Friday, 6 February 2009


Yaffa Cafe 97 St Marks Place near 1st Avenue.

Manhattan has over 16,700 restaurants and cafes (source WikiAnswers) which means that a glutton for gastronomic notoriety could dine out in a different eatery every day for 47 years. I have been coming to Manhattan on and off for over 30 years and have tried many restaurants of varying standards and prices and am immensely and genuinely impressed at the quality, choice of cuisines, value and service that is the Manhattan restaurant scene. I worked in London for many years and have visited Paris quite often, and whilst mainly enjoying the food in those two capitals, still place Manhattan on the 'Best for Food' pedestal.

However, the range of Manhattan establishments goes from ' awful' to 'superb' and customers perceptions from 'Yuk' to 'Lip-smacking'. The Yaffa Cafe (above and below) divides opinion. Many love it but others can't wait to get out and and vow never to return.

Inside this 24 hour cafe, hasn't changed for years - the same leopard and zebra prints on the booths and tables, the same bunches of plastic grapes and Christmas lights hanging untidily from the ceiling, the same dim, warm welcoming atmosphere from late-night Goth kids to early-afternoon breakfasts. Out the back, an enormous patio beckons.

This kitsch-crammed, round-the-clock basement hang is a stop along the East Village party trail (just watch your step, don't stumble down the steps). The vegetarian-friendly, Middle Eastern food will not win any prestigious food awards but on the plus side, the place is cheap and comfortable, and the crowd is usually interesting.

The clientele is eclectic - a mix of the late night crowd, goth kids, slumming yuppies and self-proclaimed artists. If you chose to pay a visit to Yaffa, given in the right frame of mind, you could well join its many adherents, if not then at least you have experienced a restaurant that has its own individuality and style, and is unapologetic for not being one of the ever increasing numbers of vassal 'cuisine and decor' clones.

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