“There is no other like The Lobster!”
The year 1920 marked the beginning of the end of many New York City restaurants. By the end of the decade, the effects of Prohibition would force many restaurateurs to close their doors. But for Max Fuchs and Simon Linz, this decade marked the beginning of a successful business known simply as the Lobster Restaurant.
I discovered this restaurant through a book of matches that I picked up at an antique store in Lambertville, NJ, for less than a dollar. The matchbook reads, “The Lobster. Our policy of serving only FRESH IN SEASON SEAFOOD has not been changed in more than 35 years of continuous service to the public of New York.”
In the same neighborhood where grand “lobster palaces” flourished two decades earlier, Fuchs and Linz opened the Lobster Restaurant — at 145 West 45th St. Very little is written about The Lobster in the pages of the New York Times, but Rian James gives a solid two-page review in the 1930 edition of his Dining in New York.
The Lobster is a low-ceilinged, rambling restaurant, with the grace and courtliness of a one-arm cafeteria; with rushing, ribald waiters, who dash up and down between the long aisles of tables with squirming lobsters in their hands, who take your order in a restless “must-be-getting-away” fashion, making the distance between the oyster bar, up front, and the kitchen in the rear, in pretty nearly nothing, flat. And for all that, The Lobster is the most successful sea-food restaurant in town. To prove it, there are small sea-food restaurants on either side of this leader of them all — restaurants that live and thrive on The Lobster overflow! …
Here, the broiled pompano is a morsel for the epicure; the broiled lobster (you select yours while he’s still kicking and squirming) is tender and sweet; the scallops are small and luscious; the sea-bass is perfection, and the Newburg sauce is unsurpassed.
And here, too, each night, you’ll find actual mobs of people who know how difficult it is to find sea-food that actually smacks of the sea — islanders who have never seen an oyster, outlanders who have never tasted sword-fish, actors, artists, writers, and ladies from South Orange, bound for a near-by theater — all reveling in an orgy of deviled crab, baked fresh mackerel with an unrivaled creole sauce, and salmon, boiled, and smothered in a luscious Hollandaise!
There are a thousand sea-food restaurants in New York; there are a few good ones; but there is no other like the Lobster, and that’s saying something!
The restaurant continued to thrive for decades. In the 1950s, both Fuchs and Linz received obituaries in the New York Times. Linz passed away Nov. 2, 1952, at the age of 62, just one day before Eisenhower was elected president of the United States. Linz had served 7 years as president of the Restaurant Guild, and though he had retired from active participation in his own business three years prior to his death, he was affiliated with the Restaurant League, formed in the previous year to succeed and enlarge the operations of the guild.
Fuchs passed away Jan. 15, 1958, at the age of 78. The obituary noted that while he was born in the future Czechoslovakia, he came to the United States at the age of 28. He worked as captain of waiters at Luchow’s Restaurant, as head waiter at the Alhambra Restaurant in Harlem, and later operated an employment agency for restaurant workers. He formed a partnership with Linz, then a steward at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, in 1919 to open the Lobster Restaurant.
Their sons carried on the business until at least the 1970s. The address of this once bustling restaurant now houses the Nokia Theater and O’Lunney Pub, but its memory lives on in some obscure pieces of ephemera.