Serendipity Leaves One Marvel-lous

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Serendipity is located at 225 East 60th Street in Manhattan, N.Y.

“Serendipity: The art of finding the pleasantly unexpected by chance or sagacity”

Perhaps this American eatery, located at 225 East 60th Street in Manhattan, would be better suited as what the definition describes; under the mystique of a deliciously quaint emporium of sweets and smiles, not internationally renowned as the Mecca of dream-come-true desserts.

Serendipity’s “humble beginnings” of a four-chair coffeehouse boutique in a basement circa 1954 manifested into high standards and big talk. Calvin Holt, Stephan Bruce and Patch Carradine preserved that style of dining while their egos grew in proportion to their business.  Frankly, I would have a decent opinion if the fare at Serendipity had been modest.

A couple of steps below the street level, through large glass doors is a narrow foyer stuffed with wide-eyed tourists. As eager patrons brave the gauntlet to the host’s podium, they are received by a rude, sharp-witted man who is very comfortable insulting customers. He was confident the people would accept his behavior to indulge in the acclaimed deliciousness.

When calling the next party for seating, the host shouted the reservation name into the throng.

“Dan? … Dan?!… Dan!!!”

Until he selected one man he believed to be this Dan. Upon discovering that this man was not Dan, the host, himself not a person of color, joked:

“Oh, sorry. You looked like Dan. But all white people look the same!”

The mistaken sir, as well as the culturally diverse mass of listeners, were uncomfortable.

While the illustrious idea of Serendipity is youthful and there are a myriad of toys and trinkets on display and for sale, an employee made it clear that it is not kid-friendly.

“Yeah, it’s really a misconception,” he said. “We’re not a kids’ place.”

With sitcom-esque timing, an intrigued child knocked over a display at that moment.

After waiting for forty-five minutes wait, the service was delightfully flamboyant and supremely efficient. The wait staff tactfully navigated through the constricted labyrinth of large people in small chairs while balancing weighty and unwieldy trays of caloric concoctions such as “Hangover” omelettes, foot-long hot dogs, pasta and banana splits.

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but it features sugar-saturated treats.

Maybe my palate was disinterested because I was raised on flavor; organic (or at least all-natural), fair-trade, free-range, local and flavor. Or maybe my dissatisfaction was caused by the illusion of the initial presentation, resembling the cake I made for my Mother’s birthday—dark chocolate cake, delicate and fluffy milk chocolate mousse filling, and fudge-frosted masterpiece. By expecting something familiar, I set myself up to be let down.
But if you’re interested in paying 10 dollars for semi-sweet dullness, be Serendipity’s guest.

In reality, the experience is in the atmosphere: a cluttered, fantastical mélange of eclectic whimsy. This esthetic was defined by Tiffany lamps in
every color combination, antiques stashed in every corner, purses for purchase hanging from the ceiling, gaudy chandeliers buried in even tackier left over Christmas décor and male waiters dressed in bright, tight clothing.

Despite the disappointment, I enjoyed Serendipity and am glad I went. While it did not live up to its notoriety, I am sure I will return with out-of-town friends and family so that they can taste just a part of the New York experience.