Yaffa Cafe on St. Marks is not a place I go to very often, now and then, but a recent craving for their pancakes brought me in and reminded me that this is truly one of the last remaining "old school" East Village spots. (No, it's not vanishing.)
The particular East Village here is less punk and more 1980s fashion--Madonna in her stained overcoat, thrift-shop chic, Love Saves the Day--when "decor" meant finding a mannequin in the trash, taking it home, painting it hot pink, and using it as a hat stand.
Yaffa was opened around 1982 by an Israeli named Amir. Five years later, he married a woman named Lika and she redecorated. The place hasn't really changed since 1987. The booths are upholstered in leopard and zebra print, the fabric rotting from years of wear. The walls are covered in various wallpapers--fruit, vegetables, flowers. Plastic grapes hang from the ceiling. And there's also this.
Lika Ramati described her decorative tastes to Gotham Gazette, "it’s a kitschy and pop look with some humor. Kitsch is usually negative—but here the kitsch has harmony and everything works together nicely. My decoration is instinctive, not planned. If you collect what you like, in the end, everything comes together nicely... I loved the old hotels in Europe, I have a strong connection to Rome, and I am inspired by Andy Warhol, so I guess it is a combination of different things."
As for the mural on the wall outside, originally completed in 1993, that's all Lika, too.