Monday, December 17, 2007

"Aspired to opulent excellence"

"When winter came, the candy stores and cafeterias replaced parks as forums to debate politics and art. People gathered at candy stores "to discuss politics and unionism." Local kids "made pocket change by hanging out at Leboff's candy store [one of five on Charlotte street], and calling people to the phone." Hoffman's Cafeterias on Pitkin, Flatbush, and Brighton Beach Avenues also entered the radical element. (Irving) Howe recalled that "in the winter, when the Bronx is gray and icy, there were cafeterias in which the older comrades, those who had jobs or were on WPA, bought coffee while the rest of us filled the chairs." Other cafeterias, like Dubrow's or Garfield's in Brooklyn, aspired to opulent elegance. Garfield's dubbed itself "a cafeteria of refinement." Located on the corner of Church and Flatbush Avenues, diagonally across from the Reformed Dutch Protestant Church, Garfield's boasted an interior decorated with mosaics done in Art Moderne style. Dubrow's, a dairy cafeteria, also served as a neighborhood meeting spot with its attractive location by the elevated station, on a shopping street like King's Highway."

(At Home In America: Second Generation New York Jews, by Deborah Dash Moore, 1981)

Now, a few questions about this. First, could Garfield's and Dubrow's had the same tagline to describe themselves? Because this post indicates that Dubrow's advertised itself as being "a cafeteria of refinement" - yet here it says Garfield's used that line.

Furthermore, this post indicates that the Dubrow's on King's Highway had a very modern decor, using mosaic. This is how the author (who cites a number of different sources for this particular passage, including the reputable Irving Howe) describes Garfield's. Could Garfield's and Dubrow's BOTH have had mosaic in their decor? Or is she mixing up Garfield's with Dubrow's?


Anonymous said...

I have only a vague memory of Garfield Cafeteria on Flatbush Avenue. When I was about 5 years old my parents bought me a huge balloon at Prospect Park and after we went to lunch at nearby Garfield's. I let go of the balloon and I remember it lifting up toward a ceiling that seemed 3 stories high. Miraculously my mother claims my father went to the cafeteria the next day and someone had retrieved the balloon from the ceiling and he brought it home to me.
My impression of Garfield's interior was of a huge plain space with probably a mural.

I do have the photos to prove that Dubrows had mosaics on the exterior and against the rear wall fountain. Also, when doing research on Kings Highway at the Brooklyn archives of the Brooklyn Public Library I found an ad for Dubrow's saying "a cafeteria of refinement". I suspect the author has reversed some things in their memory.

More importantly - the Kings Hwy Dubrow's wasn't dairy only - my mother always spoke of having steamship beef there. Was Garfield Cafeteria a dairy only place?


Eve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eve said...

I wondered about that too - I also read that and thought that seemed strange because I didn't recall Dubrow's being Kosher dairy. I'm not sure whether it was Kosher at all.

It sounds like the author mixed up Dubrow's and Garfield's. Thank you for chiming in to confirm this for me.

Somehow when it's a book I am more likely to want to believe it must be true.