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Sea Fare

As an NYU student, Mimi Sheraton signed up for late afternoon or evening electives so she could stay in the Village to have dinner with friends at neighborhood restaurants. Sometimes they went to the Sea Fare on Eighth Street where, she writes in Eating My Words, black waitresses in colorful bandannas served the signature Nesselrode pie, a rum-flavored chiffon pie that was highly popular at the time and now all but forgotten.

Sea Fare opened in the Village in 1941 and Chris Bastis, its Greek-born owner, opened a second one four years later in the tony Sutton Place neighborhood on First Avenue near 57th Street. Eighth Street was a commercial street with a variety of establishments in 1946, not the row of cheap shoe stores it later became. In her review of the two Sea Fares in The New York Times on March 14, 1946, Jane Nickerson wrote that both restaurants had "bare tables and a scrubbed look" but the uptown location was more spacious and attractive. Everything at both restaurants was a la carte and the fish was prepared to order in an open kitchen. They served nothing but fish, accompanied by french fries, salad, desserts, beer and wine and perhaps a vegetable. The lemon sole dinner, consisting of flounder fillet, asparagus, white sauce, sliced pimento or tomato and cheese, was the house specialty at $1.10. Ah, white sauce. Hard to escape in the 1940s. And the seasonal, expensive asparagus was about the only green vegetable that many people willingly ate. The place filled up early according to Nickerson.

In 1963 Bastis opened the Sea Fare of the Aegean, which was more decidedly Greek in its decor and cuisine and very popular with the Upper East Side set for decades.