Life Cafe Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Bushwick’


August 4, 2014

This is a very special event and a limited time offer — I’m selling all the original collaged table tops from the East Village Life Cafe. Wouldn’t you love to have one?

Horned Man - Table 4 at Bench next to 10th Street Window

Horned Man – Table 4 at Bench next to 10th Street Window

Oh the memories . . . .

Cars around Coffee Cup

Cars around Coffee Cup

If you don’t get one, they might just go to Museum of the City of New York instead. This is your chance.

Raquel Welsh Table

Raquel Welsh Table

I’ll be in the Bushwick area early September. The tables will be available for about a week while I’m there. Email me at and let me know which one you want and to make arrangements.

Music Scores

Music Scores

Each is unique. They would make  wonderful table tops; they would make better wall art.

Baby Face

Baby Face

Most if not all of  the tables are shown here. There are about twenty of them; 17 measure about 30″ x 30″ and 3 measure about 24″ x 24″. The stands are not included.

Space Model

Space Model

Come to think of it, I believe there are only two 24″ tables — I donated one to Adelphi University. It’s on display in the lobby of the  AU PAC (Adelphi University Performing Arts Center) along with the Jonathan Larson Bench and a collaged wall panel from Life Cafe as well as a stage panel from the original stage production of RENT at the Nederlander Theater that I also donated.

Baby Toot Table

Baby Toot Table

I’m selling them for a little more than I paid the artists to make them. They used actual pages from vintage Life Magazines from the 40s, 50s and 60s. The large tops are $125 and the small $100 and include the dried up bubble gum on the bottoms, a real piece of New York City history.That’s a bargain and your luck as I must sell them quickly.

Baseball Table

Baseball Table

They were produced around 1996/1997 by two artists. One was David Chambard, a French painter, who I met in his studio/home in the Woodstock area. Last I heard he’s living and selling his art in Paris. Unfortunately, I don’t recall the second artist’s name. If you remember him, please let me know. He also had one or two art shows at Life Cafe.

Cover, How Life Began, a Memoir

Cover, How Life Began, a Memoir

Did you meet your significant other at Life Cafe? Maybe this was the table at which you sat when your life changed for the better.



These are the tables of legend, the ones upon which Jonathan Larson envisaged his cast of East Village characters dancing while singing La Vie Boheme. 

Marlboro Man

Marlboro Man

These are the tables actually danced upon in real life by hordes of RENT fans from around the world at special RENT events at Life Cafe.

Soaring through Life

Soaring through Life

I met 4 lead members from the Japanese cast of RENT at these  tables when they came to see a Broadway performance.

Funny Man Face

Funny Man Face

During a second visit by the entire Japanese cast, all 20+ of them sang La Vie Boheme in English, then again in Japanese to the astonishment and delight of all our customers during a busy brunch.

Satellite Dishes

Satellite Dishes

That was a tear jerking, stunning moment for me. Oh, the memories.

Hallway with Door

Hallway with Door

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

More Politicians

More Politicians

Think about it.

Wheat Field

Wheat Field

But not for too long.

Woman Monkey

Woman Monkey

You can also leave me a comment below. But it’s better to email me at



So many lives passed across these tables at Life Cafe.



Lovers, poets, the lonely, dreamers, thinkers, actors with and without parts to play.



The coffees, the beers, the losers and the leaders. All lives at Life passed across here.

If tables could talk, imagine what you could hear. Imagine what conversations you might have.

I’ll be in Bushwick the first week of September. Email me your interest at and I’ll respond immediately. If you’re not in New York City and need a table top shipped, I’ll attempt to make those arrangements and there will be additional handling and shipping costs.


Kathy Life






1 July 2014

It was a typical lovely late morning in the hills of Tarbena of the Costa Blanca, Spain.

Tarbena Town Square

Tarbena Town Square

Lunchtime was around the corner and I had to prepare something. That’s when it just hit me — a sudden craving for steamed veggies, fresh greens, brown rice and the taste of Life Cafe’s Tahini Dressing on my tongue. Tahini Dressing was the final glorious touch on the Life Salad, the most popular salad ever at Life Cafe. Whenever I didn’t feel quite right physically, a Life Salad seemed to always put me straight. It was delicious.

Fortunately I had a small jar of white sesame tahini in my kitchen cabinet. It’s not easy to find sesame paste in Spanish supermercados. Fortunately, there are a few health food stores in the surrounding towns. Unbelievably, I recently discovered that I can purchase tahini and even miso down the street from the village square at my local Farmicia (all of 100 square feet large) in Tarbena, population 809 as of 2012!

Tarbena Farmacia

Tarbena Farmacia

They also have lots of other non-gluten and macrobiotic food items as well. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I spotted a small bag of textured vegetable protein, an essential ingredient in Life Cafe’s Vegetarian Chili. And if there’s something that I want and it’s not on the shelf, they’ll order it for me. This is not Walgreens with their large aisle of junk food, not by a long-shot. Thank God.

Health Food Selection in Tarbena Farmacia

Health Food Selection in Tarbena Farmacia

I searched through my Life Cafe recipes and costing sheets listing ingredients and found it. Eureka. I’ve been hoarding these recipes for years as I’m including many of them in my memoir, “How Life Began”. And I was very glad I did. I got down to work and put it all together. “Perfect,” I squealed out loud once I blended the chopped parsley fresh off my terrace container garden and dipped my finger in for a taste.

Parsley on Terrace Garden

Parsley on Terrace Garden

As I poked my fork into the veggies and rice, staring at the smooth, lemony sauce dripping down the warm nutty brown rice I became suddenly overwhelmed by one thought — I must continue to share this wonderful dish. I must get Life Cafe’s recipes out there. It inspired me to plan the final edit of the book. (I finished the story but put it aside to help John edit and self publish his own memoir, On My Way to Jorvik. He had a publishing deadline with only four months left to go to have the book ready for Jorvik’s 30th anniversary.) In the meantime, I wrote this blog to share the recipe.

This recipe makes about one and a half cups. It stores well in the fridge — but I doubt you’ll have to worry about that. It’s so good you’ll probably put it on everything you eat for the next three days. Enjoy!


  • 1 cup sesame tahini (white)
  •  1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil (use toasted sesame oil for a special sesame kick)
  • 1 tablespoon soy oil

Mix all the ingredients by hand in a large mixing bowl or in a food processor. Add water to thin as desired.

Beatrice, our lovely pharmacist (farmaceutico) in Tarbena

Bea, our lovely farmaceutico (pharmacist) in Tarbena. She told me she loves New York City.




December 6, 2012 – A few blast from the past photos of the earlier days at Life Cafe that you may enjoy . . . . and then on to the CHILI !

Ice-T during a Law and Order Shoot at Life Cafe East Village

Life Cafe around 2010

Early Life Cafe, East Village

Life Cafe, New York City, around 2002

I was missing the old days and feeling the need for the spice and warmth of Life Café’s famous Veggie Chili a few weeks ago. But I was missing three important ingredients: CHILES! Dried Guajillo, Pasilla or Chile Negro or Poblano (the dried form of the Chilaca chile) and Ancho, those dark, rich, flavorful Mexican spices that give heat and depth to the dish.

What was I to do? Go shopping! The local markets offer vast quantities of fruits, vegetables, olives, cheeses and even an incredible assortment of very fine used clothing. I was confident I would be able to find dried chiles.

They grow very big cabbages in Spain

Totana Outdoor Market

At the Wednesday Totana Market there is a spice vendor. The aroma of his spices in his bins, which you can smell 10 feet away, is sublime, no comparison to the little glass jars you get in a supermercado (supermarket).

Looking into the Spice Vendor’s Bins

Searching through the Spice Vendor’s Bins

He didn’t have the Mexican chiles. Spanish food is not hot like the summer temps of the country. Rather, it’s mellow and lush, like the population. I had to improvise like I’m known to do in the kitchen. I usually prepare meals from the ingredients I have on hand. Anyone can do this, if you don’t mind cooking Bohemian! I’m still formulating precisely what that means, just for fun. But basically, it means make do with what you have, grow it if you can and keep it simple using fresh, seasonal ingredients, the basis of much of Spanish cooking.

Being bohemian – art lived at both Life Cafes

For the “made in Spain” chili recipe, I used locally grown dried nora and what all the market vendors called pimento chiles. As far as I can tell, these are dried red peppers and taste sweet. Because they’re not hot, I added a couple of tiny dried hot cayenne peppers from my pepper plant in my windowsill herb garden to give my chili some heat. In the end I was lucky to find mirasol chiles. I read that they are known as Guajillo in their dried form, which are one of the main chiles used in traditional mole sauces. I also added about five sun dried tomatoes to this chili paste to give it more intensity, seeing as I didn’t have Hector’s blend at hand.

Getting ready to make Life’s Famous Veggie Chili in Spain

Below is a version of the actual Life Café Veggie Chili Recipe that I revamped last year with the help of Hector, the head cook at Life Café Bushwick.

Hector and his Bushwick kitchen gang. (Illustration by John Sunderland)

I told Hector I wanted a chili that was less tomato-based and built more around beans, legumes and veggies. Hector enhanced the chili spice component wonderfully with his blend of spices in the chile paste. It’s rich, flavorful and warming.

My favorite way to eat Life Chili is for breakfast with a poached egg, short grain organic brown rice and a sprinkle of sharp cheese. It satisfies my craving for Life’s Breakfast Burrito. What a great way to start your day! For me, it’s also an antidote to missing Life Café!

Life’s Famous Veggie Chili made in Spain with grated cheese on top

This recipe makes about 5 quarts, or around 10 hearty bowls. It keeps well in the fridge for several days, and it gets better over time. If you don’t think you can use it up within a week, freeze it in 8 to 16 ounce portions in freezer bags to thaw and use whenever you need it – for a Life Chili Omelet, chili topped with melted cheese as a dip for crispy tortilla chips or in a bowl over brown rice topped with melted cheddar and jack cheeses, the Life Chili Deluxe. At Life Café, we used Life’s Veggie Chili as an ingredient in many of our classic dishes, including quesadillas and in the early days, stuffed potato skins topped with melted cheese. Yumm.

What Life Café Veggie Chili-enhanced dish can you astonish your friends with??

Note: you can get even more creative. Just make the chili paste and use it for other chile-based recipes, like enchilada sauce, or a sauce for Chicken with Red Chile Sauce and Sausage (Pollo con Salsa Rojo y Chorizo). I can’t wait to try it myself, only I’m going to use turkey chorizo.

Some of the Good Old Staff in the Good Old East Village Life Cafe






Make about 5 quarts

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup Spanish onion, diced

4 cloves chopped fresh garlic, minced

1 medium green pepper, chopped

1 medium red pepper, chopped

3 cups chile paste (recipe below)

1 cup carrots, diced

1 cup celery, sliced

1-14 oz can black beans

1-14 oz can cooked pinto beans

1-14 oz can cooked kidney beans

1-14 oz can cooked lima beans

1-14 oz can cooked chickpeas

1-14 oz can cooked lentils

1 cup frozen corn

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican if you can find it)

1/2 zucchini, diced

1/2 yellow squash, diced

1 cup textured vegetable protein (TVP)

2 cups vegetable stock or water

Sauté the onions, garlic, peppers, carrots and celery in oil for 5 minutes until the onions turn translucent. Add chile paste and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans. Bring to a boil. After 10 minutes add the corn, cumin and oregano. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add zucchini, squash, TVP and vegetable stock. Cook for another 30-35 minutes on low heat. As the TVP absorbs the liquid it will soften and expand.



2 garlic cloves

1 medium Spanish onion

5 whole dried Guajillo chiles

2 whole dried Pasilla chiles

1 whole dried Ancho chiles

2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoon white vinegar

2 teaspoon dried oregano, Mexican if you can find it

2-1/2 teaspoon dried thyme


Boil all ingredients for 3 minutes or until the chiles are soft in 3 cups water. Cool and blend in small portions in a blender until smooth.

Makes about 3 cups



Shamus the Christmas Elf at Life Cafe 983

Celebratory Drink at Life Cafe 983

Mark at Life Cafe 983 at Christmas

A real good Christmas Party at Life Cafe 983

Shamus and Kathy at Life Cafe 983 for Christmas

Seasonal Pick, Menu Picture Riddle by John Sunderland

Santas at East Village Life Cafe

Kathy Life and Chris Baker at Life Cafe 983

Christmas Brunch at East Village Life Cafe

Torello and Nada at East Village Life Cafe

At the East Village Life Cafe at Christmas Time

Life Cafe East Village Staff at Christmas

Patrick McDonald photo shoot at Life Cafe East Village

Christmas Lights, Life Cafe East Village

Life Cafe 983 at Christmas from outside

CHEERS! At Life Cafe 983 Bushwick, Brooklyn

East Village Life Cafe 1995

A Bushwick, Brooklyn Snowman


Life Café NYC on Tour

Turning Chili Under the Sun in Mazarron, Spain, October 2012

The rays of the midday sun still burned hot on my skin, but the usual breeze across the campo felt much colder. Autumn is in the air and on this particular day I got a hankering for the warming taste sensation of Life’s Veggie Chili.

Cool breeze, hot sun. It’s autumn on the Campo

Life’s Veggie Chili was the first hot menu item I served at Life Cafe in 1982 on the corner of 10th Street and Avenue B in the East Village neighborhood of New York City. Chili was cheap to make, warming and healthy. The local bohemians got a cup for 50 cents. And if they had an extra buck, they got it served over short grain brown rice and topped with grated cheddar cheese. The dish was a full protein meal for vegetarians like me and David Life, my husband at the time. I made sure I got the most nutritional buck out of my food staples.

Now in southeast Spain, I examined the list of ingredients for the Chili Paste in the Life Cafe recipe, a vibrant blend of dried chilies and spices. Garlic, Spanish onions, salt, vinegar, oregano, dried thyme – check, check and double check; I had them all. Nada on the whole dried guajillo, puila and ancho peppers. I no longer had the Mexican delis on Wyckoff Avenue in Bushwick, Brooklyn to raid. Instead I travelled to the nearby towns of Totana and Mazarron during market days with John’s sister Ann and Terry his brother-in-law, local residents. Thank heaven for them and their car. And they knew the roads.

Ann and Kathy Life at Market

Big healthy radishes

John checks out the dried fish at Totana Market, Murcia

Lady locals gossip in front of the olive vendor’s stall

The Moroccan Vegetable Vendor

There is a lot of this fresh and exotic squash

Just picked tangerines, Totana Market

I found the Nora chili, round, fat, glossy dark red. From the Internet I found it’s not hot at all, rather it has a mild, sweet flavor that gives a deep red color to dishes. It’s grown right here in the Murcia region. Now that’s real locavore!

Nora chili on far left

Discovering the Nora chili lead me to Romesco sauce, a classic Catalan condiment originating from Tarragona in Northeastern Spain. Made with roasted tomatoes, nuts, olive oil, vinegar and toasted bread, it’s an accompaniment to all types of dishes, like fire roasted or grilled seafood and vegetables. It also works as a sandwich spread on fresh baguette. I thought how  great it would be on Life’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich in place of chipotle mayonnaise.


During Springtime in Catalonia entire towns gather in the public square for a calçotada, an annual flame-licked ritual of grilling calçots (a large spring onion) over an open fire. The sweet alliums are served blackened from the ashes of vine-fed flames. Revelers slide off the charred outside layers and dip the silken centers into Romesco sauce. The Spanish appreciate the life in their food. Take tomatoes for example; slice open a fresh tomato here and the aroma can be orgasmic. So it’s not surprising that tomatoes can drive Spaniards a little crazy. Have a look at this link — it’s enough to put you off your ketchup, or spread it on all over! La Tomatina Festival 2012 

Wiping off the tomatoes and putting them back safely into the fridge, I refocused on the Romesco sauce. I just had to make some. The bit of work was worth it. The end product is thick like pesto with the color of rust. The nuts lend it texture and the bread gives body. John couldn’t stop raving about it, saying it was Moorish; spicy and original, a new taste. Try this recipe. It’s one of many variations, and all are good.

Tune in to the next blog to find out what happened to the Spanish version of Life’s Famous Veggie Chili!


October 12, 2012


Hello Lifers.

We’ve been gone awhile and we have truly missed you! With big Life changes come adjustments. And we’ve had plenty. After 31 years of running Life Cafe in NYC, it was time to put it behind us and reconnect with John’s roots in Europe. John said I deserved to go out in style (I couldn’t say no!) and so he booked us passage on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 to Southampton, England.  The great ship is the largest liner in the world and has to be the classiest.

New York City in the background, top deck QM2

The QM2 was berthed at Red Hook, a short taxi ride from our old apartment near Bushwick. The sun blazed down on the top deck from where we had glorious views of New York Harbor. At precisely 5pm the great whistles blew, the sun glinted on the towers of Manhattan and the ship cast off. As we sipped our G & Ts (the very English Gin and Tonic) and pulled away from the dock, Frank Sinatra sang out “New York, New York”. It was a moment to bring tears to a glass eye!

NYC from the top deck of the QM2

Being a guest on the QM2 was an amazing experience; we had the North Atlantic to cross in seven luxurious days and nights. It was all so new for us. It was luxury on steroids.

A foggy Atlantic Ocean

I had visited Europe and Britain but not for an extended time as I’d always had Life’s business to come back to. For John the trip was a return to familiar pastures in England. But Spain was going to be a completely new experience for him too.

All meals aboard the luxurious liner were “White Star” sumptuous so as we were to begin our quest for down-to-earth fare once we found ourselves on terra firma, we had a long way to tumble back down to Bohemia. Meanwhile, High Tea was very grand!


Serving High Tea

Beautiful presentation

Good tea indeed and very lovely service as well

I was the only one not wearing white gloves

Once we landed in Southampton where The QM2 docked, we had to get up country to York. From there we made our way over to John’s favorite seaside haunt, Flamborough Head, a little known rocky limestone promontory which sticks out five miles into the North Sea. His generous sister and brother-in-law, Ann and Terry, graciously offered us the use of their luxurious caravan where they promised we would have a comfortable buffer as we transitioned into our new life.

Speedy non-stop train trip across the British countryside aboard the CrossCountry Train from Southampton to York

John had waxed hungrily all along the way about the delicious yet simple foods of his childhood connected with trips made with his grandparents to Flamborough in the fifties. There they had a caravan (“trailer” if you’re American) called “Rosea” that hung on fast to its site on top of a cliff through long and stormy winters, and welcomed them back in Spring with hissing gas mantles, salty air and scary insects under pillows.

Flamborough Head

John wanted me to try first Gammon (Ham Steak) and Eggs, the same as they ate at a pub on a stop along the 70-mile journey over to the coast in his grandfather’s Ford Popular. We enjoyed a very excellent rendition of the dish at the Rose and Crown in Flamborough Village.

Gammon and Eggs as served at the Rose and Crown

Rose and Crown Pub, Flamborough Village, UK

Kathy Life (center) poses with Bianca (left) also known as “B”, our server and daughter of Jerry Ellis, the owner of the Rose and Crown. Holly, right is their excellent cook

This was all very well (and delicious). As for me, I yearned to discover what a Dressed Crab was.

How Dressed Crab and Lobster are sold in the UK

The Dressed Crab

A Dressed Lobster

The delicacy was introduced to me by Alf, one of our formal dinner partners in the Britannia Restaurant on the QM2.

Kathy Life, Susan and Ann, Britannia Restaurant Dinner Partners

John, Alf and Mark, Britannia Restaurant Dinner Partners on the Queen Mary 2

Alf would say no more than it was the only civilized way to buy and eat crab, which perked my curiosity.  I also discovered John’s Granddad, Harold, couldn’t resist fresh North Sea crab on occasion, even though he was allergic to it! Luckily, I was able to acquire one side-by-side with my personal favorite, Lobster, both freshly harvested less than a half mile away from where we bought them in Flamborough and cooked, seasoned then dressed right there on premises.

Dressed Crab and Lobster for sale in the backyard shop

Lobsters get dressed for dinner too

Local Customers at the Fishmonger, West Newk Seafoods

Arthur, left, the owner of West Newk Seafoods with his employee Chris. “The finest fish and seafood in the area.”

Fishing Boats off Flamborough Head

Once we settled ourselves into Ann and Terry’s comfortable caravan, it was time to undress our dressed crab and make it the star of a very special crab salad served traditionally with brown bread and a refreshing glass of dry white wine.

Crab Salad with Brown Bread

The Dressed Crab Enjoyed for Lunch at the Caravan

It was a fine ending to a dressed up crab


Nederlander Organization Donated RENT Panel to Life Cafe


Hello All.

This is a follow up of the last blog post about the J. Larson Bench moving to Adelphi University . And it’s a story about how small a world it is….

My friend Ann Sachs provided me with the real information about the Nederlander Theatre, and also informed me that it was the Nederlander Organization that donated the RENT stage panel to Life Café. The Nederlander Organization is the client of her company, Sachs Morgan Studio Inc,  who provides comprehensive theatre design and planning services to the performing arts community nationwide. It’s a small world — Ann was the facilitator of my professional women’s group, The Woman Presidents’ Organization and she was fantastic!

The panel from the stage set of RENT at the Nederlander Theatre, donated to Life Cafe by the Nederlander Organization. Here it’s installed in the “Secret Garden” in the back of Life Cafe.

The view of the audience from the stage of RENT at Nederlander Theatre just before demolition, September, 2008

The following is a blurb about the history of the theatre, and here are photos for the theatre. Photo credit: copyright Samuel Morgan Photography.

[Interesting note about a very small world indeed: Sam told me that the Nederlander was a fantastic and fascinating project to work on. He also told me that as a Bushwick Brooklyn resident starting in 2004, he was a frequent patron of Life Café 983 in Bushwick, Brooklyn on Flushing Avenue and loved that it was an option long before there were other places like it in the neighborhood. Neither of us recalls that we ever met.  Amazing connection!]


The David T. Nederlander Theatre (1,232-seats) is one of The Nederlander Organization’s nine Broadway theatres. The legacy of the theatre began with David Tobias Nederlander, for whom the theatre is named.  It has had a long and distinguished history.

Built by Walter C. Jordan in 1921, the theatre was originally named the National Theatre; it was renamed the Billy Rose in 1959, when the famed producer/songwriter bought it; christened the Trafalgar in 1979 when it was bought by James and Joseph Nederlander and the British firm of Cooney-Marsh; and renamed The David T. Nederlander in 1980 in honor of the man whose sons now operate the Nederlander Organization.

Stage of RENT from seats just before demolition after closing September 2008


The musical RENT to the theatre in 1996. Set in the Alphabet City neighborhood of Manhattan’s East Village, the RENT production occasioned the remodeling of the façade and interior of the theatre to resemble a downtown nightclub. Following the closing of RENT in 2008, after a 12-year run of 5,124 performances, the theatre received a comprehensive renovation.

The Nederlander now houses the new Broadway hit NEWSIES.

Props being taken down from the stage of RENT at Nederlander Theatre after RENT closed September 2008










A stage hand loads props taken from the stage set of RENT at the Nederlander Theatre after RENT closed September 2008

The Nederlander Theatre after restoration after RENT closed. This photo was taken January 29, 2010.

Jonathan Larson Bench Donated to Adelphi University

July 18, 2012

This is the first installment of “Life Cafe New York On Tour”.

The Jonathan Larson Bench is lifted into the Adelphi Univ. truck

It was a special day today. The Jonathan Larson Bench left Life Cafe for good.

Three strong, young men from Adelphi University came to the now closed Life Cafe 983 in Bushwick Brooklyn and removed the Jonathan Larson Bench where it stood temporarily after it left the East Village Life Cafe in September 2011. With the closing of the Bushwick Life the end of June, it was time to find a permanent home elsewhere for it. So I emailed Al Larson, Jonathan’s father, to see if he had any suggestions.

Al and Julie Larson with Kathy Life and John Sunderland at the Finale B Video Contest at Life Cafe right after the dedication of the mahogany bench (where Jonathan wrote RENT) as the “Jonathan Larson Bench”.

He certainly did. We first contacted New York Theater Workshop, home of the original production of RENT and very close to the original Life Cafe. Unfortunately, as much as they would have liked to have it, they simply had no room. Next Al hooked me up with Robert Scott, President of Adelphi University in Garden City, New York on Long Island. Jonathan attended Adelphi on a four-year scholarship as an acting Academic major. Bob was delighted with my offer and didn’t hesitate to accept. Fortunately, he arranged immediate pick-up as the owners of the new business at 983 Flushing Avenue wanted it moved by Thursday when they were to begin renovations. Again, the Universe has provided.

Adelphi University helpers pick up Life Cafe artifacts

Along with the Bench I donated a 4′ x 6′ wall panel I preserved from Life Cafe, two other Life Magazine collaged panels, the wooden “Thank You Jonathan” plaque hand-carved for me by Jonathan’s uncle Gene and a large panel from the original RENT stage set at the Nederlander Theatre given to me by a friend in the theater design business.

Pieces of Life Cafe history

Wall Panel from original Life Cafe

Panel from original RENT production at Nederlander Theatre

I felt a heaviness in my heart as I watched the boys lift the bench into the truck. It felt like a big part of my life was being taken away. But it was heart-lifting to think of its new home at Jonathan’s alma mater. When I think of how many more people will see the Bench and get a sense of Jonathan’s life and work, I am elated. My hope is there will be a re-creation of a corner of Life Cafe where Jonathan sat and drank tea while researching and writing RENT. Moving the bench to Adelphi to their new Theater complex is the right thing to do. I’m grateful that Bob was eager to give the Bench a new home.

Kathy Kirkpatrick ponders Life’s changes

There hasn’t been time to make definitive plans, but Bob Scott and I are in regular contact. Jonathan Martin, Director of Education and Public Awareness for the National Marfan Foundation in Port Washington, New York, is thrilled with the Bench’s new home. We discussed a January or February 2013 event which would coincide with the original off-Broadway opening anniversary, the anniversary of Jonathan’s death AND his birthday. And February is National Marfan Awareness Month. Sadly, Jonathan Larson is a perfect example of why early diagnosis is critical.

Thank You Jonathan plaque hand-carved by Gene Larson. The original plaque hung back stage at the Nederlander Theatre where each cast member touched it before going on stage.

We’ll keep you posted here as I report on LIFE CAFE NEW YORK ON TOUR. Next installment: COLD SOUP IN HOT NEW HAMPSHIRE – WATERMELON GAZPACHO. Check back in to get the recipe and the story.

Photographs of moving Life Cafe artifacts by John Sunderland


 June 24, 2012

Nine months ago I had to close the original East Village Life Café. Today I am very sorry and sad to finally announce that I have to throw in my tea towel and close my second venue, Life Café 983 in Bushwick on June 30. A new café/bar will open immediately thereafter under a new name. I shall take a break from the restaurant business for the time being.

 I know it’s hard to believe. After 30 years, in September 2011 I had to close my East Village café because I could no longer carry the huge business losses caused by the two warring landlords who fought over structural repairs to their property.

And a few months later the landlord of my thriving Bushwick café told me that he was not going to extend my lease.

That was the same landlord who in 2001 invited me to open a cafe in the building he just bought on Flushing Avenue. At the time, Bushwick looked like a post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland, with nowhere for existing and incoming artists and loft dwellers to eat or drink. He told me the incoming residents desperately needed a watering hole. He said having a café close to his buildings would attract the kind of tenants he wanted. It was the East Village story all over again and I saw it. Except profit wasn’t my motive. Rather, it was another chance to do what I seem to be naturally compelled to do: create a sense of home and connect the neighborhood folks together, offer a safe haven with comforting food and good drink at reasonable prices.

I’m very glad to say that in the end it worked. Yes, it was risky and definitely a struggle the first several years. But eventually Life became a second home for locals and newcomers alike and became the heart of the community much as the East Village Life Café had done in the early 80s. I have met many fine folk throughout the years and have watched as their lives unfolded along with the Café’s. And it was good.

I’ve finally come to terms with the events of the last year. My husband John and I have gotten over our disbelief, anger and sadness at losing both places in one year. We see it now as the Universe giving us a less than gentle nudge into semi-retirement. We’re looking forward to some “Adventures Before Dementia.”

About the new operation, I understand the new owners will make every effort to carry on the spirit of Life. They said, why change something that obviously works, that people like and want. They said they’d make some upgrades that are due and there will be new additions to the menu. And they recognize it’s important not to tamper with the special ambience of Life. In that sense, their intention is for Life Café to live on in spirit, if not in name.

All things come to an end in Life. I leave having created something unique, a bohemian legacy. John and I are now in our sixties and ready for a little R and R, to have a little more time doing the other things we’ve wanted to do.

My experiences during the last 30 years of Life are cause for celebration in the closing of both cafes. Running and owning my cafes has been more than a job. It’s been like having an extended family of staff, patrons and friends. We have made legions of them over the years. Life Café has always been about the relationship between the staff and patrons. A café is more than a place to eat and drink. It’s where special relationships are fostered and melded through conversation, laughter and camaraderie. That’s what a good café is. It’s far more than food and drink. It’s about human connection.

I would like to thank the hundreds of staff members for helping me give something great and unique to the city of New York and the hamlet of Bushwick. But the roll call is too long and no name is greater or lesser than another, for each and every one has played their unique part. But, let me tell you, the guys in the kitchen are the heart and bones of the Café. Any staff member will concur. Hector, who has run the Bushwick kitchen since before it opened and who worked for me at the East Village Café as well for years before, has been particularly exceptional. He has been the kitchen’s foundation. He never missed a beat and has been ever reliable and always amiable. On his strong back Life 983 found its feet and prospered. He and his staff have been the inspiration of the Café. There are more memories than can be mentioned here and many relationships built over time. I will miss you all and will never forget you. Life Café has always had a lot of love about it, and that I shall always have with me.

Please stop by in the next week to check out John’s Life Café Menu Picture Riddle art installation. It is the final one. We have a catalogue on premises and he’s offering the limited edition of originals at very special reduced prices. There will not be any more produced. He would like to leave as many pieces he possibly can with our friends in the Life community.

A last thought before I go; I didn’t make time for a family of my own. Instead, I made time for you. Thank you all for being a part of my family and thank you for allowing me to be a part of yours.

Much peace and love,

Kathy Life

Life Cafe Dinner Specials!!!





Served with carrots, celery and whole wheat pita chips





With a balsamic sauce and served with mashed potatoes

and mixed vegetables



With a French onion sauce and served with mashed potatoes



Served with cole slaw, French fries and malt vinegar






Dinner entrees & specials are served 7 Days from 5pm