The story of the two men who first opened the Cafe’ Edison and the hotel in Times Square is the stuff Broadway plays are written about. Cafe’ Edison’s Harry Edelstein and the Edison Hotel’s original owner, Ulo Barad, met in Warsaw–both survivors of the Holocaust. The rental agreement between the two men for the cafe consisted of a handshake between two good friends. The cafe’ never had a real lease. Although the cafe’ and hotel are still in the hands of the same two families, that relationship came to an end this past weekend.
Frequented by Broadway producers, performers, playwrights and tourists over the past 34 years, the cafe is located in what was the hotel’s former ballroom. Patrons dine on matzo ball soup, pastrami and blintzes, just a few of the many specialties served up by this old-time, very affordable Eastern European Jewish Diner. Times Square didn’t look like it does today when they opened their doors. In spite of Times Square’s seedy appearance, the Cafe’ Edison was certainly known as the fanciest diner in New York.
An eviction notice was given to the cafe about six weeks ago, indicating that they would have to be out by December 27th to make room for an upscale dining establishment. Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York broke the news to the general public November 7th online. The news was a shock to the Strohl family, who own the cafe and have been in that space all these years based on that handshake.
Since receiving the eviction notice, social media has been on fire. Protests, lunch mob rallies, letters, posts on Facebook and Twitter, petitions with over 10,000 signatures, and even a Holiday Caroling Rally have prevailed– all in the hopes of stopping the ‘Blintzkrieg’.
Despite the best efforts of all their patrons, the battle was lost and the diner closed on Sunday. A documentary about the cafe is in the works. Although Cafe’ Edison doesn’t currently have their own website, they plan to have one up and running very soon and ask us to stay tuned for news of a new location, hopefully nearby. Perhaps it will be renamed after its nickname, The Polish Tea Room. Either way, we look forward to the Theatre Special Sandwich and the Hot Roumanian Pastrami again in the near future.
You can contact the author at AFineLyne.