Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The City that Once Was: Ruskay's on Columbus Avenue in New York

When I was studying at Juilliard, I had a job playing solo flute on a balcony at a restaurant on Columbus Avenue called Ruskay's. I played every Monday night from 6:00 to midnight (for the dinner hours), and I had a wonderful time. The restaurant was owned by Richard Ruskay, who also owned the downtown Empire Diner. The food was terrific (in addition to getting paid, I got dinner--I loved the chicken salad with walnuts and tarragon), and the bar area (where I ate) always seemed to attract the same very interesting and intelligent people, and they were always really nice to me. As far as I can recall, the restaurant only had live music, and it had a bohemian kind of energy that made it far more than a place of business.

I believe a friend (who played piano there) suggested I go into Ruskay's and ask if they were interested in having a flutist play. I only recently learned that Michael Parloff had been playing there before he got his job as the principal flutist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and that I must have walked in at the right time. It was 1978, they had been open for two years, and they were indeed looking for a flutist to play during dinner.

I stayed until I left New York in 1980, and learned that Ruskay's had closed in my absence. There are very few remnants of it (and no pictures) on line, so I thought I would post a bit about it, just in case some of my nostalgic friends from those glorious days might be searching.

6 comments:

untappednewyork.com said...

Thanks for the link to Untapped! I went to Juilliard too, for cello. If you have any other tidbits on Ruskay's, I'll do a write up on it and I can probably dig up some history that's not online. Let me know! :)

Elaine Fine said...

Were you around during the Ruskay's era?

untappednewyork.com said...

I think so, but I don't think I knew about it. I wasn't allowed to do very much exploring by my mom back then :)

George said...

I was just chatting about Ruskay's with a friend ... we remember the the place well...including the constant windexing of the mirrored tables. :) Do you remember who the pianist was? Many thanks for this post. George

Elaine Fine said...

Ah yes, the mirrored tables! There were lots of pianists. As I recall there was usually a different musician for every night of the week, and sometimes there were two per evening. Unfortunately I can't remember any names!

Anonymous said...

I loved Ruskay's for a hearty late night breakfast and super-sized slices of cake. I am sad there are no photos of the place.