By GINGER ADAMS OTIS and CLAIRE ATKINSON
Irascible Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, who used to hold early-morning powwows in the back room, is gone, and the coveted corner window seat in the rear once on permanent reserve for Harlem’s best-known politician, Percy Sutton, is up for grabs. The coffee served is now a name brand (Starbucks), the eggs are organic (and cost $24), and the maple syrup is trucked in special from upstate.
The names and the menu may change, but for connoisseurs of the power breakfast, the place remains the same.
Every weekday morning at 7:30 and again at 8:30, the Loews Regency Hotel’s restaurant fills with a sprinkle of a celebrities, a few sports figures, at least one flashily dressed politician and a parade of the city’s most powerful lobbyists, fund-raisers, publishers and Wall Street tycoons.
“It’s a place to be seen, but more importantly, see others,” said longtime political insider George Arzt, who has been making deals over French toast for decades.
Arzt credits the Regency’s power breakfast for ending a long-running feud between two feisty foes — former Gov. Mario Cuomo and one-time Mayor Ed Koch.
The Democratic giants had been at odds for years following their bitter contests for mayor in 1977 and governor in 1982 until one day in 2006, when Cuomo approached Arzt, who is Koch’s close friend and former press secretary, at his table.
“Cuomo asked if it wasn’t time to end the feud, and I said, ‘What can we do?’ ” Arzt recalled. “Cuomo asked, ‘Could Ed endorse Andrew for attorney general?’ So I called Ed, asked him, and he said, ‘I’m too old to have any more feuds. Let’s get it done.’ ”
Sometimes the clout that walks into the Regency surprises even the regulars. Take the time the Rev. Al Sharpton – a frequent breakfaster who, according to a waiter, has his own table at the front “where everyone can see him” — was interrupted by Israeli security agents.
“The agents were directed to part a path so someone could come hug” Sharpton, said Rachel Noerdlinger, his spokeswoman.
It was Israeli President Shimon Peres, she said.
Inside the clubby Park Avenue spot, a smiling hostess expertly sizes up patrons at the door. Only celebrities and political bigwigs make it to the best tables by a row of gleaming windows overlooking residential 61st Street.
Among the lucky few recently spotted enjoying those seats were former CNN host Larry King and celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who calls the hotel’s breakfast “a favorite.”
Former gridiron greats Tiki Barber and Michael Strahan also got treated to street views when they ate there recently.
But Tina Brown, editor of the newly merged Daily Beast and Newsweek, prefers the velvet banquettes across the room, where she sat last week for a meeting with a colleague.
It was the same room where Steinbrenner, over early-morning bagels, once held court as he plotted baseball domination.
Steinbrenner lived at the Regency, and once tweaked Bob Tisch, the hotel owner (and co-owner of the New York Giants) about letting the Mets hold an event there.
“Tisch told him that [Mets owner] Fred Wilpon wanted to use a room for an event, and George said, ‘Then I guess I’ll have to move out,’ ” a Regency insider said.
To the untrained eye, there’s nothing special about the hordes of suit-clad businesspeople who stream into the ground-floor breakfast area. But for those tuned in to city politics, strange bedfellows and secret partnerships can be spotted in nearly every corner.
Recently former Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford Jr. set tongues wagging when he broke bread with leading Democratic pollster Doug Schoen.
“That could be talk about a possible mayoral run,” a political consultant speculated, eyeing the duo as they ordered fruit and black coffee, which cost each about $25.
The Regency is so in sync with the city’s ebb and flow of power that out-of-favor politicos can find their seats abruptly downgraded. The Luv Gov himself, Eliot Spitzer, got bumped from the window to the middle of the room once his hooker habit cut short his term.