Throwback Thursday: Matchbooks Bring Back Memories

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Our tipster Debra was throwing some old matchbooks out when she decided to line them up and snap a photo. “Remember these?” she wrote in an email to us. Many are gone, though others like Cafe Lalo are still kicking. Do they bring back any memories for anyone else?

We hadn’t heard of “West Side Storey” before. The Times called it a “restaurant-bakery-delicatessen at 95th Street and Columbus Avenue…With everything from egg cream to espresso, West Side Storey is the only establishment within a six‐block radius offering breakfasts and a coffee‐shop menu, as well as more ambitious dinner fare by a Cordon Bleu trained chef, Abdou Jabrame.” Sounds amazing!

FOOD, HISTORY | 36 comments | permalink
    1. MaryC says:

      West Side Storey was the best! Co-owned by a Jewish psychologist (who greeted everyone) and a Muslim chef. Great upscale comfort food.

    2. Sue says:

      Nice memories! (Los Panchos! Marvin Gardena! Fishin Eddie (they had matches?). I threw out so many matches about 2 weeks ago. Wish I’d thought to snap a picture first.

    3. jezbel says:

      Only one missing, that I can think of – Mrs. J’s Sacred Cow on W. 79th between B’way & West End. Long my favorite place for ribs & chops and of course the singing waiters.

    4. Bruce says:

      Fascinating. Things get messier by 1989 though:

      THERE is a continuing story on the Upper West Side that has not yet reached its final chapter – the tale of the West Side Storey, a restaurant whose owners won a judgment of more than a million dollars last year against their co-op landlord as the result of a tangled series of legal actions stretching back a decade…

    5. Scott says:

      West Side Story! I went there a few times when I was young, but I mostly remember sweating a lot at that location when it was a Synergy fitness.

    6. Nicole says:

      My husband is a total hoarder of matches to remember nights out. If 2020 turns into the zombie apocalypse it seems to be aiming for, we’ll be able to make fire forever. 🤣

    7. Matthew Shapiro says:

      What about Mikell’s jazz club on Columbus and 97th Street?

      • says:

        Mikkell’s up at about 97th & B’way, Oh how I miss it. The music was amazing. And the house band was a group called Stuff. Richard Tee, Steve Gadd, Eric Gale, Chris Parker, Cornell Dupree, Gordon Edwards. Went on to become the best studio players in the music business.
        About that same time frame, a restaurant called the Library at about 99th & B’way.

    8. Deb says:

      Remember when smoking was allowed in restaurants, which is why these establishments had matchbooks as an advertising gimmick. I hated those places.

    9. Alan Oppenheim says:

      My wife and I have been collecting matchbooks (not just from the UWS) for over 50 years. We have a glass cylinder with literally hundreds. Two rules for us – we have actually had to have been there, and we remove all the matches or match heads as we have learned that these can become unstable with age and burst into flame.

    10. sonia pilcer says:

      Priceless! Evoked many memories.

    11. JUDITH ZABAR says:

      Teachers is missing.

    12. Nancy says:

      West Side Storey had the best Corned Beef Hash that I have ever experienced,!!!!! also, pumpernickel toast with strawberry jam..a must have… I still miss that place… And they have been gone for many years!!!

    13. UWSguy says:

      Great Memories! Coastal, Ernie’s, Ruelle’s, even Ruby Foo’s. All a really long time ago. These were great UWS restaurants!

    14. Robin Bell says:

      Why would anyone ever throw away a matchbook?! It’s a cracker-sized reminder of a time and a place and, probably, some really good laughs. With friends! Together! Near each other! (Remember those times?) We keep refilling a matchbox from Café Lalo, where my son proposed to his wife, and think of them and smile every time we light the dinner candles. Marvellous.

    15. Irene Lipson says:

      Great memories of places I enjoyed with family and friends. Here are a few more of so many: The Cherry, Milestone, The Monks Inn, Cafe Des Artistes, Dobsons, Onephilia, and the wonderful Cafe La Fortuna- ice cappuccino with homemade chocolate ices.

    16. Joe says:

      How about Stark’s at 89th and Broadway. First restaurant I was ever taken to (by my Uncle Phil and Aunt Sophie, if memory serves). It used to be a big deal to go to a restaurant!

    17. Robin C says:

      These are great–does anyone have matchbooks from Teacher’s, Teachers’s Too, Pazzo, Boulevard, Dock’s, La Bicyclette, Bistro Citron, Willoughby’s,Popover Cafe, various Japanese places at 84/Broadway? Many more I can picture but can’t summon the names. Miss them all.

    18. Jill Giovan says:

      I lived at 93rd and Columbus in the late ’80’s and remember West Side Storey very well. It was a fun,casual place with good food. I took my mom to dinner there once and JFK,jr. was having dinner at the counter. Nobody bothered him.

    19. Mark H says:

      I had breakfast at West Side Story every day in the early 80’s. Anyone remember Liberty Ice Cream Parlor near Lincoln Center? Ernie’s pasta on Broadway? Cantina Mexican on Columbus?

      • jezbel says:

        Liberty Ice Cream with the nearly life size half Statue of Liberty on the roof – had some of the most amazing iced cream I’ve ever had – huge cones. I miss it still.

    20. jimbo says:

      The Monk’s Inn—-a really cool place.

      • Larry says:

        Loved the Monk’s Inn! Great memories of the chocolate fondue, after a night at the opera.

    21. Kathleen says:

      I’ll take them off your hands!

    22. Drew Kopf says:

      I always felt that matchbooks were the smallest representation of Americana since US Postage Stamps were more limited in scope, where matchbooks were from anyone who saw the wisdom in having them made. Small businesses of all stripes, couples planning their wedding, politicians running for office, manufacturers, government agencies, schools everyone. I’ve been collecting them for 50 years. Friends used to bring them back from trips all over the word. I bought collections at auction or in yard sales. Rare ones: Air Force One and Air Force Two. Lots of history in matchbooks. Enjoyed your article. Thanks.

    23. adami says:

      John’s! A literal oasis in the west 60’s, an otherwise unaffordable neighborhood for a decent place to eat. Also fondly remember my favorite bar nearby – McGlade’s. It became a Starbucks.

    24. Susie says:

      What about our beloved Cafe LaFortuna!!

      • Irene Lipson says:

        See my comment #15. My favorite place!! Never saw John and Yoko there, but know they loved it! Enjoyed sitting in the back garden even when it was hot. My son (now 34) called it “Cafe Cookie”

    25. Irena says:

      We lived a block away from The Library, which was on the SW corner of 92nd street (not 99th). It was featured in a movie with Frank Sinatra.

      It was one of the great (at the time, 1970s) neighborhood places. Very cozy

      Restaurants have come and gone during our 40+ years on the UWS, but “neighborhood” is hardly a term that can be used. Yes, they are located IN the neighborhood, but not the same as places we all used to go to regularly (not the least of which was that they were affrodable and had friendly owners who knew all of us who came in).

    26. ellen count says:

      My mother took me to Stark’s, as did Joe’s aunt and uncle. But also to Schrafft’s! Where was it, Joe? Anyone?

    27. Larry says:

      Caracalla, Cleopatra, the Monk’s Inn, Fleur de Lis, Victor’s, Pat’s Bar on Amsterdam (best hamburgers on the planet), Ricky, Lenge, Sakura Chaya, O’Neals Balloon, Dmitri, Famous Dairy, the Footlights Cafeteria, Terrace in the Sky, Aki, Moon Palace, Aki, the Saloon, Empire (in the hotel), Maharaja, so many more, sorely missed.

    28. Joe says:

      Ellen – I think Schrafft’s was at 82nd and B’way – but there were so many Schrafft’s!