Welcome to Supperwelcome to
SUPPER

368 Columbus Avenue
November 19, 2013

 

KEYWORDS: DAH DA DAH DAH DAH . . .

 

While he is mum about the subject on his public radio show and his live-streaming channel, Jonathan Schwartz has a supper club. A studio on the Upper West Side that seats about eight very comfortably, Welcome to Supper is decorated with stunning posters of Sinatra playbills, and has the finest audio equipment you’ll ever lay ears on.

Speakers large and small adorn the walls, as well as a magnificent collection of LPs that are filed by performer and then by year (there is a stern note advising not to touch the records). Songs play in and out during the dining experiences, not a chock-a-block seamless playlist, but selected in the moment, with long pauses in between.

Welcome to Supper meets bi-monthly, either twice a month or once every two months, as the loose definition allows. There is a strict no-phones policy, meaning no phone calls, texting, food-photography, or glancing at email during your meal.

Its menu has the grilled cheese that Frank Sinatra ordered before his 1958 performance at Carnegie Hall, thick slabs of sourdough with melted cheddar, a rich onion bechamel, and an imperceptible amount of bacon that Sinatra was mostly likely unaware of. There is also Bernadette Peters’ family recipe for shepherd's pie. According to legend, it was served to Peters in a travel mug as she had mere minutes to make it to Broadway before a performance of Into the Woods. So Schwartz serves it in a ceramic mug, in homage.

But Schwartz knows that not every performer has a great recipe; great recipes are performances in themselves, so his menu also has some Schwartzian innovations. “These are green olives that have been braised in a white wine,” pause, “sauce. Italian tomatoes. Garlic. And then we introduce some free-range,” long pause, “chicken. It’s a little juicy, you'll want some bread to sop up," pause, “the juices.”

In a selection from the Great American Cookbook, there is the meatloaf, which is more like a sliceable beef bourguignon, with a tangy spicy ketchup. “That’s the serrano peppers talking,” says Jonathan, “Hot. Stuff.”

Schwartz greets every table with his benevolent, all-knowing, man-from-another-planet presence. On the radio, it seems merely unlikely that one human being could be as concerned with the proper emphasis of words as Schwartz is. In person, it is uncanny. Schwartz moves from table to table at a very leisurely conversational pace. “Hello,” he says, enunciating every letter, long pause, “How are you enjoying,” long pause, “the soup?”

I tell him that the pumpkin soup is great.

“Well,” he says, long pause, “That's really something.”

This kind of short, earnest conversation is rare in most dining experiences, but what is truly unusual about Welcome to Supper is how the evening ends, which is best described as a nonchalant magic trick.

After concluding their meal, some guests were waiting to say goodnight to Schwartz, but he had vanished, leaving a record spinning, one that seemed to be quietly skipping over a speck of dust or a scratch in the vinyl with the most quiet “Thiph . . . . . . . . . . thiph . . . . . . . . . thiph . . . .

But the record had no label and was playing normally—a record of a record skipping. Schwartz had somehow put it on the player and left the supper club without any of us noticing. It seems like some kind of statement from someone who is as purposely conversational as Schwartz, but I am powerless to explain what it means.

Reservations should made six months in advance through Schwartz’s website.

 

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