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.
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.
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 🙂 ).
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.
Is the the same La Caridad referenced on Seinfeld?
What a shame😢
They opened the year I came home from Vietnam 🇻🇳.
Great Westside story.
I am heartbroken. I loved this restaurant– in particular, the ropa Vieja and the maduros
This is a huge loss for UWS, have been going over 40 years. Made top 50 NY restaurant list in NYTs
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?!
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.
That video is in correct La Dynastia is still around. I hope.
Exactly also neuva victoria. The person who made this video most likely is not from NYC
I am so sorry to hear this. A neighborhood institution. My faves: roast pork egg foo young and bean sprouts.
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?
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.
Oh Noooooooooo!!!this is incredibly sad.
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.
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!😢
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.
My heart is broken.
Mine too…Loved the food. Loved the staff. They will be missed.
Mine too! The “muchachos” were my amigos!!!
This is tragic news. What the hell??? I left NYC in 2014 and many of my favorite restaurants are gone. So upset about this.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
West Side Rag, get it right. Sad though the news is, La Caridad was not the last Cuban-Chinese. Head uptown a few blocks!
And for pure Cubano, Harlem’s Floridita (plus more farther uptown).
Let’s hope Flor de Mayo reopens.
Flor de Mayo on Broadway between 101-102 is indeed reopened, with outside table seating. And very popular to judge by last night.
This leaves Dinastia as the last Cuban Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood!
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 . . .
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
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.
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.
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.
Does anyone know what happened exactly? They closed very early on —March? without any word. The guys who worked there were the nicest.
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.
Totally agree!! I’ve been going there longer than I can remember.and they’re just wonderful. I just hope they survive.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now you tell me: Sweet plantain egg fu young! That’s my path not taken.
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.
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.
such sad news. Loved their rope vieja and black beans and yellow rice, plantains, etc.
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.
Beefsteak Palomilla and platanos!! I grieve the loss of our neighborhood and all of the businesses that made it a wonderful place to live.
La Caridad is a West Side Institution. It will be missed very much.
I’m very SAD, please don’t close it!
It is very, very Sad. We love this restaurant too much❤💔
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.
A tragic loss for the neighborhood. I’ve been in the area for 44 years and loved the cuisine and the personnel. Goodbye!
A happy customer since 1978. Thanks for the memories.Sergio.
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.
Wow! I bought my wedding dress in 1992 at Quetzal, but it was a shop on Houston in the west village. Same owners?
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