During the Great Depression, ‘Penny Restaurants’ Fed the Unemployed
New York’s 107 West 44th Street had been home to Bill Duffy’s Olde English Tavern. But with the Great Depression emptying wallets and Prohibition yet to be repealed, it was difficult for upscale establishments to stay open. In place of the old restaurant’s “merriment,” the New York Herald Tribune reported, a new restaurant was opening at the same address. It could accommodate crowds that would have swamped Duffy’s: 9,000 customers a day. The cuisine was humble: Pea soup and whole-wheat bread featured prominently on the menu. But it was dirt cheap, an aspect reflected by the establishments’s name. The Penny Restaurant was a place for the downtrodden and not-quite penniless to have a bite to eat.