Gracing most lists of the best bars in New York City is the venerable P.J. Clarke’s. The fabled midtown saloon, which has been slinging cocktails in its weathered, red brick building for 130 years, reached its first golden age in the 1940s and ‘50s. Frank Sinatra had his assigned throne; much of The Lost Weekend was written here; Buddy Holly proposed to his wife at a back table, just months before his fateful plane trip; and Nat King Cole correctly labeled the Clarke’s hamburger the “Cadillac of burgers.”
So, stepping into P.J. Clarke’s understandably evokes a connection to the past; a proper New York City saloon with outstanding hamburgers, and now, exceptional butterscotch pudding.
Yes, for the past two months P.J. Clarke’s has offered on their desert list a nod to their first golden age with a golden, if girth-growing, butterscotch pudding. Now, it’s a best seller.
Chef John Gregory and owner Phil Scotti have been experimenting with the butterscotch pudding recipe for months, easily surpassing 10 different versions before settling in on their perfected golden delicacy ready for the public.
“We were definitely looking for the nostalgic feeling people get when eating homemade desserts, especially when it comes to puddings,” says Chef Gregory.
The actual name on the menu is the 1955 Butterscotch Pudding. Why 1955? Well, in addition to it being the year the Third Avenue El was dismantled, finally allowing sunlight to shine on this classic pub until glass and steel skyscrapers a decade later enveloped it in shadow again; it was also the pinnacle of butterscotch pudding popularity.
Although the exact recipe is a closely guarded secret, the kitchen does admit to using sea salt for that perfect, salty, buttery caramel taste. The pudding is garnished, according to Gregory, with “Almond toffee, made in house, from sugar, butter, salt, and toasted almonds. Once it settles, you crack it with a mallet, and hope the shards are good size!”
P.J. Clarke’s is, and will always be, a connection to New York City’s golden age of drinking, but now you have the option to transport yourself to your father’s childhood with delectable butterscotch pudding… to go with that martini.