There is just something about Greenwich Village that captures the very essence of artistry in New York—and perhaps no other space has been more emblematic of cultural life in the city throughout the years than Le Figaro Café, the legendary coffee shop frequented by the likes of Jack Kerouac, Alan Ginsberg, Lou Reed and Al Pacino throughout the 1950s and 1960s at 184 Bleecker Street by MacDougal Street.
Opened by in 1957 and named after the French daily newspaper of the same name, the space was a go-to for the beat generation until it closed in 2008. Rumor has it that Kerouac started jazz poetry nights here back in his day and that famous stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce would stop by after his sets at the nearby Gaslight Café, which shut down in 1971. Even Bob Dylan was spotted working on his first album on-premises!
Although slightly different in look and function, Le Figaro Café officially re-opened this past weekend, courtesy of husband-and-wife team Mario and Marta Skaric and their partner Florence Zabokritsky.
“When we dove into researching the significance of the space, we knew we wanted to be a part of the long and storied history of Figaro,” Mario Skaric said in an official statement. “We would pay proper homage to it and give it a new life as a gathering space for modern crowds.”
Let’s start with the changes to the original iteration of the destination: the space will now simply be known as Figaro Café, which will also be more of a cocktail bar than a coffee shop. Patrons will get to browse through a pretty large list of martinis, plus a number of re-imagined cocktails. Take the Figaro Negroni, for example, which modifies the classic recipe with the use of a grapefruit liqueur. The Uppers and Downers is the venue’s version of an espresso martini, this one made with maple syrup and Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur.
Food-wise, the menu includes a selection of flatbreads, cheese fondue service with thick-cut bacon, a seven-ounce short rib and brisket patty topped with caramelized onions and spicy aioli served on house-made brioche, an oyster and shrimp cocktail and more.
Although clearly offering a more food-focused menu than the original coffee shop did, Figaro Café pays homage to the past by partnering with Porto Rico Coffee, a third-generation owned coffee company with a shop a few doors down, in providing customers with java. According to an official press release, “the current owner’s grandfather provided coffee for the original café so it only made sense the modern incarnation gets its coffee from the Longo family, who still owns the operation.”
Design-wise, a new 25-foot bar anchors the space, which is filled with large mirrors, deep chairs, wide banquettes and a library ladder that will help staff reach top-shelf bottles.
There is, however, one interior element that has remained intact throughout the years: original issues of Le Figaro from the 1950s and 1960s still adorn the walls. How awesome! As they always say: what’s old is new again.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.