But off the beaten path was the “The Ideal Spot Beer Garden” at 66-20 Thornton Place near Burns Street and Yellowstone Boulevard in Forest Hills. Early advertisements even boasted “A hard place to find, but worth the effort.”
In April 1938, a license was issued to Ideal Spot to sell alcohol, and patrons would sit at tables with checkered tablecloths under a canopy of maple trees, offering a unique ambiance and keeping them cool under a starlit summer’s night.
Patrons could also dine and dance nightly, and the jazz scene consisted of regulars Art Hodes on piano, Rod Cless on clarinet, and Joe Grausso on drums.
By the winter of 1940, patrons welcomed a new air-cooled room and the seating capacity increased to 500. An extra large indoor dance floor made for a memorable evening.
The venue was indeed the “ideal spot” for community events, including the Kew-Forest Kennel Club’s all-breed match show in August 1938 and the Annual Dinner Dance and Revue of the Forest Hills Homeowners Association in January 1942.
“My late father-in-law Bill Junge used to speak fondly of the place,” said James Griffin, “which he would visit with his friends before WWII.”
Patrons often walked or drove to Ideal Spot, but during World War II the clientele began to decrease due to gas rationing and the ban on pleasure driving. So the family management consisting of Terry, Anne, Ernie and Pop Nuerge, who lived in a home next door, got creative.
In 1943, a covered wagon would pick up patrons at the subway stop every hour on the hour and depart from the Ideal Spot at half hour intervals.
The glory days of the nightspot ended in 1961, and the property would become Yeshiva & Mesivta Ohr Yisroel. Today, some of the Maple trees survive in a largely barren lot, and in the background stands a four-story brick building that accommodates Congregation Talmudei Yeshiva.
Despite the Ideal Spot’s popularity, memories of current Forest Hills residents are few and far between. Barbara Sheri said the owner’s daughter, the late Theresa Reinertsen, who would often reminisce about her work on site as a barmaid at age 16.
“Theresa was a very clever, strong, and compassionate woman who always helped people,” Sheri said. “We met at the Church-in-the-Gardens and she would travel there on her scooter, which was quite a sight. She loved to bake and always contributed to our bazaar. She felt like family.”
“It can easily be imagined as a good, out-of-the-way dining location on a rise of land with a rural ambiance given that the Jurgens Farm was down the road at that time,” said Emily Vieyra-Haley. “Maybe another restaurant will spring up along the old railroad tracks nearby if the Queensway project comes to fruition.”