Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Cafe Edison: 1 Year Later

One year ago this week, after a mighty fight to save its life, the great Cafe Edison closed its doors. The Polish Tearoom, as it was lovingly known by its many fans on and off Broadway, had been in the Hotel Edison since 1980.

Last winter, the new owner of the hotel denied a lease renewal to Cafe Edison, despite passionate pleas from the Broadway community, magicians, local politicians--including Mayor Bill de Blasio--and thousands of fans who made our case via national and international news.

While the hotel owners originally claimed they would replace Cafe Edison with a "white-tablecloth" restaurant and a "name chef," they recently announced that a local mini-chain called Friedman's Lunch would be going in. "Just like the Cafe Edison," reported the Daily News in September, "the new restaurant is not some flashy, white-tablecloth type space... It’s a modest, family business." The real-estate broker on the deal told the paper, “It’s old-school, hearty good food. We must have gotten 50 offers but the landlord didn’t want big chains or celebrity chefs. They wanted something warm. This is going to be everything the Edison Cafe was--just a few decades later."

But Friedman's is not "just like" the Cafe Edison and it won't be "everything the Cafe Edison was."

While it might try to sound like one, Friedman's is not a family name, in case you thought it might be. Remarkably, according to DNAInfo, "The restaurant's name is a tribute to free-market economist Milton Friedman." Could anything be more apropos in this city destroyed by neoliberalization?

For your holiday listening pleasure, here's the Milton Friedman choir sharing the man's definition of a corporation:

via okieblog

Anyway, needless to say, many of us who fought like hell to save this truly authentic piece of New York feel betrayed by this news.

Conrad Strohl & NBC News: photo by Barbara Nassberg -- see the video here

I reached out yesterday to Cafe Edison family member Jordan Strohl. When we last heard from the Strohls, they were busy looking for a new location for the coffee shop. Jordan told me:

"It’s hard to fathom that it’s been a year to the day that the longest show on Broadway went dark. This is certainly not the outcome that my family and I wanted. It is a sad day for my family. I try to think about all the wonderful memories, customers, and stories that we had as our home remains dark! The business was a wonderful success story and spoke volumes about what my family stands for and who we are."

"In the past year we have looked at many places with an open mind and, unfortunately, nothing has panned out. As a result, we have turned our attention to finding a way to make some of our products available for customers. We have been actively engaged in working on our product line and believe there is a market for our food. Hopefully, we will have more announcements about that very soon."

"As for the recent news on Friedman’s taking the space, I hope it is an epic failure!"

Jackie Hoffman: Photo by Jennifer Leonard

The Strohl family continues to look for a new space where the Cafe Edison can rise again, bringing people together over authentic New York comfort food.

If you know of a place, or have any leads, please leave the information in the comments section here, or write to me directly at jeremoss at yahoo dot com. 

The fight to save Cafe Edison continues.

News breaks about Cafe Edison's forced closure
Over 600 supporters come to our first of many Lunch Mobs
Local politicians and Mayor Bill de Blasio join the fight to Save Cafe Edison
Big rally and press conference at Cafe Edison
The last day announcement
Cafe Edison Closes

1 comment:

John K said...

"The restaurant's name is a tribute to free-market economist Milton Friedman." Could anything be more apropos in this city destroyed by neoliberalization?

Is this true? Who on earth would name a restaurant after Milton Friedman!? What, is it going to have a derivatives market ticker on the wall and prices that change daily based on what the free market will bear? YIKES!

Of course after I typed the two preceding paragraphs I went to the DNAInfo link and saw this: "At its Hell's Kitchen location, burgers are priced between $15 and $17." As the children say: GAG. And: DEAD. And: NO MA'AM!

Talk about neoliberalism, hypergentrification, and everything that's gone wrong with NYC for the last decade or so, and you've got it embodied in this gag-worthy chain.

I hope Café Edison can find a space. Lord knows, we need restaurants and mindsets like the one it embodied more than ever these days.