Hey Shelly Fireman, Gimme Back my Redeye Grill

We interrupt this sports page for another NYC restaurant review!

“I changed everything,” Shelly Fireman told the New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo. He’s right – he changes everything for the worse, and now Redeye Grill is a mere shell of itself, pardon the pun.

I often celebrated my life victories at Shelly’s famous Redeye Grill on 7th and 56th. I got my first job offer as a New York City entertainment lawyer at Redeye Grill. My new boss ordered the signature dish – the Dancing Shrimp, I ordered sushi. What a welcome to New York!

I took the love of my life there for our first date. It was right before Thanksgiving in 2000. I fell in love with Britt 1,000 different ways that night. I don’t remember what we ate, or what we wore, but I’ll never forget they way I lost a contact lens. One popped out of my eye, but I found it easily and went into the bathroom to put it back in.

Well there was this lunkhead lugnut valet in the bathroom – the worst idea in NYC restaurant business history – who didn’t speak English, but kept trying to force a napkin into my hands as I’m trying to put my contact lens back in my eye!.

Jay (putting the lens in his eye over the sink): I don’t need that, thank you.

Dork: Ben balla ben balla. (Pushing the napkin into my hand as I have the lens precariously balanced on my forefinger.)

Jay: No, I don’t need that, thank you.

Dork: Ben balla ben balla. (pushing it towards my hand again)

Jay: No please…I’m trying to…

Dork: Grubbubbella…(pushing).

And then the lens gets knocked out of my hand and down the drain of the sink. For the record, I’m -9.5 in both eyes…

Dork: Oh! Hee hee hee. Sorry.

Dude, Britt Bonsoleil saved your life that night and you never knew it.

I went back to table and did the rest of the date without a contact lens on my right eye. Britt never knew the difference. That’s how smooth I was that night. Tiger Woods, you may have won a U.S. Open on one leg, but I reeled in Britt Bonsoleil with one eye! (After the Redeye, I took her on a tour of the Russian Tea Room, before we migrated back to the East side and chocolate martinis near the U.N.)

Once, I even stumbled into a drink and a conversation with Jennifer Love Hewitt late, late, late night back in the day.

The Redeye was so much more than so many other NYC restaurants offer – it wasn’t just a meal, it was an event. If you were going to the Redeye, you looked forward to it all day. Bright and sunny with tall windows, old school airplanes zooming overhead, dancing shrimp on the bar, jazz music, great cocktails, a wildly diverse menu, a vibrant scene…it was always on my short list for everything from business lunch to seducing my date.

But the changes “recommended” by Page Six’s Cindy Adams and implemented by Shelly have homogenized the place. There’s nothing that stands out any more. All the charecter is gone – from the decor to the menu to the scene. I went last Saturday night and the place was quiet. Hushed.


“When they took away the planes and the Dancing Shrimp, they took away the place’s heart and soul, but when they dumbed-down the menu they lobotomized it’s brain,” said one disappointed diner, whose name I didn’t catch. “They took it on the wrong direction. There’s no more character any more. Nothing screams at you that “This is the Redeye Grill.”

I am NOT just preconditioned and afraid of change. They dumbed-down the menu, but raised the prices. There’s less character, but the food is more bland and there are fewer offerings. Where’s the pasta? Where’s the sparkling, creative sushi? Now instead of myriad rolls, a plain old spicy tuna roll costs sixteen dollars! It used to be Redeye’s sushi was almost as good as nearly any other Japanese restaurant in town. Now there are just four or five ordinary options. There’s no reason to go to Redeye for the sushi any more – it’s no longer a specialty. As for pasta, where once they had several options, including a terrific squid-ink dyed ravioli or lingiuni, now there’s next to nothing. Meanwhile you can have a few pieces of fish with a couple different sauces, but if you want fish. Milos is two blocks away.

I normally like Cuozzi’s taste, but I couldn’t disagree more when he writes, “the Redeye needed a new image.” Instead I think they should have done what everybody does in tough economic times whether you’re Rockefeller or John the Tailor – you ride it out. Even Cuozzi admits, “There are fewer composed dishes.” Now the Redeye is no lo9nger an event…it’s just another place, albeit expensive for what you get. We tried the nineteen dollar lobster mac and cheese, (which only had the meat from one crab claw), the spicy tuna roll, (ordinary, and overpriced at sixteen dollars), and a forgettable pasta dish for thirty-four dollars, (Cuozzi’s right…the Italian here needs to improve to keep up with Shelly’s other places.)

The Redeye got a lobotomy. If they don’t bring back the vitality it once had, they might as well put a pillow over its face. I never thought I’d say this…but now I like Rue 57 more. Bring back our Redeye Grill, Shelly…on the menu I mean. And make the bar more happenin’ and hoppin’. Redeye Grill used to swing. That’s what ultimately we miss most. Don’t let Redeye stay a mere Shell of itself.


Posted: March 22nd, 2013 under Restaurants in NYC.
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