Cafe LukaOct 2nd, 2009 | By Lindsay | Category: This and That
One of my very favorite places to grab a bite to eat in all of New York is a small restaurant located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side named Cafe Luka. The tiny, little cafe also just happens to be the spot where I ate my first ever New York meal on my first ever New York vacation just about four years ago. My family and I actually happened upon the restaurant quite accidentally one freezing cold morning in December of 2004. We had just taken the red-eye in from L.A. as my dad was scheduled to have surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in the upcoming week. Because our plane was due to arrive at 5 O’clock in the morning, my mom had called our hotel at the last minute and added on what she thought was an extra day at the beginning of our trip. That way, as soon as we landed, we could go straight to the hotel and go to sleep. But, as fate would have it, what my mom actually booked was an extra night at the END of our stay. LOL Now you know where I get my air-headedness from. So, there we were at 5 O’clock a.m., exhausted, hungry, and absolutely freezing in the middle of Manhattan with no place to go! Rather than hang out in the hotel lobby until they could get a room ready for us, we instead flagged down a cab-driver and asked him to take us to the nearest open restaurant. That restaurant just so happened to be Cafe Luka. When we arrived, the front door was unlocked, so my parents, my fiancé, and I walked right in and sat down at a booth. As we looked around at the empty seats, my mom said “I don’t think this place is open yet.” My dad, who has absolutely no inhibitions whatsoever, replied “I don’t care if it’s open or not. I’m about to curl up in that booth right there and take a nap.” LOL LOL LOL And curl up he did, right there in the middle of the empty restaurant! A few minutes later a busboy wandered out of the kitchen area, took one look at our motley crew and said “We don’t open for another 45 minutes, but you are welcome to sit here and get warm and I’ll bring you some coffee.” And they say New Yorkers are rude! Well, that was it for us! We had found our new favorite restaurant! My family and I went back for breakfast pretty much every morning during that trip and got to know Cafe Luka’s two owners, Jon and Marc, pretty well. Flash forward to a year later during our next trip to the Big Apple. After landing in NYC, at 5 a.m. yet again, my parents headed to our hotel room – which my mom had managed to book correctly this time – to get some sleep, while my boyfriend and I headed to Cafe Luka for some coffee. When we walked in, Jon greeted us BY NAME and then said “How’s your dad doing?” Well, let me tell you, I almost fell on the floor! I could NOT believe that this guy that we had met so briefly an entire year beforehand not only remembered us, but also recalled our names and the fact that my dad had had surgery! My fiancé, ever the pessimist, said to me “OF COURSE he remembers us! Your dad curled up in one of his empty booths and took a nap!!!!!” LOL LOL LOL Even had my dad not done that, though, I’m pretty sure Jon would have still remembered us. He just seems like that kind of guy. Since that visit we’ve become regular patrons of Cafe Luka, and its sister restaurant Fratelli Brick Oven Pizza, usually eating there several times during our New York vacations. And, without fail, Jon and Marc remember us by name on every single visit! And this review of the restaurant on Insider Pages let me know that we haven’t been alone in our experiences there.
So, last year when we stopped into Cafe Luka for our traditional first-morning-in-New-York-breakfast and Jon asked what we had been up to, I, of course, told him about my blog. My dad piped up and said “Hey, you should write about this place.” To which I replied, “That’s a good idea, but have any celebrities ever eaten here?” Jon laughed and said that he had heard buzzings about celebs every now and again, but had no idea which stars in particular had actually dropped by. That’s the difference between L.A. and New York – while Angelinos pretend they are too cool to care about celebrities, New Yorkers actually are too cool – or too busy, for that matter – to care. LOL Anyway, Jon told me that several New York sports stars stop in to eat at the cafe on a regular basis, but I couldn’t tell you specifically who, as I pretty much tune out whenever people start talking sports to me. But my ears did perk up when he mentioned that Conan O’Brien stops in to Cafe Luka every morning for a cup of coffee and that Eric Roberts dined next door at Fratelli with some fellow actors shortly after it opened last year. Of course, Jon didn’t know either Conan or Eric by name – he referred to Eric Roberts as the actor with the really famous sister who has curly hair and to Conan as the red-headed comic with a TV show LOL – so I had to play a bit of a guessing game to figure out who he was talking about. Anyway, I decided that if Cafe Luka is good enough for Conan O’Brien and Eric Roberts, it’s definitely good enough for my blog.
And while I’ve never spotted Conan grabbing his daily cup of coffee while eating at Cafe Luka, I honestly can’t recommend stalking the place enough. Besides the great service (that’s me and owner Marc pictured above), they also serve up some of the BEST chicken strips, mashed potatoes, and chicken noodle soup that I’ve ever tasted! What can I say? I am WAY into comfort food. Their sister restaurant, Fratelli, which is located right next door, is equally as tasty! Especially the pizza!
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: Cafe Luka is located at 1319 1st Avenue #A on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Their sister restaurant, Fratelli Brick Oven Pizza, is located right next door at 1317 1st Avenue.