West Siders Wait Hungrily for Saiguette and Cafe Lalo to Reopen, But Information is Scarce

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!

FOOD, NEWS | 22 comments | permalink
    1. A says:

      Lalo has been under renovation with that scaffolding for 25 years

    2. Kayson212 says:

      Would also love to know the future of Szechuan Garden on West 105th. It’s posted a succession of fall opening dates on Yelp, but none have come to pass.

    3. Tony says:

      On another topic, Pastrami Queen delayed their UWS opening by a week from Dec 1. Looking forward!

      • PastramiBliss says:

        2nd Avenue deli demanded they take my temperature and I should write my zip code in their log book using their filthy pen on an order I placed TO GO. I refused and was thrown out. Welcome Pastrami Queen!

    4. SaiguetteFan says:

      FYI – Yelp has had a “Scheduled to reopen on X date” label on Saiguette for the last 6 months and the date has been pushed back about 4-5 times. In that sense, I’m not optimistic that the new Dec. 31 date is all that meaningful, but my fingers are crossed!

    5. Blades says:

      Good to hear about Saiguette Vietnamese. Missing their comfort food as I write from North Carolina

    6. Mark Moore says:

      Sunflower Cafe on Amsterdam closed if anyone cares.

    7. Amy says:

      Never mind about these – what about The Cottage?!!?

      • Sue says:

        WSR reported on April 20 – permanently closed..

      • HelenD says:

        It was permanently closed quite awhile ago. 🙁

      • Carlos says:

        So sad Cottage is gone. They were our go-to – not the best food but consistently solid and very fast delivery. Does anyone have a go-to Chinese place that delivers to the low 80s? Han Dynasty is good but a little pricy and we just like the basics. But I am nervous about some of the more dive-type places. Thanks!

        • kippervasser says:

          Carlos, try King Food Chen on Amsterdam between 83rd and 84th Streets (phone 212-787-1888). When you’re hankering for takeout Chinese, it’s cheap and tasty. There’s nothing fancy about the place but you can easily get a decent meal there for under $20. Bonus: the portions are generous so you’ll often end up with enough leftovers for a second meal.

          • Carlos says:

            Thanks for the recommendation. There’s a few places in the area like that and I wasn’t sure if they were legit or not (nothing like getting sick from bad Chinese food). I will give it a try.

    8. Anne says:

      Word has it the cottage is not coming back 🙁

    9. UpperWest says:

      Here’s hoping Lalo opens again with the twin scourges of the pandemic and seemingly chronic, perpetual scaffolding unambiguously relegated to the trash heap of history. Please! They deserve better than this.

    10. x says:

      Cafe Lalo is overpriced and not good, still riding that “You Got Mail” high. $12 for bland cheesecake, no thanks.

      Saiguette is amazing and I’ll miss it very much.

      • Jerry says:

        I think it helps to know what to order at Lalo–many pies and other dishes are quite good. Cheesecake is not their thing.

    11. Mary says:

      There’s also now a homeless encampment on the steps of Lalo

    12. Please be safer says:

      Walked by Holy Schnitzel this evening and it was packed…tables too close together, nobody wearing masks, and a line building inside too for take out or waiting for tables. So dangerous to our community

    13. Diane says:

      Dearly wish Saiguette would reopen.

      I made the trek to Vietnaam 88 on the East Side to get their Laksa and, while good, it’s just not the same as Saiguette’s!

      I always thought Saiguette’s chef was a genius but now I have even more proof of it. Saiguette had incredibly nuanced layers of flavor and I despair of ever getting “their” style of cooking elsewhere.

      I asked Vietnaam 88 staff about Saiguette and they had no news about re-opening plans. Please be sure to post any news of their comeback.