La Caridad, A Cuban-Chinese Staple on Broadway, Closes After 52 Years


Photo by Miri.

A For Rent sign went up on Thursday at La Caridad 78, the Cuban-Chinese restaurant that has been a staple in the neighborhood for more than 50 years. The sign confirmed what several neighbors had expected for days after seeing people remove all the furniture and other items from the inside — the restaurant on the corner of 78th and Broadway is closed. The restaurant’s phones said that voicemail isn’t connected.

La Caridad 78 gave Upper West Siders a unique culinary adventure. Owner Raphael Lee, a Chinese man who had grown up in Cuba, opened the restaurant in 1968. Raphael had fled Cuba after Fidel Castro took over, his son Sam said.

Some of the food was clearly more Cuban, like a Cuban-style roast pork. And some was clearly more Chinese, like baby shrimp lo mein.

But much of the food was a mix of Chinese and Cuban cooking, with dishes like special fried rice with plantains. The blog Cuban New Yorker wrote about Cuban-Chinese cuisine and La Caridad in 2012:

Chinese-Cuban cuisine is not about the creation of any single syncretic dish, but rather, the juxtaposition of Cuban and Chinese favorites, pepper steak with black beans and rice, for example. The juxtaposition goes beyond the menu to the décor and even to the personnel. The décor (if we can call it that) is punctuated by yellowed magazine and newspaper reviews of the restaurant, and presiding over all of it is a framed image of La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, the restaurant’s namesake and the island’s Catholic patron saint, who looks over the restaurant’s tables with their Chinese zodiac paper placemats. The manager is Antonio Wong and the waiters speak to customers in either English or Spanish, but in Cantonese among themselves. The whole scene is one incredible anthropological mélange.

Great Big Story made a video about the restaurant when it was open. Sam Lee says “I would say La Caridad restaurant is not a restaurant. It’s a kitchen for Upper West Siders.”

Thanks to Bayly and Miri for the tips.

FOOD, NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 101 comments | permalink
    1. Bruce E. Bernstein says:

      sad, sad, sad… it will be missed.

      there used to be excellent Cuban-Chinese (or sometimes Dominican-Chinese) restaurants every other block on the old UWS. they were so delicious and so affordable.

      yes, the good old days… no one can take away the memories.

    2. Amaro says:

      Syncretic? Juxtaposition?? Decor and melange, with accent marks over the e??? Did someone get a Harvard anthropologist to come over from the Upper East Side to write that review???? (It’s a thing of beauty, by the way — and La Caridad will be missed 🙂 ).

    3. Charles Harris says:

      This country will be unrecognizable after covid, and it’s because we decided to prop up the biggest businesses while letting them kill or devour their small business competitors.

      This is a choice.

    4. Tom says:

      Is the the same La Caridad referenced on Seinfeld?

    5. Vincent Mcgowan says:

      What a shame😢
      They opened the year I came home from Vietnam 🇻🇳.
      Great Westside story.
      Vince McGowan

    6. Andrea says:

      I am heartbroken. I loved this restaurant– in particular, the ropa Vieja and the maduros

    7. Erik says:

      This is a huge loss for UWS, have been going over 40 years. Made top 50 NY restaurant list in NYTs

    8. Sue Llewellyn says:

      Not just “Sad, sad, sad” but “Damn. damn, damn!” How many MORE long- and well-loved UWS “institutions” will fall victim to Covid-19—or the other pandemic: Landlords’ greed?!

      • Juan says:

        I, like everyone else here, am very sad that it will be gone. And the loss of all of the small businesses due to the pandemic is horrible. But landlords have nothing to do with it. They also have bills to pay. Granted, they are going to have a hard time replacing this tenant with a new one, so there is an argument to be made for letting them stay at lower rent. But I’m not sure if La Caridad could afford to operate for $1 a month. So the landlord has nothing to do with it.

    9. Pilar Maschi says:

      That video is in correct La Dynastia is still around. I hope.

    10. Spence says:

      I am so sorry to hear this. A neighborhood institution. My faves: roast pork egg foo young and bean sprouts.

    11. Grace Raffaele says:

      This is very sad… their food and their friendliness will be sorely missed. How can we contact them to send our love and well wishes?

    12. Susan says:

      This is the saddest news. So many of us loved this
      restaurant which, by the way, made the greatest coffee!
      The atmosphere was so relaxed, the prices reasonable
      and the waiters knew the customers and often had
      conversations with them. I’ll always remember Clemente
      and others. It was one of a kind from an older down to earth
      New York. A big loss.

    13. Mark D says:

      Oh Noooooooooo!!!this is incredibly sad.

    14. Roger Wolfe says:

      La Caridad will be missed by many of us UWSers. I discovered the restaurant whenI saw all the cabs parked outside and realized that this restaurant had good food at very reasonable prices. Not too many bargains around any more.

    15. Gretchen says:

      Aw, crumbs!! I was hoping against hope they would reopen. I’ve been going there for decades and will miss their great food and nice staff. So sad. Adios, amigos!😢

    16. Amelia says:

      I am so going to miss that restaurant. Home to my pork ribs in black bean sauce and fried plantains. You could see a portrait of the UWS there. Cops and bank employees and kids and every race and ethnicity. And the same sweet guys ladling yellow rice and black beans. I wish there were a way to reach them and thank them.

    17. Kathy Vance says:

      My heart is broken.

    18. Mikema says:

      This is tragic news. What the hell??? I left NYC in 2014 and many of my favorite restaurants are gone. So upset about this.

    19. Victoria Zalatoris says:

      I lived at 321 W78th st from 1972-1989. La Caridad was my kitchen. Loved their Cuban roast pork and Moro rice. Only available on Sat. They also had Cafe con Leche for 50 cents. Restaurant started out with about 5 tables and a 4 seat counter. Expanded over the years but still had its funky modest decor. One of those special places on UWS. Great food, nice people, affordable prices.

      • Stephen Dickstein says:

        The sign of a great restaurant is not just what you liked but what you could count on. Caridad was remarkably consistent from its humble 12 seat taxi stand beginning to its bustling cosmopolitan ethnic expansion. Through all those years Mr. Lee was a gentle task master who served up big portions with along with a big heart. After leaving the city, traveling the world , I have never found an exact replica of the garlic strewn, deep fried pork chops, golden browned sweet plantains served with a generous serving of rice & beans. If there were such a thing that meal alone would have achieved an all time Hall of Fame Status. Respect, Mr. Lee! You and your institution will be missed.

    20. M. Taylor says:

      So sad. As an alternative try Flor De Mayo, 2651 Broadway, 212-663-5520, open 7 days per week for outdoor, and take-out dining: 1:00 PM – 9:00 PM. Their Peruvian chicken is scrumptious!

      • Sydney says:

        Thank you for the recommendation, but what is the cross street??? I’ve lived on the UWS for 49 years and have no idea where that number is.

        Thank you.

        • rteplow says:

          I second the recommendation for Flor de Mayo. It’s near 101st St. There is a second branch on Amsterdam in the low 80s.

          I also love El Malecon, on Amsterdam just above 97th. I’ll often just have the red beans and yellow rice, and maybe a guanabana bated.

    21. Ethan says:

      My neighbors for decades. So sorry to see the place go. They just don’t make ’em like that anymore. Nice little video, by the way.

    22. Russell says:

      West Side Rag, get it right. Sad though the news is, La Caridad was not the last Cuban-Chinese. Head uptown a few blocks!
      https://www.yelp.com/biz/la-nueva-victoria-new-york

      And for pure Cubano, Harlem’s Floridita (plus more farther uptown).

    23. Ella Lasky says:

      Let’s hope Flor de Mayo reopens.

      • Kayson212 says:

        Flor de Mayo on Broadway between 101-102 is indeed reopened, with outside table seating. And very popular to judge by last night.

    24. Wamo says:

      This leaves Dinastia as the last Cuban Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood!

    25. deb says:

      I live in upstate NY now but worked for many years in Manhattan and had family in Washington Heights and the Bronx. THIS is the New York I miss. Of course, my kids live in Brooklyn now . . .

    26. Ken says:

      i will miss this restaurant , just like i will miss La Taza de Oro and all the cuban chinese places on 8th ave and 19th and in Chelsea
      i specifically went to La Caridad just to even pay $ 18 for an oxtail dinner, my obsession….i will miss those memories

    27. Anton & Jasmine says:

      THIS IS SAD! WHY CAN’T WE SAVE THIS BUSINESS! HOW COME ALL THE BANKS, POLITICIANS AND CROOKS GET BAILED OUT? YET THE RESTAURANT WITH A MENU OF FAIRLY PRICED DISHES IN AN OTHERWISE UNAFFORDABLE NEIGHBORHOOD GETS TAKEN DOWN? HOW DOES RED FARM SURVIVE? NO OFFENSE TO RED FARM BUT “LA CARIDAD” IS LEGENDARY. I REMEMBER DINING HERE AFTER GETTING ENGAGED, MARRIED, WIFE RAN THE NYC MARATHON, GOING THERE WITH THE KIDS AFTER SERVING OUR GREAT NATION IN TWO WARS. GREED HAS DESTROYED EVER FACET OF TRUE MULTI-CULTURAL AMERICANA- “LA CARIDAD” ENCAPSULATED THESE VALUES. WE HAVE ENTERED THE DARKEST TIMELINE.

      • Jay says:

        Have you forgotten about the $500 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses?

        This has nothing to do with greed and all about a virus that has shut down our economy and the high costs of operating a business in Manhattan.

    28. Francesca says:

      And so, the he neighborhood goes. I read this just a few minutes after reading that 300 or so homeless people will be moving into the Lucerne Hotel on 78 and Amsterdam on July 27. How long can Nice Matin last. I want someone to say the UWS will get better.

    29. Chris says:

      Does anyone know what happened exactly? They closed very early on —March? without any word. The guys who worked there were the nicest.

    30. CityGirl57 says:

      ouch

    31. Ann March says:

      Very sad indeed. But don’t forget about La Dinastia (Chinese Latin Cuisine), 145 W. 72. They won me over years ago. No doubt they would welcome new business.

      • Arlene says:

        Totally agree!! I’ve been going there longer than I can remember.and they’re just wonderful. I just hope they survive.

    32. Ron says:

      It’s a bad thing to lose a place so good. The dynamics of NYC are tough and at times troubling. Anyway, this business was very good and usually full and still, they are gone. I see this as a bad indicator of other things.

    33. Ted says:

      For me La Caridad could have been called El Corazon. To me it was the heart and soul of the glorious West Side that I moved to 30 years ago. The ancient, ageless and perpetually grumpy staff, the fast, delicious affordable food and of course being forced to share a table with whomever they deemed would be your dining fellow made it a unique and delightful experience. A grievous loss.

    34. Judy says:

      The very best cafe con leche, chicken cracklings, plantain omelet, I could go on and on. Sitting by the window watching the upper west side world go by while sipping cafe con leche, priceless. What a loss!

    35. JL says:

      La Caridad and Big Nick’s anchored that corner of Bway for decades, back when comfort food was also heart healthy :-/. Sorry to see them go.
      At some point, the landlords will need to work out something and help sustain these small businesses. These spaces could remain vacant for years to come. When Penang left that space on Columbus (71st) years ago, they haven’t found a stable tennant since.

    36. Ian Alterman says:

      I am stunned that this has occurred. In fact, I never understood why they closed at all. Even pre-crisis, at least 50% of their business was take-out and delivery, so they could have stayed open and probably done better than most places. And since they have room for tables on both Broadway and 78th Street, they could have opened and had outside service. This just seems like VERY poor planning on their part, or maybe they just didn’t want to stay at all. More than sad.

    37. Guy Halperin says:

      So sad. Thank you La Caridad for so many years, so many meals, and so many memories. Hope to see you around some other place.

    38. Gwenda Blair says:

      I had my first sweet plantain egg foo yung (an off-the-menu specialty) at La Caridad in 1972 and have been addicted ever since, as have my children and grandchildren. Vaya con dios to the wonderful staff.

    39. Alan says:

      The old UWS disappears a bit every day, and Covid is certainly speeding things up.
      But, as others have noted, thankfully, La Dinastia on 72nd between Columbus and Amsterdam, one of the last Latin-Chinese places, holds on. Michael and crew very friendly and the Special Chinese soup is great.

    40. Rebecca says:

      Love Sam Lee’s comment that it wasn’t a restaurant but the kitchen for the UWS. What a loss to the neighborhood. Best wishes to the family — thank you for feeding us for so many years.

    41. wendy says:

      such sad news. Loved their rope vieja and black beans and yellow rice, plantains, etc.

    42. Aron says:

      So, the landlord will seek a new renter. Dah
      After 50 years, he should have given the guy 10 month rent free until things get better; after all, that is what he will have collected with the current vacancy. AND, maybe a year from now the place will still be vacant.

    43. Ladybug says:

      Beefsteak Palomilla and platanos!! I grieve the loss of our neighborhood and all of the businesses that made it a wonderful place to live.

    44. Leslie Rupert says:

      La Caridad is a West Side Institution. It will be missed very much.

    45. Marisela says:

      I’m very SAD, please don’t close it!
      It is very, very Sad. We love this restaurant too much❤💔

    46. stan weinstein says:

      I started eating in this restaurant in the late 50’s when it was not even La Caridad maybe. There was sawdust on the floor, a counter on the left when you walked in and the restroom had a curtain instead of a door. tThe food was always great. I ate there when they expanded and when they retracted as well. So much to say. So sad it’s gone. A true loss.

    47. Annamaria Stefani says:

      A tragic loss for the neighborhood. I’ve been in the area for 44 years and loved the cuisine and the personnel. Goodbye!

    48. Sergio says:

      A happy customer since 1978. Thanks for the memories.Sergio.

    49. Orin says:

      What will the cab drivers do now.? There always seemed to be a number of cabs outside. I used to work at Quetzal, a unique boutique that sold one of a kind wedding dresses. Our favorite lunch was black beans, yellow rice, slide avocado with sliced onion. Hot sauce we had stashed away. Yum.
      Another UWS gem gone.

      • Yana says:

        Wow! I bought my wedding dress in 1992 at Quetzal, but it was a shop on Houston in the west village. Same owners?

    50. buddy says:

      had my first meal there in the december of 92, having arrived in nyc as a student. my brother and his gf and the time took me there. the food was delicious and so affordable, a perfect meal for the “starving student.” my fav there were the beef steak, yellow rice and black beans with a side order of sweet plantain. another fav was the rabo estofado which you could only get during the week.
      great memories and certainly will be difficult to find a replacement

    51. Heather says:

      I am heartbroken! This is a part of my history! My very favorite restaurant in NYC. I’ve been going there my whole life. I am so sad. This is a true loss. We used to call it the Rice and Bean store. I will miss all the waitstaff and cooks and the delicious food. It was home to me!!

    52. Bea says:

      WSR
      You should try to find the owner and show him how much his customers cared about him, his employees and his restaurant. It’s not often that there’s such uniform, positive comments made in your newsletter.

    53. Josh says:

      Wow. I’m so depressed about this. I grew up a few blocks away. I’ve been frequenting La Caridad since I was an adolescent in the early ‘80s. I used to eat there several times per month. As a kid, it was where UWS natives all went to sate our hunger on party nights. Although I now live further uptown, I still loved to go there every few months. Their wanton soup with thick, filling dumplings, chicken egg foo young, and Ropa Vieja with yellow rice and black beans were comfort food staples for me. And don’t forget their goody, crunchy sweet plantains.

      Woe to all Upper West Siders. This disease is kicking the heck out of our old neighborhood. Goodbye old restaurant friend. I weep for you.

      • chris says:

        I remember long ago hearing the waiters say the owners were older and thinking about closing –this is back when they halved the size of the restaurant (5 years ago?). So this could just have been the final straw since they could really have stayed open through the pandemic and still done well. But those waiters deserved better. Maybe they can find a way to take over?

    54. Eric Tarlow says:

      I’ve been a customer for over 40 years and through three generations of family ownership. Irreplaceable. I’ll miss my friends at the counter who knew what I was going to order before I said anything. This is a real loss to our community. Very sad indeed. The restaurant and its staff will be missed.

    55. Mike R says:

      Boneless chicken with yellow rice,side of black beans, and an avocado salad.

      Ordered thousands of times.

      Personally devastated, but truly heartbroken for my friends who worked in the restaurant and delivered come rain or shine.

    56. Valerie says:

      Oh no! La Caridad was one of my favorite places in the city. I live in Washington Heights and haven’t been able to order from there since the quarantine started. But my daughter (who also loves the place) and I were planning to go for my birthday next week. They made the best yellow rice and beans. And the deviled shrimp was delicious. What a loss!

      I feel terrible for their staff.

    57. Daniel Hank says:

      Will really miss this place. Their oxtail, boneless chicken with yellow rice, and sweet plantains were heaven. Thanks for all the great meals Sam.

    58. M Leslie Tabarez says:

      I too am devastated. I live in PA now, but grew up three blocks from La Cardidad and ate there ALL the time. If anyone from PA visited NY, I recommended the place highly. If my husband went to NY, I made him bring me food. Their prices were reasonable and their food out of this world! Their “sopa china especial” was amazing. Someone once asked me why I was speaking Spanish to the waiter. My answer, “I don’t speak Chinese.” They are already missed!

    59. Felix D. Sanabria says:

      New York City is going into a cultural abyss!!! Grew up going to La Caridad. One of my fondest memories was having dinner there with my wife, mother and father. Not to mention going there on Sundays after the Central Park rumbas. When I travel to NYC now it has become more and more difficult to find any good latin cuisine let alone Chino-Criollo. say this now with sadness…. reason number 6874 why we moved out of NYC

    60. Cindy says:

      Can anyone make out the number listed for rent?
      Thanks

    61. Mile says:

      It’s over for NYC… just look at all the shuttered stores.
      Why would anyone pay mega bucks to live here.
      Mike

    62. Gary says:

      Regardless of the best restaurants in Manhattan, I always found myself drifting back here everyone once in a while. Easy atmosphere with very nice staff, and homemade, spectacular food. I’ll miss you guys !

    63. Steven says:

      New Wave diner right across the street is also now permanently closed.

    64. Irwing O says:

      Noooooooo,
      My old time favorite place, I-have been going there since 1982 when I moved to the UWS from Ecuador. took all my American friends there and we all love it. Just like the Owner said in the video its a local Kitcheners and not a restaurant.

      That was the staple of the UWS. I’ll be missing you and thank you for the delicious dishes so affordable also wonderful memories.

    65. Juan says:

      Very sad, this virus has killed everything good in NY, they had the best sesame chicken in the world, you will be truly missed 😢

    66. say-moi says:

      Terrible.. Terrific food a block from my apartment. My children loved this restaurant. They’ll collapse in horror when they find out the restaurant is closing. What a shame.

    67. ZoomZ says:

      Just when you thought things can’t get much worse—-comes this news.
      Broke my heart!!!
      Been eating there since day 1 in 1968.
      Another nail in the coffin of what used to
      be a great Upper West Side.

    68. Jared says:

      No!!!

      So sad.

      A place for regular people, yet so unique and exciting.

    69. Ken Sherrill says:

      A tragedy. They even had good Chow Mein, a staple of my Brooklyn childhood.

    70. Alina says:

      I’m very sad about this. It’s a travesty.

    71. Frank Basile says:

      Jane Jacobs is spinning in her grave…This once great neighborhood is ruined.One more nail in the coffin.

    72. JeffG says:

      Recolte is also fine. Landlord has for rent sign on the window

    73. Ruben Blades says:

      Another nail in the coffin of what made New York special.
      Ate there for the first time in 1974, the last time probably in February of this year. The consistent quality of its food was impressive, portions were generous. It became what a N.Y. neighborhood point of meeting should be. It is sad the city’s administration ignores the damage done to the soul of the city when places like these are allowed to disappear because of economics. Will keep the fine memories! Adios “La Caridad”!

    74. Neighbor says:

      The best, a family place. Their yellow rice & black beans was my little son’s favorite food for years. Both kids grew up on Caridad. I remember when they closed for about 5 yrs ago, but came back. WE WILL MISS YOU!!! Very sad. THANK YOU for being part of so many lives, rain or shine. Will miss the colored lights in the windows welcoming you all year long.

    75. Sam says:

      I no longer live in NYC, but I came here when I came home to visit family.

      Let me please issue a heartfelt plea to those of you who still live in the neighborhood: PLEASE PATRONIZE DINASTIA!!! It’s the last one of these left, and it’s my favorite, and if it goes the way of La Caridad I will be absolutely heartbroken.

    76. Eric says:

      La Caridad was a combination of very good food, unpretentious atmosphere, and great staff. A special thanks to waiters Eugene, Clement, Gary, and Antonio.
      I have eaten there and have had takeout from there thousands of times. Great memories going with V, O, M, and L. It would be great if the West Side Rag can contact the La Caridad owners and, if ok with the owners, provide their email address so we can contact them, say thanks and try to convince them to reopen on the Upper West Side.

    77. Adam L of The Milburn Hotel, another casualty says:

      As I recall, La Caridad didn’t start delivering until the late 90’s. Their spare ribs in black bean sauce ruled.

    78. CLIFF HAMMOND-ADLER says:

      CLEMENT,EUGENE & TONY I AM SO SORRY AND AFTER ALL THIS TIME I WILL MISS YOU GUYS
      I WISH YOU ALL AND YOUR FAMILIES THE VERY BEST OF LUCK AND GOOD HEALTH.

    79. Basilio Voutselakos says:

      I have had hundreds of meals here. Always tasty. Always delicious. Always hot. The busiest restaurant on the UWS. If this place can’t survive how can any restaurant continue to operate. Sad news. RIP old friend.

    80. Marianne says:

      Oh no!!!! I’m so saddened to hear that this staple UWS restaurant with affordable delicious food is closing! I’ve been going there since 1995! So sad. Thank you to the. staff (some are still there 25 years later!!!) and owner for all these years of yummy foods. I loved the shrimp and tomatoes on yellow rice with a fried egg. So sad.

    81. Robin McMillan says:

      I still have the only known gift certificate ever issued by La Caridad, a Valentine’s Day gift from my wife about 25 years ago.

    82. Daniel says:

      For my 2013 New York Times article about a street on the Upper West Side named from Miles Davis, his nephew, Vince Wilburn Jr., told me the following:

      “I was at la Cariadad a few days ago and I saw the same guys who would been there 30 years ago when I used to get food for my uncle. My uncle once asked me to get him a steak sandwich, in the 1970s. I was walking back, and Art Blakey was standing outside the house, talking to my uncle. He took a bite of the sandwich and sent me back to get him one. I was so excited to go get Art Blakey a steak sandwich. Uncle Miles would send me there to get egg drop soup, ox tails, yellow rice and black beans. And some of the same guys are still working there.”

    83. ZoomZ says:

      On March 16, 2020, I celebrated a friend’s birthday at La Caridad. Lunch.
      Was as great as it ever and always was.
      Little did I know that the next day it closed due to Covid-19, never to open again.
      Have been living on the UWS since 1965.
      Hate to say but as of now, what with the virus, crime, homeless and demos, it’s on its way down, way down, and will never be quite the same again, not even as it was 5-7 years ago.
      RIP NYC and the UWS.

      • JL says:

        Not dead yet. Rest assured the virus might be around on some level for awhile, but our response to flair ups will get better and better even without a vaccine (I’ll get a shot no problem). Businesses will leave NYC and others with eventually fill their space large and small.

        The thing that is going to anchor NYC as the premiere world class city will always be the immigrants, and the arts. ALL of the arts.

    84. Jill says:

      The upper west side is did

    85. Rolando Perez says:

      Very Sad will Be Deeply Missed. Would Travel Weekly from NJ Just to Eat in This Restaurant the Very Best of Cuban Food Has Just Vanishes!!!!

    86. Delia says:

      On a cold winter’s day, the big plate glass windows would fog up, the parts that weren’t covered over with old signs from the 1980’s. Affordable special food, a historical mix from before fusion became a restaurant reviewers trope, served promptly, a space filled with UWS characters, all happy to have customers or a table and some time to enjoy the atmosphere.
      This is a great loss for remaining UWS social mix.