Mr. Cornwall’s note: Justice Minotaur submitted the following restaurant review for publication in the New York Times in 1972. No response was received. “The submission was probably stolen by a corrupt mail clerk and published in Tagalog in some foreign rag,” saith Minotaur.
The corner of Seventh and Broadbent in New York City has been, in the words of de Tocqueville, a “place of much fortune” since Trent Jackson divined maple syrup there a century and a half ago, and the latest manifestation of this good fortune appears to be the opening of John Habsburg’s new restaurant, the Source d’Ichor, which was accomplished with all pomp and circumstance in the early part of last month. Mine was the pleasant occasion to pay obeisance to the new establishment, accompanied by the irrepressible Crooked Shears, a Chicago native who is also my wife, the mother of my adorable twin daughters, Erl and König, and a second-rate classical cellist.
We arrived at “the Source,” as the jet set has it, just before twilight on a Friday that had already been made memorable by my being notified of my father’s acceptance into a mime school in Amherst. We parked the Peugeot in a handicapped space and, faking limps, made our way to the front of the property, where we gazed at the magnificent architecture of the restaurant, a four-cornered wood and concrete structure reminiscent of the Minneapolis mansion where my publisher lives. A gentle stream bubbling mysteriously out of the ground and running into the street just in front of the restaurant (was it the legendary source?) and the cream-colored letters “O-P-E-N,” delicately balanced on a field of scarlet in the upper third of the front door, at once spelled welcome.
The haste with which I scurried down the front walk and opened the restaurant door was exceeded only by the dispatch of the maître d’, who greeted us in the vestibule with a shake of the left hand and called us by our middle names—we were not uninvited. A series of carefully wrought and subtly posed questions told me that his name was Worthington, that he had been with Draper in Pittsburgh before Draper made head chef at Babcock’s, and that he had platooned with Burt Ward in the pivotal role of Robin in the inaugural season of television’s Batman. This last fact did not appear to have gone to Worthington’s head, but indeed seemed to give him a quiet and solemn assurance such as one sees in a man who knows that, were it necessary, he could tie his shoes with his eyes closed. Worthington whispered the names of Burgess Meredith and Adam West with profound reverence, and spoke often and fondly of the jocular nature of Mel Larkin, who, from what I could gather, was either the key grip on the Batman set or Worthington’s green grocer.
Alas it was announced that our table was made ready and we were whisked into the back quarters of the Source, all the while casting glances on the other patrons, which glances were either amorous or embarrassingly timid, depending on whether my wife or I was casting them. Our arrival at the table was contemporary with the advent of our waiter, who exchanged surreptitious pleasantries with the parting Worthington before introducing himself and serving us chilled water. I was intrigued by the curious needlework on his cardigan and his knowledge of Locke and sausage. Not wanting him to get the upper hand, I proceeded to fire, a la Socrates, a series of questions about the history of Paduan rodeo, until he escaped the whirlwind by presenting, with a flourish of the right hand, two printed menus and dismissed himself to go about his other duties.
The light of the neon sign burning outside the window by our table was not so dim as to prevent our deciphering the menu, and what a rich discovery! Ham, soda, beef, potatoes—all availed themselves to us, without qualification, without apology. I was particularly taken with the idea of ordering red wine with buttered cobra, but, though I sometimes wear white pants after Veterans Day, I believe that social mores are more honored in the observance than in the breach, so I opted instead for the boatswain’s platter, against the pleas of my wife. She herself, having discerned that the Source did not discriminate against the serving of traditional breakfast foods at the supper hour, took eggs Benedict, under advisement from a carpenter-patron who had temporarily moved his chair so close to hers that he appeared to be wearing her bandolier.
As we awaited our meal, a sense of anticipation grew in me so strongly that I nearly thought I was once again the eleven-year-old boy who had camped out in a parking lot with his friends for a night waiting in line for tickets to ride a saddled monkey, and I squeezed the bottle of catsup so tightly that Marsha began to whimper. Then was my anticipation satisfied, and in a way I hadn’t dared hope for—the arrival of Habsburg! I thought it was Birnam wood come to Dunsinane, he moved so slowly and deliberately, but then I knew him immediately by the smell of his salve. He bore none of the pomposity one would expect in a man who had made a fortune by manufacturing pairs of left-handed driving mittens. He put us at ease with a barrage of jokes and riddles—mainly about ducks—and by whistling “Greensleeves” in E minor. He had all the charm, mystery, and profundity of a vanity license plate.
When I started to dance with Habsburg the hours began to fly by on unrestrained wing. The cha-cha-cha, the samba, my wife’s jealousy, the waltz (Viennese), Worthington dancing with my wife, my manic jealousy, the rumba, the dinner coming, and dessert (a precocious strawberry glace), the bachata, me dancing with my wife, Worthington and Habsburg’s jealousy, Worthington and Habsburg dancing, my jealousy returning, the waltz again, the Virginia reel, the Balboa, the check, me forgetting to tip, the foxtrot, me arm wrestling the carpenter, my wife’s being subpoenaed, then deputized, my first haiku—everything is to me now only a blur, a gentle, well-scented blur that rouses me softly in the night, and calls me collect from airports, saying “Vive la Source, vive la Source.”