29 May 2007

(Very) Little Germany

I must admit, it had been a while since I last wandered around in Yorkville. Nonetheless, I was shocked by what I took in during a recent stroll along Third Avenues from 96th to 86th streets. The chains have completely consumed the area. The street's a soulless mall. I grew physically sick with each successive block.

Needing some solace I hung a left at 86th and headed toward Second. There, I found a bright, albeit thin sliver of individuality and the last beachhead of what was formerly the main German enclave in Manhattan. Standing nearly side by side, divided only by a bakery, are Schaller & Weber, the German sausage emporium and grocery store, and the Heidelberg Restaurant, one of the few eateries in Manhattan to service straight-ahead German cuisine. Residents of the lower reaches of Manhattan know Schaller & Weber from the packaged links they see in the meat department of Gourmet Garage. This is where they come from. (I discovered a new item—cocktail bratwurst—which may become my new passion.)

Heidelberg, meanwhile, is known only to diners who don't follow restaurant trends. This place could be in Illinois, so few are its nods to the swankery of modern-day dining. However, the swells who hang out at the Gowanus Yacht Club would find a lot to like in its miniature outdoor beer garden.

I was sad to see the Elk Candy Company, which was right around the corner, on 86th, has closed. Their marzipan window displays were something to see. Also long gone are Cafe Geiger and the Ideal Restaurant. I did find a Hungarian bakery and a kosher meat market stubbornly hanging on. Watch out, boys. You're surrounded.


Meredith said...

I love Heidelberg! Great food, and a great place to spend a lazy Sunday.

Anonymous said...

The met the man I eventually married @ Barney Googles, 86th B/T 1st&York.
When I last visited, 'several' years ago, I also was disappointed to see what's happened there.
But seems this is happening all over this city. That's why I love your blog. Thanks

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Thanks, anonymous. I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

What a shame that Elk, Geiger and Ideal are gone. Yes, the marzipan at Elk was fabulous, as was the Christmas display that I think stayed all year-round at Cafe Geiger. It was a little dusty and out of scale, but always fun to look at anyway. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

ELK Candy might be coming back but in the hudson valley area the rents in manhattan are to high i might start up the bussiness again if i can find a place that will work for me .Thanks ELK Candy

Anonymous said...

ELK Candy might be coming back in the hudson valley area > Owner ELK Candy

Anonymous said...

ideal - good cheap eatin'.
heidelberg - good slightly pricey eatin'. i go about once a year, just because.

Anonymous said...

The Heidelberg! What memories. Sad to read the Cafe Geiger is no longer. That was a favorite stop for me and my Papa. Nothing says "love" like a seasoned Merchant Marine ordering "himbeersaft" for his daughter to take a swig or three.

Anonymous said...

Richard said..

I remember Cafe Geiger for its' Punch Torte. What a great cake. We lived in Queens and for any birthday we had in our family, we would go to Cafe Geiger to get a Punch Torte. Those poor folks on the subway that had to smell the aroma eminating from the box. Needless to say I had to pick up the cake right around rush hour, so I was squeezed like sardines with everyone looking at me.

Wish I could find a replacement for that wonderful cake!!!

Julian H. Preisler said...

I have a great photo of my parents and grandparents at Cafe Geiger in 1962. The area was also known for a "Central European" flavor and since my family, all holocaust Survivors, were from Germany & what is now the Czech Republic, they felt at home in the area. The culture and foods were what they knew and loved.

Julian H. Preisler
Falling Waters, West Virginia

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Julian: Can you send me the photo at lostcitybrooks@gmail.com? I'd love to see it. I never saw a picture of the inside of Cafe Geiger.