Dinner with Lots of Other Really Cool People in New York City (Keen’s Steakhouse)
Keen’s Steakhouse has been open since 1885. It’s the second-oldest steakhouse in New York City.
I had the chance to dine there last week for the very first time. Joining me were several dear friends, some of whom I’ll tell you more about.
First, a little more about Keen’s.
Located in midtown Manhattan, this is the quintessential power restaurant.
Upon my arrival, I joined Michael Baden in the lobby. He’s the famous forensic pathologist, who appears regularly as an expert in many high-profile death cases. Baden not only as the primary expert during the Kennedy Assassination hearings, he also served as Coroner for New York City during the 1970s. He’s looked into the deaths of everyone from punk rocker Sid Vicious to the police shooting in Ferguson. Baden also testified in the O.J. Simpson trial. As one can imagine, Baden is a staggeringly interesting dinner guest. He’s also gracious and seems genuinely interested in just about everything. I think that’s the real mark of someone who’s inherently appealing to be around, which is being genuinely interested in a variety of different topics, and always eager to learn more. Baden’s stories (the ones he can tell) make for a memorable and moving experience. He’s with me in the photo above. By the way, that’s Napoleon in the middle joining us. He didn’t say much.
Baden and I spent some time investigating the famous pipe collection at Keen’s. There’s a display case where the most famous pipes are displayed. Apparently, Keen’s was once a smoking room. That meant members would come and smoke their pipes, then leave them hanging on the wall awaiting the next visit. Keen’s is covered in pipes, mostly tacked onto the ceiling. There must be thousands. Don’t worry — it’s non-smoking now and there’s no hint of smoke. But seeing all the pipes of famous people certainly makes an impression. I didn’t see Cheech and Chong’s pipes in here, by the way.
Some of the other cool people who joined us included Baden’s wife, Linda Kenney Baden, the famous criminal defense attorney. If you haven’t Googled MICHAEL BADEN already, then Google LINDA KENNEY BADEN. She’s amazing. And really fascinating.
Stevan H. Goldman set up the dinner. He’s amazing in his own right. Of all the people I know, I’ve rarely met anyone with as much intelligence and integrity as Goldman. It’s far easier to write about celebrities like the Baden’s than really close friends like Stevan. I’ve probably indulged in 100 meals with Goldman, and I can’t wait for the next one (it’s Sunday night in Las Vegas, by the way — after the Super Bowl).
Steve “Ice” Eisenstein is a power attorney and super influential behind the scenes mover and shaker in New Jersey politics. He also does legal work for PokerStars.com. He joined me for dinner, not just on this night, but the evening before, as well. I’ve got lots of great “Ice” stories (that’s his poker nickname). One is the time we were discussing a pending federal bill in Washington, about online gambling. Ice wasn’t as much into the movement then, as he is now. I learned that Ice not only could call any Democrat on Congress on the phone, but he knew quite a few members personally. I mentioned that it would be good to get some Democratic support for a bill several years ago that was pro-online gambling. Ice just so happened to be holding a fundraiser that week. A few days later, he called me up and said, “I got you two votes in the House. Need anything else?” That’s influence. That’s power. That’s Ice.
I was thrilled to have John Kullman also join our group on this night. “JK” has an extensive background in poker that’s far more intricate than I can explain. I prefer not to spill all that is “JK.” Trust me when I say this is a man who is giving and honest as the say is long. He’s intimately knowledgeable about many of the things in poker that have happened in recent years, and someone who — whatever he says — can be taken as gospel truth. “JK” was with us for half of the dinner, then had to leave. Seems that on this night, he became a grandfather for the first time. He also had a sick teenager at home on this night, which brings us to the next fascinating dinner guest.
“JK” is married to Kim Scheinberg, one of the most impressive literary and linguistic minds I have ever met. That might seem an odd description. But Kim know and understands the lexicon of language better than anyone since William Safire. Okay, I’ve never met Safire, but you get the point. I’ve known Kim for nearly 20 years. She’s brutally honest, infectiously interesting, and naturally inquisitive enough to be welcome in just about any setting. Kim is married to “JK,” and with the ill teen resting at home, Kim and “JK” traded off a seat at the dinner table. Those of us who were present ended up with a double treat.
Our waitress, we all agreed, was a dead ringer for a 24-year-old Barbra Steisand. Imagine that. Naturally, the service was impeccable from start to finish, triggering thoughts of “People” and “The Way We Were.”
Against my better instincts, I skipped the recommendation of dear friend Steve McLoughlin, a New York-born poker insider now living in Las Vegas. “TT” couldn’t tout the famous mutton chop strongly enough. But I bypassed by caveman tendencies and opted for Dover Sole, which was fabulous. However, Michael Baden couldn’t resist and did his Fred Flintstone impression by ordering the mutton chip, and I watched with some glee as he seemed to be perplexed with something that appeared to closely resemble a grizzly object he’s seen many times before on stainless steel tables. The beastly loin did look delicious and Baden somehow managed to saw his way through the slab, ingesting about two-thirds of the giant mammal by my estimation.
Another cool feature, the house homemade ginger ale. Naturally, I spiced mine up with a little Makers Mark. Okay, so it was a double shot.
Eisenstein ordered the wine, as he always does because he’s the master sommelier of the party — which was excellent once again. His fine Meritage hit the palate with the perfect bouquet and aftertaste, completing a perfect evening.
Here’s a few snapshots of the famous pipe collection at Keen’s (below). There were at least 100 famous people who’s names you would recognize who all had pipes housed and hung up at Keen’s. A few noteworthy legends included Buffalo Bill, Teddy Roosevelt, and General Douglas MacArthur.
Next time I’m in New York, I can’t imagine a better dinner place or guest list. Thanks to everyone for a fabulous evening.