New York may get ever newer storefronts and skyscrapers, but mixed in are vintage brick-and-mortar gems, often hidden on side streets, that make the city one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
A telling example of that charm, and what makes New York a longstanding fixture in arts and media, can be found in the hit Amazon Prime series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which chronicles the life of a housewife-turned-comedian in the late 1950s and 1960s. The finale airs Friday after the show began streaming six years ago.
Besides famed Manhattan venues such as Carnegie Hall and the Apollo Theater, the show has put a spotlight on many lesser-known locations — with history dating back decades if not a century-plus — that often take real-life visitors back in time with many original touches preserved.
“This period after World War II and going into the 1950s was a very optimistic period,” Bill Groom, the show’s production designer, said in a Hollywood Reporter story last year. “My job was just a matter of trying to reflect that to the audience with what I see in the writing and in our characters.”
In an effort to accurately recreate the era, the production team ended up assembling binders with “hundreds of thousands of pages” filled with details, he said.
The chosen locations have led to events and tours of different kinds that aim to help fans retrace their favorite scenes. On Location Tours, which does TV or movie-themed tours, unveiled its first “Maisel”-themed offering at the end of 2020, when it “was definitely a tough time due to the pandemic,” a spokesperson told CoStar News.
Since a relaunch later during the pandemic, the tour, not officially affiliated with the series, has been “doing really well,” the spokesperson said, adding there’s been an increase in private bookings.
Mariah Grumet, an etiquette coach and diehard “Maisel” fan, recently took the tour on a weekday. She dressed in a vintage 1960s dress with a pillbox hat that was actually used on one of the extras in the show.
The buildings in the show “have so much history,” she said.
Here are highlights of New York’s hidden gems featured in “Maisel”:
McSorley’s Old Ale House, located at 15 E. Seventh St., opened its doors in 1854 and is billed as the oldest continuously operated bar in the United States. The historic watering hole is said to have served former presidents Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, as well as authors such as Frank McCourt, who wrote “Angela’s Ashes.” Another famed patron, E.E. Cummings, penned the poem “Sitting in McSorley’s.”
Gregory de la Haba, the co-owner and operator of McSorley’s, told CoStar News that the “Maisel” production team made few changes to the bar, which played the role of the former Cedar Tavern on University Place supposedly frequented by abstract expressionist painters Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Besides putting in some lights, the team added “a whole bunch of bottles” because McSorley’s doesn’t sell liquor, he said, only light or dark ale.
The place is full of relics including its original ice box, tap and money box, de la Haba said.
La Bonbonniere, located at 28 Eighth Ave. in Greenwich Village, played the role of the City Spoon diner in “Maisel.” The no-frills restaurant, said to have opened in the early 1930s, was closed at different times for the filming of the series, at one time lasting two weeks, owner Costas Maroulletis, who bought the restaurant some 30 years ago, told CoStar News.
“They changed the carpet, the posters and kept the grill ’cause it’s old,” Maroulletis said, adding “Maisel” creators Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino were already customers before asking him about using the diner. He said the outdated touch of the space is “why they liked it.”
While the restaurant was closed for filming, Maroulletis didn’t sit idle or go on vacation. He showed up to cook menu items such as steak, pancakes and eggs for the crew.
Albanese Meats and Poultry, located at 238 Elizabeth St. and opened in 1923, is described as the last butcher in Little Italy and run by the fourth generation of the Albanese family. Called Lutzi’s in “Maisel,” the shop is main character Miriam “Midge” Maisel’s local butcher. There was little changed for the show.
“We did mostly signage,” production designer Bill Groom told the New York Post. “We moved the counters around a little bit, did some painting inside as well. We did all the product signs in the window through film research.”
In a nod to the show, one of the shop window’s displays features an image of Midge.
The Music Inn, at 69 W. Fourth St., starred as its namesake in “Maisel.” Opened in 1958 and known as one of New York’s oldest continually run music stores with “thousands of instruments from around the world,” according to its website, with many hanging from the ceiling.
The show used both the ground and basement floors of the store, according to On Location tour guide Katherine Winter. The store’s cat is also said to have made appearances in the series.
The Up & Up, a craft cocktail bar at 116 MacDougal St. in Greenwich Village, sits below a tattoo parlor. On the show, the location serves as the Gaslight Cafe, where Midge’s journey as a stand-up comedian begins. The actual Gaslight underground coffee house opened in 1958 and closed its doors in 1971 before Up & Up occupied the space, according to an Amazon blog post.
“Maisel” used the location to film the exterior Gaslight scenes while the interior action was captured on a sound stage, Amazon said. Up & Up on its website called the site “the birthplace of the Beat Generation” known for its writers and musical acts.