Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Yaffa Cafe

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.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

They still have the best veggie burger (the "Sunshine") in the city. Long live Yaffa!

ShatteredMonocle said...

Not unlike Simone down the street or the new Freddy's. Like an acid-fried Pee Wee's Playhouse.

Melanie said...

I like Yaffa Cafe and always enjoy their crepes and salad with carrot dressing. I used to eat their Mississippi Mud Cake with whipped cream and share it with a friend. They are friendly there and have a backyard which is open in the nicer weather. Glad you had a nice time. I like the kitch decor too. EV COOL!

Marty Wombacher said...

I've never been there, but it looks like a fun place. I will indeed check it out.

Caleo said...

I dated the GM at Yaffa back in the 90's. Leka owns Simone as well. In the 80's and 90's there were a lot more Israeli's in the EV. Many restaurants were owned and operated by Israeli's, like Mogador and Sidewalk Cafe.
At that time the GM was Israeli, and she introduced me to what seemed like the entire Israeli community of the EV, more like an extended family.
And the mural outside Yaffa was painted by Federico Castelluccio, who played Furio on the Soprano's.
When Yaffa opened, it was just about the only restaurant open 24/7 in the neighborhood, and the night shift attracted a wild assortment of weirdos and miscreants. Much like the old Kiev, if you went after hours you would run into a who's who of the old EV.

Claribel said...

Whew! to Yaffa not vanishing!

Jeremiah Moss said...

love the carrot dressing. also enjoy the open-faced avocado melt. i hope they never redecorate.

Anonymous said...

Oh Yaffa Cafe. I grew up in the village in the 80's and this is remains my favorite restaurant.

Cat Sitter in the City said...

Great post. I was cat sitting in the Wall Street area a few weeks ago, and a lady asked me for directions in the subway. We got on the same train and started chatting, and she explained that she and her husband and teenage daughter were from Alabama and in town for a few days to see the sites. They wanted to know what they should see, and I told them about the East Village. They actually got off the train with me at Astor Place, and I walked them down St. Mark's and told them about the neighborhood. They wanted to eat where locals eat, so I dropped them off at Yaffa Cafe. I thought they'd enjoy a meal there, and I was right. When the lady got back home, she emailed me and told me they ate at Yaffa twice during their stay.

Anonymous said...

It may be difficult to believe, but c. 1980 one had very few choices of restaurants in the EV. Ukrainian, Polish, Ukrainian Pizza - like that.

Yaffa represented welcome relief. The first was 103 2nd Ave - just recently mentioned in the Times.

Mitchell Jones said...

Whew, I love this place and my heart skipped a beat when I first saw the post.

Heather said...

I've had some wonderful time in their backyard. Highly recommended.