By Amelia Roth-Dishy
The futures of Saiguette and Café Lalo, two distinctly beloved Upper West Side restaurants, remain fuzzy. The neighborhood institutions have both been closed for a prolonged period of time and patrons are wondering what to expect as the new year approaches.
A sign in front of Café Lalo, the longtime fixture at 201 West 83rd Street best known for its starring role in You’ve Got Mail, reads: “Cafe Lalo is closed for renovation. We apologize for the inconvenience. Thank you.” Their phone line is disconnected. Readers have sent us anxious messages. “We went by the other day and it was stone silent,” one wrote. “They’ve been closed since the pandemic and seem to now say they are under construction but doesn’t appear anything is going on there,” wrote another.
The café remained open at the beginning of the pandemic and was exploring outdoor seating as late as June. The Rag has not been able to reach the managers for comment, and we were unable to get information on its status via Community Board 7.
Saiguette, the popular mom-and-pop Vietnamese spot on 106th Street and Columbus Avenue, was part of the initial slate of Upper West Side restaurants that closed back in mid-March. Rolling gates are pulled down in the storefront and the side window. While there is nothing posted onsite, their webpage reads, “We are temporarily closed, sorry for the inconvenience.” Their answering machine states that they are temporarily closed and not taking messages.
The team behind Saiguette also operates a restaurant called Vietnaam 88 at 1700 2nd Avenue, which is still doing business. (You can order for pickup or delivery here.) The owners and managers have not been available to answer repeated requests for comment in person or by phone.
“They’re just a really good restaurant,” Peter Arndsten, the District Manager of the Columbus-Amsterdam BID, said. “We haven’t seen anything clearly stating that they’re not coming back, but at the same time, I don’t know.”
Saiguette’s Yelp page is full of loyal customers bemoaning the restaurant’s closure and praying for their return. “Week after week since the city’s shut-down we’ve been calling you like we’re stalking an ex, aching for you to pick up on the other end,” one reviewer wrote.
However, the Yelp page also now reads, “Scheduled to reopen on December 31, 2020.” This is a new development that we will track closely.
In the meantime, two other Vietnamese restaurants have opened in the area since the pandemic began. As the Rag reported last week, Banh Vietnamese Shop House at 942 Amsterdam Avenue has been besieged by crowds since it began a series of “soft-openings” last month before transitioning to a full-time operation. Another restaurant called Miss Saigon opened last week at 928 Amsterdam Avenue, just down the street. Both restaurants are a block away from Saiguette.
If Rag readers are in touch with management at either of these two restaurants and have any tips, please let us know!