When I was little, my parents’ idea of a great place to sup was not La Grenouille or Le Cirque. Those places were never part of the vernacular in the Rehfeld family. Eating out meant three things: beautiful atmosphere, large portions and value.
Money was scare and appetites were ravenous, so best to choose a place with a gigantic, juicy slab of meat to do the trick.
That’s why celebrations like birthdays or Mother’s Day usually meant picking up grandma at her Independence Avenue apartment and heading up to the Chart House in Tarrytown, N.Y.
Back in the 80s, before it felt like more of a chain, the glass and wooden house at the foot of the Hudson River boasted beautiful sunsets, lazy sailboats and a view of the craggy Palisades cliffs and Tappen Zee bridge across the dark water. In the summer, you could perch on the rocks and throw pebbles into the water.
During the winter, an open fireplace would blaze in the lounge area, where Shirley Temples were always in order for children who behaved.
Sometimes if we didn’t have a reservation, we’d bicker some in the car before my Dad would announce, “Let me take care of it.” He’d approach the host stand and say, Dr. Rehfeld, table for five at 7 p.m.” The host, puzzled, would pass over the handwritten reservation a few times, and then whisper something to the manager.
My father, an appliance salesman of enormous stature, would wait patiently for the manager to look over his map of available reservations. Dad would chime in, “My secretary called last week.” The manager usually responded: “Dr. Rehfeld, we don’t seem to have you on our list, but if you give us about 15 minutes, we can certainly accommodate you.”