Thursday, October 2, 2014

Yaffa Cafe is officially gone; back garden dismantled


[EVG file photo]

Turns out Yaffa Cafe at 97 St. Mark's Place will not be reopening after all.

They tweeted the news out last evening.



Apparently sister restaurant Simone on the corner at First Avenue will carry on for Yaffa.

As we first reported, the DOH temporarily closed the 32-year-old restaurant on Sept. 5. Making matters worse, the city ordered Yaffa's owners to shut down the backyard garden. (There isn't a secondary form of egress. So in case of a fire…)

However, despite the setbacks, Yaffa tweeted that they would be back in three months or so after renovations.

Meanwhile, workers yesterday dismantled the backyard garden, as these photos by EVG reader Sam Teichman show …









And the Google ad remains covering the Yaffa Cafe mural outside…


[Photo via John A. Cecil]

Previously on EV Grieve:
A Google ad now covers the iconic Yaffa Cafe mural on St. Mark's Place

Yaffa Cafe will be back, though likely without its backyard garden

82 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is sad news to wake up to this morning. What happened? Was losing the garden space enough to end them? Please get an interview with the owner if you can, EV.

Giovanni said...

In other news, a group of developers is buying Manhattan and converting it into a private enclave where it will be made into a hotel and condo resort city for the ultra-rich and their underclass servants. Correction: it has already happened.

Anonymous said...

You know, not only their customers are getting older. It's likely that the owners are using this as an opportunity to retire.

Anonymous said...

I always liked Yaffa, having spent a lot of time there when I first arrived 27 years ago. The last time I ate there I was surprised by how marginal the food had become. Its time has probably come. I will miss that damn mural though. It made me always feel like I was back home when I saw it.

VH McKenzie said...

@Anonymous 7:54am

Agreed on all points, especially the mural!

Yaffa was probably one of the first restaurants I patronized when I arrived in the EV in the late 80s. Truth be told, the only appeal for me was the garden. I liked taking out of towers who would invariably be shocked that such spots existed behind all the concrete - it was like sharing a secret.
Alas, I haven't eaten there in years - so many good food options in the neighborhood today means you have to have more than a pretty garden to stay in business.

My big question tho -- the place has been open for 32 years and only NOW the DOH discovers that the garden doesn't have a "secondary form of egress?"

I'm guessing something else is a foot.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little ashamed to admit I never tried it in the 20 years since I moved here. Still, the idea of Yaffa, and places like it, symbolized the EV to me. I miss the days of 24-hour Sidewalk Cafe and 7A. Coming from the land of early closings, it was always so comforting to know that if I wanted to, I could get out of bed at 3 a.m. and go to the corner for a cheeseburger and fries.

THE NOTORIOUS L.I.B.E.R.A.T.I.O.N. said...

My friend I were literally served the last two meals there on the quiet day the health department shut them down. So sad.

Anonymous said...

I always loved Yaffa, though I didn't actually like the food! It had a great afterparty feel, and the classic 80s coked-up decor always made me feel a breath of social intensity of a now bygone era. I also was happy to be part of that creepy post-midnight crowd that sat alone with their laptops there. I wrote half of two books there!

John M said...

Laptops in Yaffa...well, I guess it was time to close. That feels about as antithetical to what it used to be as anything.

The inside was always so much better than the bland garden. Can't say 'end of an era' because the era ended long ago.

Simone's...never will go there, still think of it as the place that replaced my dry cleaner...a good dry cleaner, too. So it goes.

Anonymous said...

Yaffa was so fucking rad, damn. The food wasn't good, though. What's up with this google ad, is that legal? Sick of these corporate ads eveywhere in the past few years.

Anonymous said...

Good. Rudest service I ever had in NYC, top it off with rat infestation and roach sightings. BYE.

Anonymous said...

When I arrived in the EV in 1981 I never ate at this place it was too expensive for me. I would sometimes eat at one of the Ukrainian places but that one meal kept me full for the entire day. The Indian restaurants were good too, you could get a soup and main course for about $4. I was never a fan of the mural and it actually persuaded me to not go to the restaurant although I know that it had nothing to do with the food. Hopefully if a new restaurant moves into this space the garden will be off limits to them. The people living in the building above my guess would like so peace and quite for a change.

Gojira said...

Bummer. Yeah the food was meh, but it was its longevity, its place in EV history, that kept me going there. And now - sports bar with 98 TVs?

Anonymous said...

Ah sad. It def went downhill in the last couple years....but for many years I would always take out of towners, or friends about town here. I always felt it's weirdness and beauty summed up the EV so well...
There was a time it was pretty tasty too.
Sitting under the pic of Vivian Leigh, my friends stuffing themselves on ravioli at 2AM and the sangria....getting in arguments w/ gutter punks when I'd been up all nite and barely awake in the old front patio....hahaha...those were good times.
Farewell Yaffa.

Karla Murray said...

R.I.P.

Anonymous said...

Any chance that we can bring back DoJo's to the East Village? We need affordable restaurant options.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't have said that any more perfectly. I weep for the future. Correction: the future is now. And it is a horrendous tragedy.

moe said...

Yes, to echo others, a place like this has particular memories for lots of people. For me it is one particular 3am meal, probably 25 years ago, with a long-gone ex. I don't remember if the food that night was anything special but that isn't the point really.
I haven't been there for years, the last 5 years or so the nature of the hood has been such that I avoid dining or drinking out very much. Or maybe it is just I am becoming a nasty old man. Any case goodbye to you yaffa.

Anonymous said...

Well…another one of the lasts outposts of the real East Village gone. Yaffa was a go-to place for me the entire time that I've lived in NYC. Almost 30 years for me here, 21 of those years in the East Village. I've said it before but it always bears repeating: this town is done.

Bye-bye folks, I'm moving to LA. Life's too short for this bullshit.

nygrump said...

I've learned they were shut down because they just weren't luxurious enough.

Anonymous said...

Relevant or not, I tried eating at Yaffa a few times years ago, and felt sick after each time. So I stopped dining there.

- East Villager

Anonymous said...

"Any chance that we can bring back DoJo's to the East Village? We need affordable restaurant options."
How do you sell affordable food when your rent is $30,000 per month? I have never been more inclined to buy groceries and cook at home than these past couple of years. If I invite friends I make sure they are a: not foodies, b: not vegan or strict vegetarians and c: prefer good company over good food.

Anonymous said...

As I walked by Yaffa this past weekend I heard a 20something say to her friend "I love that google poster". Our time is over here.

Anonymous said...

@ VH McKenzie: DOB shut it down not DOH. Backyard drinking and dining are not cool for the people who live above them, the noise from people drinking and singing happy birthday etc is horrible. Perhaps in the early days Yaffa had a handle on it and kept things low-key so people dealt with it, but they then let it get out of control and thus DOB involvement. Think twice when you sit in the "garden" of a restaurant in the hood and realize that to the people who live in the building you may as well be sitting in their living room or worse their bedroom.

Makeout said...

@ Anon 12:02- Please tell me you're kidding. Right? Hello?

Planty McFlowers said...

RIP NYC

Anonymous said...

the entire vibe of the city used to be different. being noisy on the street wasnt a big deal. people used to tolerate noise on the street. if someone said "keep it down" people would yell back "if u want quiet, move back to the suburbs". and it was better then. that being said - i think the east village is noiser at night now than it was 25 years ago. because there are more drunk people on the street and a much higher percentage of them are entitled & dont care about anyone else. i liked the vibe better 25 years ago. ev is now mostly populated by corporate non-humans.

Zella said...

Noooo!!! Another spike in the coffin of the formerly cool East Village.

jason said...

Anon 12:37. The way I remember things from 25 years ago is that it wasn't very noisy at all. Especially late at night. There were a few bars and clubs that were loud, but people in general were fairly quiet. Sure there were also exceptions then and now.

As for Yaffa, sad to see it go. As a fourteen year old kid riding the train into the city Yaffa holds one of my firat memories of the East Village. I got off the subway at Astor and walked down St. Marks and the first thing to catch my eye was the mural. It seemed like the coolest thing in the world at the time. The neighborhood became my defacto home and then later on my actual home. It seems unnatural to walk down that block without seeing that mural.

citygrl said...

Sorry to hears this. Cafe Yaffa appears in a piece I wrote
about 10 years ago. It also ran
in The Villager.

http://mrbellersneighborhood.com/2006/06/tour-guide-to-the-real-new-york-city

Anonymous said...

Back in the early 80's it was usually a toss up between this or Cafe Orlin. I have t say I liked Orlin better, although Yaffa was ok for coffees and something simple after a late night out.

I'm more suprised Orlin has become the huge Brunch Destination in the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Visited this place every 5 years or so, over the last 20, just to re-try it out and hope it would improved because I liked the idea of the place. Unfortunately, it progressively went from bad to worse. Maybe, had they paid a bit more attention to the kitchen and food quality control then they wouldn't have had to worry about making rent?

2:47 p.m. said...

Problem with today's EV clienteles is that they are constantly looking for the new trendeatery where the food is curated, artisanalized, farmed-to-table, yadi, yada, by a pseudo celebrity chef catered to those with #SIoS. If you want to complain on how the food did not meet your standard, that's what Yelp is for.

Much like Elaine's, Bill Gay Nineties, Old Minetta Tavern..., Yaffa Cafe was never about the food. It was like an extension of your apartment — a place in the neighborhood where you can just walk to and stop by to relax and enjoy your personal space while having an affordable meal without having to to yell over your smartphones and the loud masses of people. It was unpretentious and you don't have to impress anyone. It was unsophisticated, imperfect place filled with unsophisticated, imperfect people, just like us. And more importantly, there's a lot of character to it patronized by plenty of characters. And, as everyone has said, the places and people with character are now gone in the East Village. EV Grieve, indeed.

Anonymous said...

@Makeout

I am not kidding that is exactly what I heard her say, said as it is.....grieve.

Anonymous said...

I live next to a backyard space associated with a bar for many years now. The noise there used to be a sometimes somewhat boisterous conversation punctuated with laughter, which rather I found myself able to quickly tune out, especially if I put on some music or another sound source, at low volume. The only exception was the occasional Super Bowl or World Series, when it did become an obnoxious drunken scream-fest, but hey it's the SuperBowl, I get it, go Giants.
The last few years the quality of the noise has changed such that it is always loud obnoxious screaming, as long as the weather is decent. Background noise like music does not mitigate the intentional howling and screaming of these drunken frat-type kids.
So it really is different.

Anonymous said...

Was just there and the sunshine burger was as jammin' as it ever was. I will miss this place, it's quirky and unpretentious fun, the garden in the afternoon, and our collective youth...

East Village Today said...

I only ate at Yaffa a couple of times, back when it first opened. I always liked their mural, it reminded me of that time, but now it's gone, like the time itself.

The East Village is like a river, it's always moving, but it's always there.

Anonymous said...

Reading this today broke my heart a little more. I have so many fond memories of Yaffa: caffeine fueled nights when I lived on 7th St, meals w/family & friends, study breaks,stumbling out into the sunlight after a post-clubbing breakfast...There were always places with better food, but nothing quite like Yaffa.

Anonymous said...

Listen you computer companies, you can take your stupid voice command apps, and shove them up your ass.

Anonymous said...

Things have been slipping there and at Simone's. If the rent goes up, I'd be surprised if Simone's doesn't close.
Have the owners been out of town too long?
Simone's no longer opens for lunch or brunch, no sidewalk seating. I wouldn't mind seeing them close unless another bank branch replaces them.

Anonymous said...

I loved Yaffa up until a few months before it closed. The wait staff completely changed, and were total dicks.

Joaquin said...

NOOOOOOOOO!!!

i loved their chicken dijon!

William said...

Dojos was awesome

ron ridinger said...

Other family members took over and ran the place to the ground and Simones is next they were cut off by their distributors and now buy booze from the liquor store which is illegal

Anonymous said...

This neighbor probably patronizes other restaurants that have a backyard where they can be noisy and don't care that they are bothering residents by that backyard. But, hey, as long as it's not in that neighbor's own backyard.

That neighbor won't even last 31 years or even 31 months in his or her apartment, since s/he will be going back to the wherever affluent suburban town s/he's from.

Even encounter any of those obnoxious riches on the plane or a hotel on how they complain to almost anything on their flight or stay and how they want everything to be customized to their needs and wants? This is what they're doing here. The apartment where they're staying now is just another transitory thing for them. Except the stuff they want cleaned out are businesses that have been here for years and can not be put back again once they leave. No point of shaming to those who are shameless.

Giovanni said...

@10:20 PM Agree 100%, these whiners are just a bunch of narcissistas who have a borderline personality disorder with a combination of narcissism and lack of empathy or tolerance for others. I hope they enjoy looking at the blast zone that backyard has turned into, the rats will enjoy it. Whoever gets the next lease will find a way to re-open the backyard legally, and I hope they have many Oktoberfests and SantaCon gatherings there for years to vcome.

Anonymous said...

They did. Wall Street Journal.

Anonymous said...

Partially true.

Anonymous said...

They were using healthier alternative in their cooking.

Anonymous said...

It was. And for everyone who worked there.

Anonymous said...

It's unfortunate that the food wasn't up to your standard.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words. Good to know there are people who are still tactful.

Anonymous said...

Service rude? Rat infestation? Roaches? No freaking way! It's NYC... impossible. This City is known for the clean streets, no rats and roaches and charming people.

Anonymous said...

You have a lot to say for someone who never eaten there or live above the restaurant. I guess your one of those ppl who stick your noses into other ppl business. Sad. By the way, it's going to be a bar! Lucky neighbors.

Anonymous said...

Woah...they put a t.v. in there. My goodness, Yaffa Café should of been closed right then and there. It was only on for soccer games. Other than that, it was off. Food, meh. No one comes back if the food was just "meh". Thanks for coming back and enjoying the "meh" food.

Anonymous said...

Glad you had good times.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Karla.

Anonymous said...

Good luck in LA!

Anonymous said...

"Luxurious"? That's exactly why it was shut down.

Anonymous said...

Woah. I would of stopped going the first time but I never got sick eating there. It's been 20 plus years now.

Anonymous said...

Speechless. Better not invite me. I am vegetarian.

Anonymous said...

DOB nor DOH closed Yaffa Café. It was the owners choice. But here is grand idea. Let's get rid of all backyard seatings. Hearing ppl sing Happy Birthday, hearing the laughter of ppl enjoying their food and their company is just dreadful.... the Garden during the week was closed no later than 10 in the evening and weekends no later than 11. Was it that bad?! No.

Anonymous said...

Nice to know Yaffa Café was apart of your youth and now adult life. Yaffa Café will be missed.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Orlin is a delightful place. Their brunch was just as fabulous as Yaffa Café. Hope that Orlin is around for a long time like Yaffa Café had the pleasure of doing so.

Anonymous said...

Worry about rent? Nothing gives me a chuckle than reading a pointless response to something you obviously have no understanding of. You should of stopped going the first time.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly stated. EV grieve.

Anonymous said...

It is. And now no more hearing Yaffa Café customers laughing and enjoying themselves. Now, you will wake up to kids screaming in the playground (backyard is now a playground for the school next door) and at night, it's a bar. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your kind words! And being a customer!

Anonymous said...

Choose your words carefully. The other family didn't take over. Same owners for 32 years. Different managers were in charge of the place. Since you have no understanding what's the reason why Yaffa Café is closed and lack of knowledge of how Simone is being run, I would be careful.

Anonymous said...

Agreed

Anonymous said...

Besides the food not be top choice of reasons to enjoy Yaffa Café, Thx for coming back with friends and family!

Anonymous said...

That's not good. The waitress/waiters represent Yaffa Café. It's disappointing to know they showed such disrespect.

Anonymous said...

Yesss!! It's at Simone Martini Bar.

Anonymous said...

They were not shut down. The owners closed it. Why are people in shock that Yaffa Café is closed? They had a great 32 years. Not many restaurants can be successful for so many years.

Anonymous said...

Because Simone Martini Bar isn't open for lunch and brunch, let's keep our fingers crossed that it closes. It's a BAR. Simone Martini Bar doesn't need to be open at 10am.
FYI: Simone Martini Bar does serve lunch AND dinner and guess what? They still serve Brunch on the weekends.

Anonymous said...

Very well put!

Anonymous said...

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Anonymous said...

Strange, how I'd been recalling a particular evening in 1990 with a particular girl at this particular cafe (on the patio, at that) - and I come across this article. I'd had a friend who worked there, too. The food was neither great nor cheap; that's what Kiev was for. Yaffa was about the vibe.

The world has changed so much since then, and not just in the EV/NYC. The characteristic vibe of Yaffa belongs to a long-bygone era, along with all the other things that young adults of today "just don't get." I myself (age 53) try to explain to so-called Millennials exactly how things had been different in the '80s and '90s, but one can't explain what must be experienced to understand.

Anonymous said...

In the late 90s when I would spend a lot of time in the East village I once met a Norwegian Au Pair in a bar somewhere near Yaffa; can't remember where. She had come in from Jersey with her friend, but her friend had gone off with some guys, really distressing this young woman. Her train did not run again until morning and she didn't know what to do; she was very upset and seemed really far out of her comfort zone. I took her to Yaffa and we ate pancakes and just talked for hours; she had not money so I got the bill and gave her enough money for the train. As it got closer to her train's departure time we went up town and I stayed with her in the station, smoking cigarettes, and still talking about anything and everything until she got on the platform. She was very grateful but I never heard from her again; still I was really glad I helped her. It's a nice memory. Yaffa Cafe made that memory possible.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear the sad news. I lived a few doors down from Yaffa in the late 1980-s & early 1990's. I spent so much time holding court there that my answering machine message said, "I'm not home but I'm probably at the Yaffa Café so come on down and join me." Many did, and we have fond memories of a NYC venue with charm and character that out-of -town visitors also appreciated. I live nearby and still went there on occasion. Farewell Yaffa Café. I will miss you.

Anonymous said...

I just learned this sad terrible news today--a year after the demise. I lived in the city in the mid to late seventies, left in eighty, so missed the opening of Yaffa. But by chance discovered it a few years back, on one of my visits to the city, and immediately fell in love with it--it had the soul and vibe of the EV during the time I lived in NYC. I disagree with all the comments about the bad food. I thought the food was great, never had a bad meal. I appreciated the mostly vegetarian menu and the portions were generous and inexpensive. The wait staff was terrific and the decor was totally my style. I felt at home there. So sad! And bizarre, after three decades of being in business.