Saturday, November 17, 2007

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Deborah at the piano with Joey, no longer shy singing for an audience

---- About this Story ----

When I met Deborah, the author of How to Survive New York City, we discovered besides our passion for New York we shared a favorite local hang out, the always lively "Mimi's." During this holiday season it's the perfect place for visitors and newcomers to immediately feel welcome and at home.


Dear Postcards from New York Reader,

Little did I know how much Mimi's would become a part of me when I first walked in the door. This corner Italian restaurant/piano bar's floor to ceiling window on 52nd Street and 2nd Avenue offers patrons a panoramic view of the hurried pace and bustle outside on the street. A former business associate introduced me to the place.

No one remains a stranger once they pass through Mimi's doors. A voice from the direction of the piano calls out "Hello" as soon as you walk in, or perhaps it comes from smiling Fred Graham, who likes to tease you with his welcome. Once you divulge where you are from, the piano player will play a tune only you know from your city or country, no matter how far away.

That would be Hunter at the piano; Hunter Blue. He's the one that looks like a bejeweled monk, and he's one of Mimi's best pianists. They welcomed me the same way. I told them I loved to sing but was shy in front of strangers. Not anymore. They made singing such fun, I can't remember being shy.

Gradually, all the family's members and long-time staff became friends. Dominick, Mimi's son, said of his late father, "it was always his way of treating people that made them feel like family." You cannot stay long at Mimi's and not experience a sense of family.

Just like the TV show, Cheers, the regular patrons are characters; It is entertaining to observe while Fred banters with Hunter until the "all clear" is sounded, so Hunter can play Alice, a favorite song of the late night crowd. Passers-by point and stare while Hunter parades around the restaurant in costumes and flags of the various visitors' countries, making sure they feel welcome. It is truly a unique and entertaining place.

The stories are plentiful; Many became fodder for How to Survive New York City for the Newcomer . Dominick says "Mimi's is the quintessential New York neighborhood place to be." I think it's more than that; It has its own recipe for making people want to return again and again. Sort of like Fred, everyone thought he worked for Mimi's for years, and he only recently joined their payroll. He was a regular who just clicked with everybody. That's the kind of place Mimi's is; full of characters.

Mimi's is for music lovers, the lonely, the curious, and always for the fun-loving. It has played host to famous singers, visiting celebrities and international performers, and the food is as good as the company.

My personal favorites; spinach ravioli, Kailua and decaf, Alice, singing to Saturday night songs Jerry Delet plays, talking to friends and most of all, introducing newcomers to Mimi's. Someday, I hope to meet you there too.

Deborah Torbert
For Postcards from New York

Address to Remember: Mimi's Restaurant, 984 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10022, 212-688-4692.

Hours: Mon-Sat noon for lunch until 2am. Sunday late brunch at 5pm until 2am.

Directions: From Times Square, MTA S to Grand Central and 6 to 51st Street. Short walk to Restaurant. M42 Bus to 2nd Avenue, 10 block walk to Restaurant.

Photo by Fred Graham

© Copyright 2007 The Cable Group

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've been going to Mimi's since 1976, when my parents found it and told me about it. I was only 20 at the time, but loved the old songs. I've probably been to this restaurant more than any other in the city. Hunter is great, and I really miss the dearly departed Burt, an old jazz guy who was my favorite pianist to sing with in this city. If you're really lucky, you'll get to hear the bartender, Lori Bricker, sing while sitting high on the bar. She rarely does, but when she sings, watch out -- her powerful and beautiful voice can be heard from down the street, and even the rudest and most oblivious patrons will stop talking to listen.

Andrew Poretz