Life Cafe: Life Story > Press

Kathy Life presents her talk from her book “How Life Began” at Mercer College on April 17, 2010.

A Walk in the East Village

Into the Garden

Check out this great history of Life Café on Bushwick BK!

New York Times – At The Table – “Easing Into the Day Where Night Life Reins”

CNN iReport “How Life Café in NYC is Surviving the Economy”

CNN iReport “Life Café the Photos”

The Villager: Life Café is Still Alive and Kicking in the East Village (Mayoral Declaration of “Life Café Day in New York City!)

New York Magazine Restaurant Guide:

Life Café East Village “8.3 Recommended”

Life Café 983 Brooklyn “9.0 Highly Recommended”

Zagat User Reviews of Life Café East Village!

Intelligencer – The East Village as a socioeconomic historical reenactment.
March 28, 2005
By Ben Lerman
New York

When the musical Rent opened in 1996, it was already something of a period piece: the singing, dancing, squat-dwelling neighborhood was giving way to $1,600 moderately aspirational one-bedrooms on Avenue A. When Rent the movie (starring Rosario Dawson and Taye Diggs) spent a few days shooting exteriors in the East Village last week – the bulk of the movie films, tellingly, in San Francisco – those same apartments were pushing $3,000. “I can’t really afford to live in the city,” said Paul, a locations assistant, who’s moving back to Connecticut. Kate, a production assistant, was staying with her brother. When the movie’s over, she’ll go back to her mom’s in Philly. Then there was Kathy Kirkpatrick, the 54-year-old owner of the nearby Life Cafe, the eminently featured gathering spot in the musical. She and her ex-husband built the place from scrapped wood and reconfigured fixtures in 1981. They originally paid rent in trade for fixing it up. “Jonathan Larson wrote Rent in Life Cafe,” said Kirkpatrick. Last June, the café’s rent doubled to $9,000 a month.

October 23-30, 1997
By Gillian Fassel
Time Out New York

A friend of mine counts Life Cafe among her favorite places to drink because, she says, it’s got really great lighting. I love Life because (a) it has food and (b) the food is good – but mostly because it has food. Here, you can meet a large group for drinks in a festive setting and not have to worry about who’s going to get sick because they haven’t eaten since noon and are now pounding pints of Saranac like there’s no tomorrow. My favorite dish at the moment is the grilled Swiss, bacon and avocado sandwich ($5.95), through there’s been more than one fuzzy moment in which I’ve proclaimed Life’s burger ($6.95) the best in New York.

November 1997
By Ted Allen
Esquire – Man at his Best

Thus, we give you the festive elixirs of three saloon keepers who know how to strap it on for Santa. Who have come down the mixological mountain to testify as to what shall henceforth be known as chick and cool and sophisticated, holiday-cocktailwise. People who practice at libational temples where you can’t get a table (Life Café in the East Village) or a room (Bar Marmont at Hollywood’s hip Chateau Marmont) or a seat (the Matchbox, a glowing trapezoid on a gritty Chicago corner, which sports more brands of beer than barstools).

Step, then, into the confines of Iggy Pop and the Rent kits – a crowd that surely needs comforting and that occasionally finds same at Life Café via Life’s Hot Toddy. More medicine than beverage, if the lemon-and-bourbon concoction doesn’t kill your chill, you’re on a mountain someplace with Jon Krakauer. “It’s not even about drinking,” explains manager Tyler Williams, “It’s about feeling good.”

New York City Restaurants

A “comfortable joint” with a “fresh”, “tasty” Vegetarian-Eclectic-Health Food menu that attracts a “grungy” East Village crowd; it’s a “good place to take out-of-towners” to observe Downtown life forms. Rating: 15, 14, 14, $16

Sunday, March 5, 2006
The New York Times Magazine

This is Bushwick as seen from the banquette at Life Café Nine83, a cool place with mostly comfort food (meatloaf, fried chicken) and a few vegan options. There is also a new late-night menu, now that people in the neighborhood have started staying in the neighborhood on Saturday nights.

Before the late-night menu, they went to the Lower East Side, for instance, where the first Life Café opened, back when that was the next neighborhood, in the 80’s.

The development of cool places kicked off in 2002, after Kathy Kirkpatrick, who founded the original Life Cafe in the East Village, moved to Bushwick taking the first apartment she saw for rent. “Then I looked out my window,” she says, “and I kept seeing hipsters. And then I thought, this looks just like the people who were living in the East Village.” In August 2002, she opened up a restaurant, small, with just a steam table, as well as newspapers and essentials, like onions and toilet paper. “I didn’t realize the desperate desire of the community here to have a place – the musicians and artists and the writers who needed to get out and hang,” she says.

July 11, 2003
By Lisa Amand
Daily News

A legendary corner hangout with buzzing sidewalk scene, hidden courtyard and bargain prices. Eggless huevos rancheros and other breakfasts are served until 5 p.m., chili deluxe comes with brown rice, soy cheese and chips ($7).

Saturday, September 14, 2002
By Barbara Aria
The Globe and Mail Canada’s National Newspaper

“Further into Brooklyn” means Bushwick – or, as the real-estate agents are calling it, East Williamsburg. Bushwick is a high-crime area of light-industrial buildings and housing projects; East Williamsburg is an edgy neighbourhood with a falling crime, rate, newly renovated loft buildings and the germ of a Bedford Avenue-style culture. Last month, a pioneer East Village establishment, Life Café, opened Life 983 in Bushwick. For Billyburg escapees, the café is like old days again: a cheap, arty eatery where patrons can hang out all day chatting about their latest projects and also buy their day’s supply of soy milk, bread and toilet paper.

Caption under photo of Life Café NINE83: “Life 983 is a cheap, arty eatery in Bushwick, Brooklyn where patrons can not only hang out chatting about their latest projects, but can also buy their day’s supply of soy milk, bread and toilet paper.”

Sunday, August 9, 1998
By Andrew Jacobs
The New York Times

Another pioneer who welcomes the transformation is Kathy Kirkpatrick, who opened Life, a café, on Avenue B and 10th Street in 1982. In those days, she said, Avenue B was an open-air drug bazaar, lined with burned out buildings and garbage strewn lots. Having barely survived the decade, she says she is relieved that the renaissance, as she calls it, has finally arrived. Besides local patrons, many of whom plop down with laptops and cell phones, a drawing number of tourists show up, as well as people who have seen Rent, which mentions Life three times.

Ms. Kirkpatrick recently renovated her restaurant and upgraded her menu to appeal to a changing clientele. These days she is as likely to serve martinis and frozen margaritas as veggie burgers and chamomile tea. “Our customers are still young and creative”, she said, “but now they have jobs.”

Taste Buddy
February 16, 2002
By Daniel Isengart
THX Magazine

Life Café started as a little hole-in-the-wall venue, offering pastries and coffee to East Village bohemians while serving as an impromptu performance space, antiques shop and hangout with ungrudging coffee refills. One winter, the philanthropic owner Kathy Kirkpatrick cooked up a big pot of vegetarian chili and offered it to her starving clientele of artists/martyrs for a mere 50 cents – and a legend was born….

Following the chili lead, the menu has a Mexican penchant, with an extra emphasis on vegetarian and vegan dishes. The tricolored home-made Nachos ($5) are low-fat – I don’t know how they do it, but trust me! The fresh salsa and creamy guacamole are a little mild for my taste (ask for Tabasco), but the Buffalo Wings ($7) are unabashedly crisp, very salty and dripping with hot sauce, served with the traditional chunky blue cheese dressing and celery sticks… Southern Fried Chicken ($11) is a remarkable bargain, with lemony, crunchy sautéed spinach and garlicky mashed potatoes (very home-style, with bits of potato skin, another American thing that toppled me over back in the day). And since we were in the health- and politically-conscious East Village, I tried the Neat Loaf ($11). It looks like meatloaf, and it feels like meatloaf, but it doesn’t taste like it. It’s very mild, light comfort food – a rare find. But in case you’re a ferocious carnivore, there’s always the slow-stewed beef ($11).

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