4. Pieces of a lost LES cafeteria hang in the Museum at Eldridge Street

Garden Cafeteria sign hanging in a stairwell
Photo Courtesy of the Museum at Eldridge Street

When restoration work was completed in 2007, the synagogue became the Museum at Eldridge Street. This institution’s mission is “to restore and preserve the National Historic Landmark 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue and to provide cultural and educational programs that serve a broad public.” The Museum hosts a variety of exhibits and public programs throughout the year.

The Museum also has a collection of historic artifacts related to the history of the synagogue and its surrounding neighborhood on the Lower East Side. One of the most unique artifacts is a sign from the Garden Cafeteria, a lost self-service restaurant that once stood on the corner of Rutgers Street. Established by Austrian immigrant Charles Metzger in 1941, the eatery attracted a crowd of Jewish intellectuals. including writers from the nearby offices of Forvertz/The Jewish Daily Forward. The cafeteria closed in 1983 and became a Chinese restaurant. Construction work in 2005 revealed one of the original signs and it was given to the Museum at Eldridge Street for safekeeping. Today, it hangs in a stairwell inside the historic building.