Great Grandson of Lexington Candy Shop Founder Woos Crowd with Home Kitchen

Lexington Candy Shop was founded by the grandfather of current owner John Phillis and will turn 100 years old next year. Now a great grandson of the founder is carrying out the family tradition with the popular Home Kitchen Restaurant.

| 24 May 2024 | 03:15

Restaurant generations, lobster specials–Everybody knows that restaurants were hit hard by COVID. Closings, re-openings, more closings. Some restaurants reopened in the same spot–like Burger Fi on 2nd Ave in the 80s, Gracie Mews, on 1st in the 80s. Others opened elsewhere. Or not at all. Fortunately, the forever Lexington Candy Shop, which has been at the same location for a hundred years come 2025, still stands on the corner of Lexington and 83rd. Owner John Phillis is the grandson of the founder. While not a landmark under NY law, it’s a landmark to New Yorkers, as well as tourists and visitors to MOMA and New York’s cultural institutions, most within walking distance.

On one of his usual walks around the Upper East Side, Bobby Ochs of whom you’ve read in these pages (I collaborated with him on his memoir, Bobby Ochs: Kid From the Bronx and Restaurant Partner to the Stars - From Kasha Varnishkes to Caviar to Humble Pie) happened upon Home Kitchen on 84th between 3rd and Lex. Having lived, owned and operated restaurants on the UES for 50 years, all restaurants (give or take a few) aren’t the same as in they were when he owned and operated first Samantha’s on 78th and 1st, then Mulholland Drive Cafe and Bobby O’s with Patrick Swayze, Peaches with Marla Maples, and Nyla with Britney Spears. Those were the days of celebrity chefs and stars. So, I wanted to know, what attracted him to Home Kitchen.

Here Goes: It was the week before Mother’s Day and he wanted to take his wife and daughter to dinner. He came across a sign in the window of a canopied restaurant that said “Lobster Special on Tuesdays”. Perfect. His wife Carolyn loves lobsters, but only if it’s a she. Since he hadn’t eaten at Home Kitchen, he went inside for a menu to take home. It was the early afternoon and there was a man sitting at the bar. As the two men chatted, the owner came over and introduced himself. Peter Phillis, who, it turns out, is a fourth-generation great grandson of the Lexington Candy Shop family. Bobby introduced himself, and they swapped restaurant stories. Peter explained that, in order to make reservations for lobster on Tuesday, you had to make reservations by Monday and the lobster would be delivered fresh on Tuesday. Hearing that, Bobby said to himself, “This guy knows what he’s doing,” and immediately made a reservation for three two-pound lobsters. When he asked Peter if it was possible to get female lobsters, he said “No problem,” and said the same when Bobby requested a particular table. Bobby was impressed how accommodating Peter was and, confirming his first impression, when Bobby and his wife Carolyn and daughter Samantha showed up on Tuesday for their female lobster dinner, they were greeted by Peter who led them to the table requested. All went swimmingly well, I’m told, from the perfectly made drinks and appetizers to the beautifully prepared lobsters (all she) - reportedly at least two lbs - and it was one of the best dining experiences that he’d had in a long long time.

Bobby recalled the lobster special nights at Samantha where a one-and-a-half pound lobster, served with corn and coleslaw went for $14.95, and reminded himself that times they have changed. But the Ochs family was able to enjoy lobster leftovers for the next three days with Bobby’s home creations. (He says he not a home chef, but I’m told otherwise.)

As Bobby was clawing away at the hearty lobster and watching 38-year-old Peter work the room, he was reminded of his own early days when he opened Samantha. The menu, like Home Kitchen, was American comfort food and the atmosphere was neighborhood cozy. Customers were regulars. Coming in three and four days a week for lunch and/or dinner and celebrating birthdays and holidays. And the same is happening at Home Kitchen. On a personal note, and while I haven’t dined at Home Kitchen, I’ve heard good things about their Potato Latkes, Chicken Pot Pie and Eggplant Parmigiana. And with a menu that includes Hummus and Fried Cauliflower, you’ve got a home and restaurant kitchen all in one. It’s reassuring and nice to know that kids, now grown ups, are living, working, and opening restaurants and businesses in Yorkville and carrying on family tradition.