Daily photographs by HANS VON RITTERN, with humorous, artistic and social commentary on life in the big city.



Mondays on Memory Lane: STOUFFERS ‘TOP OF THE SIX’S’ RESTAURANT – As a child, “Top of The Six’s” meant a special occasion. You had done well in school or it was prom night or you were in love and wanted to impress with the sweeping view of the Empire State Building. The rooftop restaurant was located at the epicenter of the posh section of Fifth Avenue, between 52nd/53rd Streets, with a lobby fountain wall designed by Isamu Noguchi and easy subway access downstairs. Today it is but a postcard memory.

Lobby fountain wall designed by Isamu Noguchi

Lobby fountain wall designed by Isamu Noguchi


It all started in 1922 the Stouffer family opened a lunch counter on East Ninth St. in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. They sold sandwiches, dairy products and Lena Stouffer’s soon-to-be-famous deep-dish Dutch apple pie. By 1935 they expanded to six restaurants in the Cleveland area and in 1937 they opened the first Stouffer restaurant in New York City.

In 1946 Stouffer’s opened on Shaker Square and at the Westgate shopping center in the Cleveland suburbs. It was at the Shaker Square location that patrons began requesting takeout orders of items on the menu and the Stouffer foray in to frozen food began by 1954. By this time Stouffer’s had restaurants in Florida, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Detroit.

1958 – Opens restaurants at the stainless steel deco-like #666 Tishman Building (built 1957) located at 666 5th Avenue in New York City one on the 1st & below-street levels, the other on the 39th floor, at the time the highest public restaurant in N.Y. They went there, by the millions. In July 1973, about 15 years after it opened, the restaurant announced that it was about to serve its 10 millionth meal. Ominously, a review that month found the cuisine anything but haute.


They continued to expand, building a frozen food processing plant in Solon, Ohio in 1968 and they ventured into specialty casual dining eateries with names like Rusty Scupper, Cheese Cellar and the Grog Shop. In 1969 NASA chose Stouffer’s products for Apollo 11, 12 and 14 for astronauts to dine on.

But it was the Stouffer’s “Top of the…” restaurants that became the special occasion places to go. “Top of The Hub” in Boston, “Top of the Rock” in downtown Chicago, “Top of the Sixes” in New York City, “Top of the Flame” in Detroit and “Top of the Town” in Cleveland.

The view was terrific from 40 stories up, especially in those days long before the World Trade Center, when a restaurant on top of a skyscraper was a novelty. Prices were reasonable. Children liked the view, and so did young couples on dates. Men proposed to their wives there,” it was a time when going to ”the city” meant journeying from Queens to Manhattan. You didn’t necessarily go there for the food, it was that wonderful atmosphere.

Tishman Building #666 Fifth Avenue

Tishman Building #666 Fifth Avenue

On September 18, 1996, The New York Times announced the closing of this beloved rooftop gem. The new tenant would be the Grand Havana Room, a cigar temple that will bear as much resemblance to a smoke-filled parlor as, say, the Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel. Right now I’d give anything for a mid-west cooked Stouffer’s meal atop of the Six’s. The best I can do, is to go to my rooftop, spread a tablecloth and open my microwaved Stouffers dinner – it’s just not the same.

What are your memories of “Top of the Six’s”?

11 responses

  1. Geraldine

    Hi there. The waitress in the postcard is my Aunt Ann! She gave me the postcard in the early 80’s in Dublin, but my personal archive was lost; but I always thought it was a great picture. She is almost 80 now, and still looks great!

    March 10, 2015 at 8:40 pm

    • Geraldine!
      Wow! Your email made my day! It thrills me so when some of these treasures find their roots.
      For a while, I was taking 1 old sent postcard a week and researched it. Who had written it, where it was going to, the events mention. I love being a history detective so I would write a whole story about it. Now I don’t have the time and am writing the novelization of the women of my family history.
      I am so glad you found your Aunt Ann 🙂 !
      Best wishes to you and Ann! !
      Hans Von Rittern

      March 11, 2015 at 12:13 pm

  2. Tanya Street

    June 1978 Highschool graduation celebration with 3 of my best friends and my father. We had a ball even though one of my friends Mom’s called the police because she was so late getting home that night! It was an extra elegant evening for us 4 highschool graduates! I’m actually including it in the novel I’m currently writing and ran across this site as i was researching where exactly the restaurant was!

    August 29, 2015 at 11:10 pm

  3. Tanya Street

    Already commented.

    August 29, 2015 at 11:17 pm

  4. brandon

    Do you know if this stouffers top of the sixes restaurant is the same stouffers mentioned in how to succeed in business without trying musical number “its been a long day?”


    December 1, 2016 at 3:51 am

  5. Étienne LOUIS

    Quel merveilleux restaurant avec une vue magnifique sur New-York, en avril 1956, c’est mon meilleur souvenir de mon voyage aux USA.

    August 6, 2017 at 5:47 am

  6. Robert Rosenthal

    Just found this and it brings back memories of the early 60s. I was dating Marian Mercer. Marian was in Greenwillow and Little Mary Sunshine. I would pick her up after the show and we would have dinner at The Top of The Sixes. Marian is gone now, but I still have great memories of those dinners and that time in my life. I’m 81 and with that goes remembering the great places in NYC. Thanks for posting!,

    August 27, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    • Robert, what a really lovely memory! Thank you so very much for adding so much more to my story.
      Sadly I don’t post anymore, there weren’t enough followers…but thank you ❤

      August 28, 2018 at 10:38 am

  7. andrew glynn

    Lovely to see. My mum, Noreen Lavin, worked there in 1958. She’s now in her 80s.

    December 8, 2018 at 8:57 am

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