WEEKEND HISTORY: FOR DECADES, SCHRAFFT’S WAS THE HOT LUNCH SPOT

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Schrafft’s on Broadway between 74th and 75th streets in 1930. Via MCNY.

Schrafft’s restaurants and confectioners were ubiquitous in New York through the 1960’s, with more than 50 in the city and at least three on the Upper West Side. Given how many there were, and the popularity of the stores, it’s kind of amazing that the brand has disappeared completely.

On the Upper West Side there were several locations, including at 2131 Broadway (74th street, the same block as Fairway and Citarella), 2285 Broadway (82nd street) and 2786 Broadway (107th street).

Schrafft’s was founded by a Bavarian confectioner named Wiliam Schrafft, who opened his first restaurant in Boston in 1898, initially as a way to market its candy, according to the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. It soon expanded to New York. Schrafft’s served comforting lunch food, from chicken and mushrooms to salads and sandwiches and was known as a popular spot for women as more women entered the city’s workforce.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 11.27.11 AM“Hot fudge Sundaes, lobster Newburg and creamed chicken on toast could be had in an atmosphere of middle class gentility,” says the Oxford Companion. It also had fountain soda counters and candy stores, popular with kids of course. A menu is posted here, with an excerpt of some intriguing dishes at right.

The chain was popular through the 50’s, but its cachet started to fade by the 60’s and the restaurants began to close. It even created a men-only dining room in midtown in the late 60’s, according to the restaurant history blog Restaurant-ing Through History.

“Schrafft’s was known for reproducing an air of gentility typical of the upper middle-class WASP home. Cooks, supervisors, and even some executives were women. Menus of the 1920s and 1930s included many salads, more desserts than entrees, and non-restaurant-y vegetable selections such as creamed cauliflower and fried eggplant. Frank claimed Schrafft’s cuisine was inspired by his mother’s cooking. Repeated efforts to overcome connotations of a “women’s restaurant” and attract men met with disappointing results despite customers such as James Beard. Women dominated even after some units began to serve cocktails in 1934.”

By 1984, all the Schrafft’s locations were closed. The architecture of the restaurants is discussed in this New York Times column.

The Museum of the City of New York has photos of three Schrafft’s locations on the Upper West Side. See some of them below, and more Schrafft’s photos here.

To see more in our Upper West Side “weekend history” series, click here.

FOOD, HISTORY | 33 comments | permalink
    1. Harriet says:

      Ice cream sodas at Schrafft’s were the best ….

    2. Wendy says:

      That sweet place called Sugar Plum, I think? on Amst. and 78th St reminds me of Schraffts. Mostly sweet stuff with some real food menu items on it.

    3. Helaine says:

      The hot fudge!!! I think they had Welsh rarebit. And didn’t the waitresses wear white gloves?

    4. Upper West Hazel says:

      Ah, Schrafft’s hot fudge sundaes! Made with Schrafft’s French Vanilla Ice Cream. The wonderful ice cream could by bought in stores long after the much-missed restaurants closed. Schrafft’s was also known for hiring singularly handsome counter boys.

    5. Pedestrian says:

      It may have looked “wasp” but my Poliish Irish working class family loved the Schrafft’s in Pittsburgh for family celebrations. The big booths were perfect and the food well cooked and reasonably priced. How quaint in today’s world.

      Thanks for the memories!

    6. m.pipik says:

      I lived in the building of the 2786 Broadway store in the mid-70’s. Had no clue there had been a Schrafft’s.

      Growing up Schrafft’s was my favorite ice cream and could be bought in the store or luncheonettes. And yes Harriet, Schrafft’s IC made the best sodas. The premium ice creams that are made now just doesn’t do it. They melt wrong.

      As I child I also loved visiting the mid-town restaurant on shopping trips into Manhattan with my mother.

    7. Dee G says:

      My grandmother used to bring my brother and me to the 82nd St. Location for chicken salad sandwiches and black and white ice cream sodas. It was a weekly treat. Once my brother,aged 4 I think, when asked by the waitress how he liked his dish of ice cream, told her it was good but could she warm it up please. Find memories…

    8. Daniela S. says:

      My mother took me to Schrafft’s on 82nd and Broadway for special treats. All I remember of those treats is the joy in having them.

    9. Janet says:

      I worked at the candy counter of 2786 Broadway & 107th Street in the summer of 1951, during my high school days in the Bronx. I traveled from Pelham Parkway, and the Broadway area was different and eye-opening for me. Almost another planet. I could not have guessed that 27 years later I’d move to the Upper West Side and become a resident of nearly 37 years. That Schraft’s was gone before I moved here. I recall that many of the waitresses and kitchen help were Irish immigrants and there were few employees or customers who were from minority groups. People of color weren’t welcomed although one young African-American man – an actor – managed to get a job there. I quickly got to hate the candy – the management let you sneak as much as you wanted knowing that the taste of chocolate would soon pall. It did. Chocolates then became for me simply an item to be wrapped and sold. Schrafft’s cheese bread was far more exciting a discovery. I could buy it and take it home to my parents who came to love cheese bread although they never ate at Schrafft’s. “Thanks for the memory.”

      • Norma says:

        My mother tried to get a job a Schrafft’s in the 30’s. They wouldn’t hire her because she was Jewish. We were never allowed to go there because of that!

    10. Susan Kagan says:

      As a resident of 86th St. during my high school years, I sometimes visited Schrafft’s on Broadway and 82nd St.? maybe 83rd)) to enjoy a guilty pleasure–their chocolate ice cream sundae. If I remember correctly, it cost the whole of my weekly allowance.

    11. Kenneth says:

      Both the Barnes and Noble (2281 Bway) and Fairway (2131 Bway) buildings!

    12. Vivian Ducat says:

      The Schraffts on 74 and Broadway was cakkes C & L by the early 60’s — It supposedly belonged to Schraffts but the closest actual Schraffts was near 86 street.

      • Chip says:

        The Broadwayway and 82nd Street location became a Food City Supermarket, then a Sloan’s Supermarket, then a Red Apple Supermarket, and now a Barnes & Noble….

        • manhattan mark says:

          Just a few comments on Schrafft’s …Their ice cream was the
          class of it’s time. The 107th st was available for children’s
          birthday parties. The 57th street Schrafft’s sent coffee carts
          around to the lacal office buildings twice a day ( 11am and
          4pm) at 1740 Broadway where I worked. All my memories
          of Schrafft’s are good ones.

        • Danny says:

          After Schraffta, and before the supermarkets, it was a Kennedy for President Headquarters!
          I remember getting Kennedy for President buttons there.

      • Nina says:

        Loved C&L — we went there all the time for chicken in the pot

    13. Karen says:

      Great reminiscences!

    14. Josiah says:

      Great posting… Had no idea there was one on 107th street.
      That space is now Gsrden of Eden.
      I spent the first two years of my life in that building ( aka 245 West 107th st.) and now live down the block close to Amsterdam.

      I recall going to the one on Lexington ave…

    15. UWS Newbie says:

      Give me a Mister Softee cone and the 21st century any day. Get with the times people…

    16. Rodger Lodger says:

      Hot fudge sundaes in metal tulip dish, which would hold the cold and the warm. Sometimes with nuts, dry nuts (walnuts?). My Dad would bring home a pre-packaged jar of hot fudge once in a while. It would be solid; liquefy by heating in a saucepan of water on the stove. Between Schrafft’s, Nedicks, Dubrow’s cafes, Arthur Maesel’s state-named restaurants. Manhattan was a low-cost eater’s paradise. And in the Jewish neighborhoods of Brooklyn there was a top-notch delicatessen every few blocks, it seemed. We would’ve turned our noses up at the likes of McDonald’s. And don’t get me started on how low apartment rents were.

    17. webot says:

      I wonder if there is a business in reviving the whole concept.

      clearly it remains loved.

      Who owns the brand name? do they still make the use it for supermarket ice-cream?

    18. Ricky says:

      Maybe I’m confused, since no one’s mentioned it, but as I recall the “classy” restaurant – jackets may’ve been required – in Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center (prior to the acoustical remodeling that made it Avery Fisher Hall) was a Schrafft’s. I took possibly my first real date there in 1966 (I was 15) before seeing PDQ Bach, which ironically included a Concerto For Horn & Hardart.

      • Ricky says:

        I stand corrected after a web search – it was a different high end ice cream co., Louis Sherry, that had their restaurant, Sherry’s, in Philharmonic Hall, along with the NYState Theater, old Metropolitan Opera House, & Sherry Netherland Hotel. In the words of Emily Latella, “Never mind.”

    19. Rob says:

      Can’t believe no one mentioned the Tip Toe Inn between 86th and 87th on Broadway or Ellman’s next to the Yorktown Theatre on 89th street. Both of these places were of the same quality as Schrafft’s but there is no question the latter made and sold the best ice cream.

      • webot says:

        Thank you Rob for mentioning Ellman’s Tea Room.

        my cousins owned and ran it back in the day.

        Would LOVE to see photos and hear memories.

        Thank you.

        ps: please nothing nasty from BB.

    20. Howard Charles Yourow, S.J.D. says:

      Nah, Jah, Meine Lieblinge, Die Guten Alten Tagen seit schon lang vorbei gegangen, und wie …

    21. ARLENE KURTIS says:

      Since it’s graduation season, I remember going to Schrafft’s the day I graduated from P.S.87 with another graduate and our mothers for a treat. I was happy but in pain. The reason, I was wearing my graduation dress. In those days, we had to cut and sew our dresses. I was terrible at dressmaking. One sleeve at the shoulder was so tight I could hardly move. A “luxuro” — cake with a ball of ice cream covered with chocolate syrup, the ultimate treat, made me forget my shoulder long enough to devour it. P.S. An egg salad sandwich was 35 cents.

    22. Rina brenkovich says:

      I worked on 79st& fifth ve in early 60’s. I recall having lunch every Friday at schrafts? Usually I had baked halibut. That was my favorite. When I went to the register to pay they had chocolate fudge. Always bought some of that to take home.

    23. Janet says:

      I’m almost positive that back in the 70’s my grandmother used to get us these hollow chocolate eggs with and opening and it had a little Easter scene does anyone remember if this is where she got them I wish I could have been able to get them for my grandchildren