The John Dory was not the only restaurant to close this weekend: The New York Times brought the news that the Cafe des Artistes had shuttered. If the Dory’s closure was unexpected, then the obituary for the 92-year-old Upper West Side mainstay read more like the death announcement of a World War I veteran: one more sad but not entirely unexpected passing, another sign of the end of an era. The Cafe opened in 1917, and was originally designed to cater meals to the residents of the Hotel des Artistes, who would send raw ingredients and instructions for cooking down to the kitchen, which would then send the prepared dishes back by dumbwaiter. According to the restaurant’s website, “a Rube Goldberg-like twenty-ton ice machine in the basement circulated frigid icewater into each apartment’s icebox” in order to keep food cool.
Though it enjoyed a loyal clientele, particularly among the artists who performed at the nearby Lincoln Center, the Cafe had in recent years suffered a slow-down in business that in turn caused troubles with its union, who took the restaurant’s owners to court for non-payment of medical and pension costs.There is no word yet on what will become of the Cafe des Artistes’ celebrated murals, which were painted in the 1930s by Howard Chandler Christy.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 31, 2009