Celebrating a Shrine to Kitsch Where Andy Warhol Drank Iced Hot Chocolate

That menu expansion also birthed the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. The original recipe called for 14 different kinds of chocolate melted togethe...

That menu expansion also birthed the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. The original recipe called for 14 different kinds of chocolate melted together and blended with ice, and each batch was handmade; now, the restaurant has an outside company prepare the mix. The result, served in a footed cut-glass desert bowl with a straw, is a gleeful experiment in just how rich chocolate can be: icy and barely crunchy and thick, topped with a glob of whipped cream and a layer of thin chocolate curls.

In Serendipity’s 65 years of business, it has become something of a New York landmark. It’s a place famous for celebrity sightings — and a place unashamed to publicize those sightings. It inspired a 2001 movie of the same name, starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, who play characters who bond over a glass of frozen hot chocolate. The restaurant’s cookbook includes an introduction written — in exactly 100 words — by Cher. Service is hyper-attentive and accommodating; as Pamela Tobias, a 48-year-old integrative health coach, says, “They were probably the original place of special requests.” Tobias has been going to Serendipity since the ’70s. Now she goes with her girlfriends, and each has their own personal hot chocolate order. “We’re always there hanging out, chatting, eating our desserts, sometimes late at night,” she says. Never with a guy, though!”

The allure of such a place comes partially from the food, of course. As Jonn Jorgenson, who has been a Serendipity waiter since 1993, explains, “Comfort food and a little bit of decadence is never going to go out of style.” But it’s also about the way the restaurant has leaned into its self-mythologizing, building a little world that lures newcomers with sugary treats and boasts about all the people who have been coming here for decades. Jorgenson relishes telling the story of Marilyn Monroe busting out of her dress at a news conference with the Actors Studio in the dining room and hiding in the women’s bathroom until Bruce could come sew her back in. “Any time a woman goes, ‘Oh my god, that bathroom is teeny tiny!’ I say, ‘Yeah, it was tiny enough for Marilyn to be sewn back into a dress she had come out of!’”

This a celebrity haunt with a total lack of exclusivity, and a Lewis Carroll-like fun house dedicated to G-rated pleasures. “When I try to explain it to people who haven’t been there, I’m like, ‘Well, really, it’s a principality,’” says Jorgenson. “It was started by three men who refer to themselves as the princes of Serendip!”

In a New York that is being gradually stripped of its whimsy, participating in the tradition that is Serendipity is a luxe little comfort. Yes, it’s kitschy — but this is kitsch with soul, kitsch whose great desire is for you to enjoy it. There’s a little doll of Andy Warhol, which he made, hanging from the ceiling. There’s a disco ball a few feet away from it. The menu looks like the playbill for a Vaudeville show. It’s the sort New York place you want, immediately and desperately, to protect, even on your first visit.

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Newsrust: Celebrating a Shrine to Kitsch Where Andy Warhol Drank Iced Hot Chocolate
Celebrating a Shrine to Kitsch Where Andy Warhol Drank Iced Hot Chocolate
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