Photographed by Robert Otter circa 1962

Albert French Restaurant

Joseph Brody, Proprietor 1946-1968

Kwei Chu Proprietor 1968-1971

Joseph Brody, a colorful European refugee–some say French, others Czech–took over the hotel’s French restaurant on the corner of University Place and East 11th St. in 1946. A self-declared “genius-in-residence,” he turned it into an American restaurant under the slogan, “All the steak you can eat for $2.35,” though the name remained unchanged and the servers wore berets. Brody was also a pioneer among New York restaurateurs in the 1950s in offering a sidewalk café–a place; it was said, for “bearded poets to sip wine.”

Outside, customers could board the “Loconik”, a surrealist, Salvador Dalí-designed conveyance–a locomotive with a two-car train, later a converted school bus–to take a free guided tour of Greenwich Village. Like so much with the restaurant, these ‘daily’ tours ran–or not–at the whim of the proprietor. Publicity stunts came aplenty with Brody, such as the restaurant’s annual poetry contest “judged by Broadway stars,” and a green-bearded Santa Claus. Brody reputedly retained seven publicists to keep the restaurant’s name–and his–in the press. His run-ins with the City’s licensing agency, to whose staff he refused to pay backhanders, provided plenty of copy if ever the stunts lagged.