Skip navigation
O’Neals’, a New York Upper West Side fixture, bows out

O’Neals’, a New York Upper West Side fixture, bows out


This lousy recession has claimed another victim. This time it’s O’Neals’, a decades-old fixture of Manhattan’s Upper West Side dining scene. After Café des Artistes and Tavern on the Green, O’Neals’ marks the third prominent West Sider to go dark in the past year.

I had to read the e-mail announcing the closing a few times before I was convinced that I had read it correctly. I guess I kept looking for a joke or a twist or something that would make it not true. But there it was, the sad news that veteran restaurateur Mike O’Neal would be shutting down his long-lived operation at the end of June.

If you weren’t already an Upper West Side resident, O’Neals’ likely might have been one of the neighborhood places you stopped at for a meal before venturing across Broadway to a performance at Lincoln Center. It was, according to the 2010 Zagat Guide, a “convivial” establishment and served “consistent all-American comfort food.” Hey, it was just a great place to break bread.

Unfortunately, the recession dealt the 325-seat O’Neals’ a double blow. In addition to forcing local residents to cut back on dining out, it also took its toll on business at Lincoln Center, which has had to make cuts as well. Hence, fewer bridge and tunnel customers.

The downturn in business combined with a pretty heavy debt load taken on seven years ago to fund a major renovation finally convinced O’Neal to call it quits. “When the economy tanked, we knew we had bitten off more than we could chew,” he said. “It’s a shame.”

It certainly is. O’Neals’ had history. Mike O’Neal and his late brother, Patrick, the actor, opened their restaurant in June 1963 as The Ginger Man at 51 W. 64th St. At the time, Patrick O’Neal was starring in the stage adaptation of novelist J.P. Donleavy’s dark Irish comedy, “The Ginger Man.” Despite positive reviews, the play closed; the restaurant, however, was just embarking on its decades-long run.

The Ginger Man — which helped introduce British-pub style to Manhattan dining — prospered throughout the 1970s, during which time the O’Neals opened more than a dozen branches around the country. However, chaining the concept proved to be overly ambitious, and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing resulted in the retirement of the name, and a retrenching, which included a name change to O’Neals’ Balloon and then simply O’Neals’.

The restaurant moved in the 1990s one building east to 49 W. 64th St., and that’s where it has resided until today. While O’Neals’ officially closes June 28, Mike O’Neal fortunately will still be around. He’ll be operating the seasonal West 79th Street Boat Basin Café and The Ball Fields Café. 

In the meantime, the space is being taken over by mega-restaurateur Steve Hanson, who O’Neal believes might open an Atlantic Grill there.

O’Neal, for his part, says he will be keeping his eyes open for another restaurant opportunity, so who knows? But whatever happens, it’s all pretty sad. Anyway, good luck, Mike — as the saying goes, may your pockets always be heavy and your heart be light.

Contact Paul Frumkin at [email protected].

TAGS: Archive
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.