Here’s William Grimes in Appetite City (p. 40), describing a couple of downtown oyster saloons called Dorlans, circa the 1860s and ’70s:
No uptown rival, though, could cut into the business of the downtown restaurants, whose mystique grew with the years. Ambiance could not explain the attraction: both establishments were spartan, dispensing with such niceties as napkins, tablecloths, and butter knives. This did not deter fashionable New Yorkers. “Fastidious ladies, who at home dwell in splendid boudoirs and sit in perfumed chambers, take Dorlan’s [sic] on their way from the opera, for a stew or saddle-rock roast,” wrote one observer in 1868. “Gentlemen who have rosewood tables on Turkey carpets, eat off porcelain and silver ware, whose dining-rooms are perfumed with the choicest flowers, thankfully accept a stool without a back to it at Dorlan’s, and are jostled by the crowd. The belles and madames of the upper ten often stand in a row awaiting their turn.