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.
“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.