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Does Anyone Remeber the Shanghai Cafe on 126th & Broadway?

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Does anyone remember the Shanghai Cafe on Broadway just north of 125th street? It closed in the early 80's more or less. Family legend has it that it is the first restaurant I ever ate at while in a stroller.

I have been on a semi-perpetual quest for their hot and sour soup.

Not just nostalgia, the food there was some of the best Chinese I ever ate. From the beef with black bean sauce to the shrimp with lobster sauce, it really defined excellent old school NY Chinese.

No wonder they closed; most of the waiters were in their 60's or older at that point.

I don't think I ever ate a bad morsel there. What I would give for one more meal there, or at least some of their Hot and Sour...

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  1. Yes, I remember eating there often and also at Tien Tsin which was right around the corner, on 125 Street. I happened to be back up there a couple of years ago and enjoyed the Chinese Cuban place that is directly accross Broadway from Shanghai Cafe or where it was.

    1. I ate there many times. Here is their business card enlarged to 8 x 10. I would love to get my hands on a menu, even just a take out menu. There has to be one around somewhere. Enjoy.

      2 Replies
      1. re: budlift

        Quite an old thread to revive: yes, I ate there many times in the early 1970's when it was a great alternative to Moon Palace. But it was a dicey area--a friend was there once for dinner and the whole place was robbed by two guys with guns...after emptying the wallets, etc, they left and everyone just kept eating. I don't recall if everyone had an IOU with the management!

        1. re: penthouse pup

          Yes it was an old thread to revive!
          Here also is an outside shot (restaurant was closed). The card and this photo are from about 1971 or 1972. I fond them in my stuff recently.

      2. My wife and I used to eat there in the late sixties. I seem to recall a whole deep fried fish and fried dumplings were favorites. At the time eating uptown seemed somewhat exotic. The food was good and unusual compared to Chinatown and Upper east side Chinese.

        1. I don't usually read the Manhattan board, but I've been in NYC a lot lately and caught this ancient thread posted by Striper, familiar Boston poster, that revived many fond memories.
          Ate frequently at Shanghai Cafe back in early '70s as a Manhattan School of Music student and Claremont Ave. resident (a neighborhood called "White Harlem," by George Carlin, who grew up there). Chowed down a lot at Moon Palace, too, as well as the Cuban/Chinese place on Broadway under the El. There was a good Indian place on 125th Street, too, near Amsterdam.
          But my go-to was Tom's Diner, immortalized by Suzanne Vega and Seinfeld. Wish I could remember the name of the aging waitress who always treated us royally while we scarfed down the cheeseburger special or the patitisio, best I ever had -- though that's probably nostalgia talking, same as Striper's memory of his hot and sour soup. Thomas Wolfe had it right, at least in the case of food memories: you can't go home again.

          2 Replies
          1. re: katzzz

            Her name was Betty, and she was there for a long, long time.

            1. re: penthouse pup

              Thank you, Pup. I loved Betty, as did we all.

          2. My parents used to take me there in the 1950s. My father spoke some Shanghai dialect Chinese and found out that he and the owner had some common acquaintances from Shinaghai in the early 1940s. If I remember correctly, the owner said he could not make it downtown because no one understood Shanghai cuisine and he figured that he would have at least some chance of success uptown where the Columbia Univ. people might appreciate his food. I went back in the late 1970s and he remembered me. The food was great back in the 1950s and it was great when I went back in the late 1970s. You're probably right that it closed sometime in the early 1980s because I tried to go back in the late 1980s and it was gone. Thanks for bringing back some great memories.

            1. I would go there in the 1950's when I was at City College. I would often rendezvous with friends who were at Columbia.

              I pointed an old friend to this thread and he remenisced:

              "They used to take reservations only for groups of 6 or more.
              Once 6 of us were planning to go, and Leon made
              a reservation. But 2 people cancelled, so there were only 4
              of us. We got on line, as of course we had to It was a big
              line, and we began to feel guilty at the sight of an empty table
              laid for 6. So Leon went to the phone booth near the front
              door, phoned the Shanghai Cafe, and cancelled. We saw
              the manager take the call but didn't hear what he said. When
              Leon came back, we asked him. "He said," said Leon, "Never
              come again!"

              1. My recollection is that in the early 1960s it had the first hot & sour soup in NYC, popular though it later became.

                Its proprietor, named Misha for sure, Foo perhaps, had come here from Moscow's Chinatown, which evaporated with the Revolution, and so could speak Russian with my father, who would sometimes claim he learned Chinese during WWII.

                Didn't the physicists develop the theory of the nonconservation of parity there?

                1. I remember the place well from the 1950's and 60's. First one should clarify that is was on Broadway between 125th and 129th streets. 125th street bends north and by the time it reaches Broadway 129th street is the next street north. The place was largely setup with long shared tables. The sweet and sour pork was totally perfect, I can't recall any better since then. Originally on the south side of 125th street near broadway was the competing Tien Tsien. That establishment later moved to more upscale quarters on the north side of 125th street. Back in those days parking was never an issue and it was no big deal to drive up to Harlem for some great chinese food.

                  1. I'm so glad someone added to this thread after all these years. I went to the Shanghai Cafe in the mid-fifties with my father who knew it from his journalist colleagues. We loved it then and I lived in Morningside Gardens when it was first built. My mother bought a two bedroom apartment there for $6000 in 1957. We also went to the Great Shanghai on 103rd & Broadway. Also, some time in the late sixties or early 70s we went to what I think was the first Szechuan restaurant in NY on Broadway around 95th, I think. It may not have been the first one but I know that I had never had spicy Chinese food before. My brother had been traveling all over the middle east and south Asia and liked all exotic fare. We ordered a whole carp and my brother may have been the only one to eat it and the head as well. We were all shocked by it, at the time.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Mir535

                      Hi! Accolytes, I want to take all the credit for reviving this thread! See restaurant photo and biz card above!

                      It seems like many were hear much earlier than I was.

                      In the Jersey 'burbs with egg rolls and egg drop soup and spare ribs and shrimp with lobster sauce ... I don't know whether we were getting authentic Cantonese or not. I somewhat doubt it. Bot for me then, Chinese food was someplace you went with your mom and didn't enjoy even a little.

                      And then Shanghai Café! Now with the comments. I realize this mainland Chinese food was being offered in New York far before what I thought of as the Szechuan Revolution.

                      And now, where does one get Chinese food that is edible. I leave near Philadelphia, there is a six restaurant "chain" I can recommend Han Dynasty.

                      But where in New York comrades....