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Chronicles: The Gilded Age of Sherry’s

Sherry's Restaurant menuTop Chef may have introduced Middle America to haute cuisine but fine dining has been a part of New York City ever since the Delmonico family opened their eponymous restaurant in the early 19th century.  By the end of that century, New Yorkers’ taste for dining out grew with their wallets and Louis Sherry served the Gilded Age glitterati the trendiest dessert at his restaurant: ice cream.
Born into a French-Canadian family in Vermont, Sherry made his way to New York and eventually rose from waiter to kitchen manager of fashionable Hotel Elberon in Elberon, New Jersey.  With $1300 in savings and guarantees of patronage from the hotel’s socially prominent guests, Sherry opened his first restaurant in New York in 1881.  By 1898, he had developed such a following that he established himself in the space on Fifth Avenue at 44th Street, designed by none other than Stanford White and across from Delmonico‘s.  Sherry’s restaurant became the place to be seen for the growing ranks of Gilded Age millionaires, a turn of the 20th century Jean Georges.

sherrysdiningroom1898In celebration of the opening of his newly built private stables, on which he spent $200,000, industrialist C.K.G. Billings threw a party described by the NY Times as “one of the most novel that has ever been given in this city.”  Initially scheduled to be held at the stables, Billings moved the party to Sherry’s ballroom for fear that the public would want to spy on the conspicuous party.  On March 28, 1903, Billings’ dinner guests found themselves in the ballroom, redecorated with a woodland theme and filled with horses.  With tables and champagne-filled ice packs attached to their saddles, it was upon those horses that the guests would dine for the night.  Man and horse dined together as waiters served course after course of Sherry’s finest to the guests and troughs oats to the horses.  All told, the bill came in at $50,000.
In 1919 Sherry closed his restaurant and set-up the Louie Sherry Corporation to manufacture sweets and ice cream. His restaurant today has been left to offices and a shoe shop.

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