Following up on my post about the closure of one of the last Andrews Coffee Shops in Manhattan, I set out to find the local chain's remainders. As we learned last week, Andrew Zamel's coffee shops, opened in 1963, once numbered 15. It took 30 years to halve that number to 8 in 1993. Today, there are 2 that I managed to find.
There's one at 35th Street and 7th Avenue and another nearby on 38th, between 7th and 8th. The rest, still listed online, were confirmed closed or didn't answer their phones.
The 35th Street Andrews occupies a large corner spot and was busy with lunchtime customers, most of whom looked like tourists or shoppers spilling over from Macy's.
It was too crowded for me, and too renovated, so I headed over to 38th where I found a smaller, quieter, shabbier Andrews tucked in between zipper shops and sewing machine supply stores on a block bustling with garment business. This was more my speed.
It was blissfully desolate. My BLT and fries came quickly and tasted fine. But I don't sit in restaurants, generally, for the taste of the food. I go for the place itself, for a feeling it gives me, and the feeling in the 38th Street Andrews was a good one.
It had a slightly desultory air about it. No one was pumping happiness into the place. There were no flatscreen TVs screaming and no bouncy music. The song on the radio when I walked in was singing from 1990, "If you don't love me, why don't you let me go?" Here, they let you eat in peace.
The customers did not seem like tourists or shoppers. They seemed like Garment District people. They were mostly single men. The sort of men who wear Hawaiian shirts, gold watches, and fragrant oils in their silver hair. The sort of men who carry their cash in a money clip and call the waitress "Sweetheart."
The customers here are known. The cashier recognizes them, calls the men "Padron." They joke around together at the register.
If I had to bet which Andrews will be next to vanish, I'd say it's 38th Street, for all of the above reasons. It's not loud enough, not obnoxious enough to survive. For some reason, people like to eat in crowds. They like noise with their food. Also, this location seems to depend on the old-school Garment District crowd, and they are vanishing.
So if you're looking for a coffee-shop experience, give Andrews of 38th Street a try. Before it's gone, too.