Nelson Braff is a Brooklyn guy who cracked the Manhattan code.
Back in the 90s, when he was a Brooklyn College-trained Wall Street lawyer, he ended up owning his own broker-dealer.
But Braff wanted to do more than print hundred dollar bills. He had wild-eyed ambitions and a unique set of skills to boot.
As fate would have it, a friend introduced him to several players on the Yankees. Soon, Braff became a regular at the clubs, socializing with Yankees and other high-level friends until 3 a.m., sometimes later. He wasn’t naturally drawn to club life, but business is business and clubs were where all the action happened.
“Around 6 a.m., I might be driving around Wall Street, getting my head on straight for the new day, maybe taking in a run. And then I’d go back to work.”
In addition to lawyering, Braff did stand-up comedy for five years in clubs like Caroline’s.
And then, one day, he and a couple buddies decided that they knew enough about the nightlife business to make a go of it on their own.
Braff ended up owning a piece of a night club and, eventually, he and two Wall Street pals, and his restaurant partners, opened a bar-restaurant-hang out called the Hunt & Fish Club.
Designed by artist Roy Nachum (who is also responsible for the exquisite Braille artwork on the walls), Hunt & Fish Club has three rooms, including the main dining area, a downstairs lounge and a private dining area.
Located just off 6th Avenue on West 44th Street, the restaurant straddles the world of uptown financiers and Broadway pre-show diners.
Here’s how you know you’ve arrived at the Hunt & Fish Club—you have your own personalized steak knife on display. The four cases include regulars such as Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Carl Icahn, David Spade, 50 Cent, Tony Orlando, Harvey Fierstein, Andrea Bocelli and Bob Saget, among other business, media, entertainment and athletic powerhouses.
You bring your friends, and they’re already dazzled by the art and the stunning ceilings, which, for New Yorkers of a certain age, put you in mind of another great hangout spot, Maxwell’s Plum.
But here’s the deal. If you’re a celebrity, an investor, a very good regular patron or just an awfully good friend of the owners, when you and your guests sit down, the waiter makes a big presentation out of bringing you your personalized steak knife, literally on a silver platter.
“Our clients love it,” Braff says. “Where else are they going to make a fuss over you like that?”
Braff says he didn’t name the Hunt & Fish Club, but he doesn’t mind the fact that, for certain New Yorkers, it put them in mind of another similarly named hangout, The Bergin Hunt Club.
If you’ve just recently moved here from the Midwest, first, welcome, and to get you up to speed, this is where Gambino kingpin John Gotti spent much of his leisure time.
“Amazingly,” Braff says, “one day I look up and who’s eating dinner in our restaurant but John Travolta and John Gotti Jr.! This is when Travolta was in town to make a movie about John Gotti.
The idea behind the Hunt & Fish Club is that New York didn’t need just another restaurant. Instead, New Yorkers needed a place where people could come and feel like family, and just have fun the old-school way.
“I feel like I’m throwing a party every night for my best friends,” Braff says. “Great food and an outstanding overall experience is what we strive for.”
Braff still occasionally practices law. He says he’s taken the same bunch of clients from real estate investments to financial investments to investing in his new restaurant—but he says that running the place is a hell of a lot more fun.
Not a bad run for a Brooklyn guy who truly cracked the Manhattan code.