't stay long; in 1955 he was back to open Cafe Chauveron. I never went there either, but here's Gael Greene's paean to that restaurant.
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