Get us in your inbox

The Cornelia Street Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy of DW labs Incorporated/Shutterstock

16 NYC businesses New Yorkers want to bring back from the dead

The Cornelia Street Cafe! The Palladium! Yaffa Cafe!

Anna Rahmanan
Shaye Weaver
Written by
Anna Rahmanan
Shaye Weaver

Especially since the pandemic, New Yorkers have gotten used to a new local world order: favorite restaurants have shuttered, bars have indefinitely closed their doors and only-in-NYC shopping meccas are no more. 

Here, change has always been a part of life as places we once frequented often become a beloved memory, but things in the last few years have been a slightly bit more heartbreaking, indicative of wider shifts within the economy.

In an ode to all that once was, we asked New Yorkers on Instagram, Facebook and X (the platform formerly known as Twitter), which shuttered New York City businesses they would like to bring back from the dead. 

Sure, the answers were painful to read through but they also catapulted us smack-dab in the middle of a vat of oh-so-sweet nostalgia, which happens to be a pretty popular emotion in this town. 

Below, we've rounded up some of the best responses we got across all platforms, highlighting the most-missed NYC businesses that people would bring back in a heartbeat:

1. Sammy's Noodle Shop

The beloved Sammy's Noodle Shop in the West Village, where locals would devour Chinese dim sum and excellent barbecue fare, abruptly closed during the pandemic.

“It was my spot for the last 25 years,” Augusto Kortright said on Facebook. “I loved that place [and] I was sad they closed down.”

2. The Palladium

Perhaps the most iconic NYC nightclub throughout the 1990s, The Palladium on East 14th Street was built in 1927 as a movie palace. It was eventually used as a rock concert venue until its conversion to a nightclub by the same folks behind the just-as-famous Studio 54. In 1997, New York University bought The Palladium, demolished it and built a 12-story residence hall dubbed Palladium Hall in its stead. 

"Every time I walk by and remember it's not an NYU dorm, I cringe," said Jenny Green Powers on Facebook.

3. Yaffa Cafe 

It was a kitsch-crammed, round-the-clock basement hang in the East Village that served up quasi-Middle Eastern food on the cheap with a lovely garden in the back. It was a hangout for many because it stayed open 24 hours. Sadly, it closed in 2014 after the city shut it down because of health and code violations, according to Eater.

Clearly, the space resonated with the citizenry: Yaffa Cafe was, by far, one of the most popular responses we got across all social media platforms. Also constantly mentioned was the destination's carrot dressing, served with a delicious avocado salad.

Yaffa Cafe
Photograph: Yaffa Cafe

4. J&R

If you needed any electronics or needed to grab a CD, you'd head to one of J&R's locations, including its stretch of stores on Park Row in the Civic Center. It had been in business since 1971 when it closed in 2014.

But J&R wasn't the only music-related endeavor that folks on social thought of when asked about the businesses they missed most: Kim's Video, Colony Music Store and Tower Records were also mentioned quite often.

5. Cafe Noir

After spending nearly two decades in Soho, Café Noir moved to Tribeca in 2014 to continue serving the sorts of North African shared dishes that many New Yorkers credit with them to the cuisine in the first place. Unfortunately, though, the destination officially shuttered a mere 15 months after its debut, in 2015.

It's worth noting that the majority of respondents made it clear that it is the "Soho location" that they would bring back from the dead.

6. The Cornelia Street Cafe

The Cornelia Street Café, a hub of the bohemian arts scene in Greenwich Village, closed in 2019 after an impossible rent increase. It was a warm and inviting gathering place and incubator for songwriters, storytellers, theater-makers, musicians and visual artists since 1977. Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues debuted in the venue's cozy basement space in 1996. Tightrope walker Philippe Petit honed his juggling skills on a wire strung from trees. Suzanne Vega and the Roches performed there early in their careers; comedians including John Oliver, Amy Schumer and Hannibal Buress have worked out jokes there. Perhaps even Lady Gaga worked there.

The Cornelia Street Cafe
Photograph: Courtesy of DW labs Incorporated/Shutterstock

7. Pearl Paint

Set on Canal Street in Soho, Pearl Paint was a creative center for many of the artists living in the area for 50 years. Sure it had been worn out toward its end in 2014, but its staff had expertise in the products and it became a staple because of that, according to The Observer.

8. The Coffee Shop in Union Square

After 28 years at its corner in Union Square and regularly appearing on HBO’s Sex and the City, the coffee shop—a fashion hotspot for the who's who of NYC and solid meeting place for everyone else—closed up in 2018 and was replaced by a bank. 

9. The 21 Club

21 Club was a restaurant and a former Prohibition-era speakeasy, perhaps the very last of its kind.

Fun fact: virtually every single American President since Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited the spot until its closing in 2020 during the pandemic. It’s unclear where the wine collections of celebrities like Sophia Loren and Richard Nixon, which were stored in a secret cellar on premises, now are.

"[We] used to have our office holiday parties there," said Toni Woods. "They gave away a trip on the Orient Express!"

10. Gray’s Papaya in Greenwich Village 

Now a mini-chain, Gray's Papaya started serving its legendarily cheap hot dogs and tropical juice drinks in Greenwich Village decades ago until, according to CBS News, rent increases forced it to close that branch in 2014. Today, New Yorkers can indulge in the inexpensive and delicious food at the Broadway and 72nd Street location uptown.

11. Urge

The East Side bi-level haunt for muscle queens and downtown hipsters alike was absolutely iconic, part of a string of gay bars in the area that are now all gone (besides The Cock, which still stands strong). This particular destination closed right after New Year’s in 2013.

12. Donna in Williamsburg

After nearly a decade in business, Williamsburg cocktail bar Donna closed in December 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. Although folks are still mourning the loss of such an amazing Brooklyn destination, New Yorkers have been delighted to visit the newest iteration of the business at 7 Cornelia Street, now a worker-owned restaurant and cocktail bar.

13. Rizzoli Bookstore on West 57th Street

Rizzoli Bookstore, the destination par excellence for illustrated books and foreign language tomes, now stands tall in the St. James Building at 1133 Broadway in NoMad, but New Yorkers are still reeling from the loss of the shop’s former location on West 57th Street. It was, after all, absolutely stunning inside.

Following its 2014 lease expiration, Rizzoli moved to its current address. 

14. The original FAO Schwarz

Yes, FAO Schwarz is back at Rockefeller Center, but there is nothing like the original store on Fifth Avenue with its robot elevator and massive floor plan spanning all kinds of toys. It closed in 2015 due to rental costs.

FAO Schwarz
Photograph: Jessica LinFAO Schwarz

15. Barneys

When iconic department store Barneys ceased operations in February 2020, the fashion world at large and New York in particular went into some sort of mourning. Clearly, people still haven’t gotten over the shock of the loss.

16. Dean & Deluca

In 2019, NYC faced a harsh reality—a city without a Dean & Deluca. The upscale grocery store was a staple for those looking for special foods like high-quality baked goods, artisan sandwiches, fancy oils and shiny fruit. For many of us, the prices weren't in reach and sadly, it closed its flagship store in Soho in 2019 while it faced bankruptcy. 

Pretty ironically, the chain was the embodiment of New York attitude: we spent years complaining about the prices at Dean & Deluca, avoiding the shop for cheaper options, but now constantly mention it as a local business we wish would make a comeback.

Dean & DeLuca
Photograph: Dean & DeLuca

What NYC business would you bring back?

Popular on Time Out

    More on city identity

      You may also like
      You may also like