Cafe Royal

Yiddish Glamour on the Lower East Side

When lower Second Avenue was the heart of New York’s Yiddish Rialto, Café Royal was the stomping ground of the stars that made it beat. Described by the New York Times in 1939 as “the Delmonico’s, the Simpson’s and the Fouquet’s of Second Avenue, all in one,” the world-famous Café Royal flourished under this roof from 1908 to 1952. Here, socialists, artists, rebels, writers and chess players mingled with Broadway stars and the most renowned of the Yiddish performers. As The New Yorker stated in 1937, “everybody who is anybody in the creative Jewish world turns up at the Cafe Royal at least one night a week. To be seen there is a social duty, a mark of distinction, and an investment in prestige.”

“Cafe Crown,” a 1942 Broadway play based on the restaurant, was rewritten as musical in 1964 and shown at the Martin Beck Theater. It was revived as a play 1988 by Joseph Papp and the Public Theater.

Looking across the street at the Yiddish Art Theatre – the East Village’s only interior and exterior landmark – one can begin to imagine the creativity and passion that once emanated from these walls. Still, the legacy of the Rialto lives on in theatres throughout the neighborhood that to contribute greatly to the special character of the Village.

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