Instagram post by @riversidewanderernyc Riverside Wanderer

Happy weekend, everyone! Does anyone remember Ruelles? It caused a storm on the Upper West Side in the early 1980s and epitomizes the enormous changes that the neighborhood has gone through in the last 40 years. In 1979 when it opened on 75th and Columbus, the UWS was a (lower/middle/upper) middle class neighborhood predominantly of rent-controlled tenants. But it generally was considered unsafe and few outsiders ventured here (which was perfectly fine with the residents who knew better and were happy to keep its myriad charms for themselves.) By 1983 when I took this photo, Reagan was President, most of the buildings had converted to co-ops, and young singles from — horrors — the Upper East Side and the suburbs invaded in droves to eat drink and shop at Ruelles and the new, expensive restaurants and boutiques lining Columbus Avenue. The Upper West Side certainly has retained some of its distinctive charisma, but it really would never be the same after Ruelles. .
From a 1981 New York Times article, ON COLUMBUS, THE FIRST AVENUE OF THE WEST SIDE: “Ann Belsky was sitting at one of the little white ice cream parlor tables at Ruelles the other night when one of her Columbus Avenue neighbors ambled by, stopped, stared and said with a certain amount of wonder: ''What are you doing there? You're a West Sider!'' .... .
If there is a heart to this continuing social ferment [on the Upper West Side] it is probably Ruelles, a large two-tiered restaurant-bar, cum sidewalk cafe, that is all aubergine and lavender inside, filled with potted plants, oak furniture and polished brass, set against a backdrop of Corinthian columns. It is here that they come in the evening, early for cocktails until early the next morning, to meet each other, to perhaps see Calvin Klein, Robert DeNiro, Warren Beatty, Christopher Walken, even Mayor Koch, who dropped by for dinner the other night, but mostly just to be there.” That was Ruelles. And yes, I admit, as a late teen I dropped $20 (a king’s ransom back then) for a bowl of pasta, once or twice.


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