A Beatnik Staple Returns To Greenwich Village
Manhattan is in the midst of a peak creative revival, and with that inspired energy comes the return of a beloved Beatnik hang, Figaro Café. The historic Greenwich Village coffee shop is back, thanks to husband and wife duo, Mario and Marta Skaric and partner, Florence Zabokritsky. The group’s modern interpretation of the iconic café reimagines Figaro Café is a cocktail bar and modern American restaurant, serving its fare in a completely reimagined space that channels the timeless elements of the original ‘50s and ‘60s design.
Previously known for drawing crowds of famous writers and successful artists during its heyday, the contemporary Figaro Cafe promises to be a gathering spot for cocktail connoisseurs and neighborhood crowds alike.
The original Le Figaro Café opened in 1957, named for the French daily newspaper, Le Figaro. Big names of the beat generation gathered to sip espresso and share ideas here — Jack Kerouac was known to write in the space (and started jazz poetry nights there), Bob Dylan worked on his first album in these walls and Lenny Bruce would hang after his sets at Gaslight Café (The Marvelous Mrs Maisel fans get it). Lou Reed, Allen Ginsberg, Al Pacino and Sam Shepard were also noted regulars at the neighborhood staple that channeled the energy of an artistic downtown crowd.
Before closing in 2008, Le Figaro Café went through numerous iterations. Now, its new owners are trying to recreate the energy of the venue, though barely any original elements remained, saved for the venue’s iconic wallpaper made from issues of its namesake Parisian publication.
“When we dove into researching the significance of the space, we knew we wanted to be a part of the long and storied history of Figaro,” says Skaric. “We would pay proper homage to it and give it a new life as a gathering space for modern crowds.”
Figaro Café’s new incarnation is less coffee shop, more restaurant and cocktail bar. The venue keeps the spirit of the original alive with top-notch mixology – an extensive cocktail list focuses on classics, reimagined. A Figaro Negroni infuses the classic recipe with grapefruit liqueur, and the Uppers and Downers, a take on an espresso martini, keeps it sweet with maple syrup, and caffeinated with Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur (both signature libations are available on draft). The selection also offers playful takes on the Mai Tai – here dubbed the Oh, Mai! and topped off with overproof rum. A lighter brunch option than the standard Bloody Mary called the Hang On Little Tomato makes inventive use of tomatillo juice and a dash of Chareau Aloe Liqueur.
A comprehensive list of martinis and a selection of spiritless cocktails so everyone can partake. “Where once you would sip on an espresso, now you can sip on an espresso martini,” says Skaric. A Pumpkin Spiced Espresso Martini is perfect to sip on by the picture windows and watch the downtown crowds bustle by.
A menu of modern American cuisine accompanies the cocktails: Oysters and shrimp cocktail, beef tartare and bone marrow. A selection of flatbreads offers a light bite, and a heartier menu of steaks, chops and fish are seared on the grill. Linger over cheese fondue service with thick cut bacon, or tear into the signature Bleecker Street Burger, a seven ounce short rib and brisket patty topped with caramelized onions and spicy aioli served on a house-made brioche bun.
The classic Le Figaro Café was known for its sweets, and the new incarnation carries on this tradition with decadent offerings like a lemon whipped cheesecake and baked s’mores alaska for two (a graham blondie with chocolate ice cream and marshmallow meringue). Although coffee is no longer a main focus, sample a taste of the past thanks to Porto Rico Coffee, a third-generation owned coffee company just a few doors down in the West Village. The current owner’s grandfather provided coffee for the original café, so it made sense the modern incarnation gets its coffee from the Longo family, who still owns the operation.
All of this is served in a space that channels the classic ‘50s with twists that are both modern and timeless. The wide banquettes, fluted wood, large mirrors, deep and comfy chairs will make fans of the world’s best cocktail bars and lounges feel right at home. The centerpiece of the space is a 25-foot bar, with imposing columns and high shelves along with a library ladder to reach the top shelf bottles. Figaro Café would look markedly different to fans of the original, save for one element: original issues of Le Figaro from the ‘50s and ‘60s still line the walls. When Skaric was designing the space with DM Design, they found these vintage papers in a Parisian archive and decided to replicate a piece of the original decor.
Skaric hopes Figaro Café will invite new guests to experience a piece of history, along with some of the storied neighborhood’s lost magic. “I think Figaro adds to a wave of reawakening Greenwich Village – for too long exuberant rents made the area into a neighborhood of empty storefronts. Landlords filled the spaces with fast food spots, chain restaurants or banks” he says. “The new Figaro Café can be what the old one was – a neighborhood oasis, everyone’s favorite go-to bar, a choice for a family night out or a date. We think we created just that.”
Figaro Café is located at 184 Bleecker Street, on the Southeast Corner of Bleecker Street and MacDougal. It is open for lunch from 11:30am – 3:30pm Monday – Friday and for dinner from 5pm – 10pm Monday – Sunday.