red meat

Welcome to the Beach Cafe, the Upper East Side’s Republican Cheers

Photo-Illustration: Iintelligencer; Photos: Getty Images

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There’s this unassuming pub on the corner of 70th and Second that’s a dovecote for that rarest of birds: the right-winged Manhattanite. It’s called the Beach Cafe. Cindy Adams comes here. There’s a burger on the menu named after Roger Stone ($16, egg on top). You pop in for an afternoon Guinness and there’s Eric and Donald Trump Jr. having lunch with their aunt Elizabeth Trump. The New York Post columnist Miranda Devine — it’s something of a Post hangout — will throw a party here soon for Laptop From Hell, her new book about Hunter Biden.

“This is like our Elaine’s,” says Ann Coulter, sitting to my left one evening and sipping Sauvignon blanc. Or like Cheers for Rupert Murdoch–friendly Establishment types. It’s where everybody knows their name. (And nobody wants to defund the police.)

It’s not that there aren’t Republicans in the city; we all know that. It’s just that on most corners of this island, they’re outnumbered eight to one. But not at “the Beach,” as they call it. It doesn’t try to be chic. There’s a lifeguard stand out front and a six-foot hammerhead shark above the bar. The banquettes are Kelly green. The food is whatever, though the burger is on par with the one at J.G. Melon. And unlike at J.G. Melon, you never have to wait outside.

The Beach opened in 1966, three years after Elaine’s and long before Tribeca got luxe, back when nobody who was anybody would live very far into Brooklyn. The Upper East Side was the happening place. Arthur Miller, George Plimpton, and Frank Sinatra used to come. As the city changed around it — truth be told, maybe this corner of the city less than most — the Beach Cafe became a mainstay. The neighborhood is conservative in the purest sense of the word: It’s the opposite of cool. To move here — which I did recently — is to step back in time.

Stone, talking on the phone from Florida, calls it “an oasis of red in a sea of blue.” He used to live near the Beach Cafe and would go often during Trump’s first campaign to dine with, among other people, Corey Lewandowski. That he regrets, however. “I had not yet realized he was a congenital liar and a scumbag,” says Stone. He’s watching news footage of Steve Bannon surrendering to federal authorities and muses about his old comrade: “Somebody should rush him to a dermatologist and a haberdasher immediately.” (A few days later, Stone would be subpoenaed by the same congressional committee, which is investigating the Capitol riot.)

A Nixon Republican and Roy Cohn disciple — Nixon lived on Fifth Avenue, and Cohn on East 68th — Stone says he loves New York but hasn’t returned to the city since the FBI raided him in 2019. When he is here, he claims the Upper West Side is no longer safe for him. “People who don’t share my political point of view might verbally and sometimes physically attack me,” he says.

Donald Trump’s various manias didn’t make things any easier for city Republicans, who traditionally have been more sensible pro-business types. The GOP’s recent good showings have given some hope for a future beyond Trump. “I predicted he would fade like Palin — gone in three years. Now I think he’s gone even faster,” says Coulter. “How did we win in Virginia? How did we almost win in New Jersey? By keeping him out of it.” She is sharing her bottle of wine with Jon Levine, the Post gadfly who recently scooped that AOC’s “Tax the Rich” dress designer is herself a rich tax cheat. He hangs out here so much that, on a wall in the center of the dining room, there is a massive framed photograph of him dining outside on Second Avenue in a blizzard. Coulter owes him a steak because she made a bet Glenn Youngkin wouldn’t win in Virginia. She’s down a rib eye but ecstatic nonetheless.

It’s liberals who can’t let go of Trump, she insists. “Fifty years from now, we’ll all be dead, and they’ll still be running against Trump.” Unlike some people who come to this bar, she accepts the results of the 2020 election. “Oh, the ‘fraud,’” she laughs, using air quotes. “He’s a big fat loser.”

Coulter has not watched Impeachment: American Crime Story. “I hear the actress does a great job sounding like me, but every single fact I’ve heard about the show is totally, 100 percent false,” she says. Exhibit A: “Laura Ingraham didn’t introduce me to Drudge; I knew him long before she did,” she says. “Idiots seem to think that Laura and I are like Blair and Serena, sharing clothes and gossiping, but we fill the same ‘conservative girl’ niche, so we’d rarely even be in the same room.” She adds, “They should have used Isikoff’s book. Toobin knew nothing.”

R.E.M. is playing on the stereo. Former chief judge of New York Jonathan Lippman stops by the table. The conversation turns to Rikers Island. “I don’t understand why they can’t just knock it down and build a new one,” Coulter says to the judge. For one thing, it sits atop a landfill, he tells her. “I love landfills,” she exclaims. “Shoreline Stadium, where the Grateful Dead played — that’s on a landfill!”

At the bar, there’s a banker from JPMorgan Chase discussing how he voted for Curtis Sliwa. Coulter spots an old friend a few seats down, an “Über-preppy” she knows from the Hamptons. (There’s something very Hamptons about the Beach.) Coulter’s brother, a lawyer, frequents this place, too. He has dined here with former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, whose parents lived around the corner. Representative Carolyn Maloney (she’s a Democrat, but hardly a trendy one) comes here. As does Woody Allen’s second wife, Louise Lasser. John Gotti’s lawyer Bruce Cutler is a regular. So is Linda Fairstein, the controversial prosecutor best known for her involvement in the Central Park Five and Preppy Murder cases. She helped keep the place in business during the long years of the Second Avenue subway-line construction. “You could be sitting in the Beach and there would be blasts underneath and dust all around outside,” remembers Fairstein.

It was founded and owned for many years by the White family. For a while, it seemed the restaurant might one day pass into the hands of Bill White. He became a president of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and a major Democratic Party fundraiser who had David Boies officiate and Aretha Franklin perform at his same-sex wedding. Then White went full MAGA. The about-face scandalized liberal Manhattan and infuriated Clintonworld. He relocated to Atlanta and is now leading a carpetbagger campaign to try to get his wealthy white suburb to secede from the city. Today, the restaurant is owned by Dave Goodside, who began working there in 1984 and bought it in 2005. “I don’t think he’s had a day off in five years,” says White. “He’s a warrior.”

Stone says the main reason a scene coalesced at the Beach Cafe is due to Goodside: “Dave is a saloonkeeper in the tradition of Toots Shor. He’s very discreet, he knows a lot, he sees a lot, he puts people together, separates people. He’s introduced me to some people, and he’s warned me when other people are there and I shouldn’t come in.” Such as? “Certain writers with low IQs like Molly Jong-Fast. My father said to never trust anybody with three names,” says Stone. (Jong-Fast says, “If Roger Stone is trying to avoid me, then I must be doing something right.”)

Goodside says he’s neither a Democrat nor a Republican. “I’m more interested in sports and music,” he says. In 2017, he began hosting cabaret nights in the little dining room. Performers including K.T. Sullivan and Karen Akers would turn up. The critic Rex Reed would get on the mic, too.

Still, Goodside must realize most New York restaurateurs would not name a menu item after Stone. “I got a chance to really spend a lot of quality time with Roger, and I like him,” Goodside says, shrugging. What about Uday and Qusay Trump? “People may watch TV and read the papers and think of them however, but they are the nicest people that come in here,” he says.

What does Cindy Adams like about the place? “I’m fond of the owner,” she says, “who keeps sending me gifts of chili — which I don’t even want.”

The Beach Cafe Is the Upper East Side’s Republican Cheers