“The most unusual cafeteria in New York”

I wish I knew why Longleys, on Sixth Avenue and 50th Street, billed itself with this title. But I can’t figure it out.

The decor looks perfectly normal for a 1950s-era cafeteria: spotless floors, fake plants, salt and pepper shakers on every table.

Longleyscafeteriapostcard

Longleys boasts of its “unbelievably fine food.” But they don’t specify any menu items—probably because the food wasn’t much different from what was served at the city’s other popular cafeteria chains at the time, like the President Cafeteria.

Jack Kerouac memorialized Hector’s Cafe, near Times Square, in On the Road. Who memorialized Longleys? The only mention I found was in Jerry Stiller’s autobiography.

When he first met his future comedy partner and wife Anne Meara, they slipped into Longleys for coffee and cake . . . and then lifted some silverware because Ann’s roommates in the Village kept losing theirs.

Longleyspostcardback

When it shut down, I have no idea. But it must have been not long after the postcard came out. 1265 Sixth Avenue no longer exists; 1261 and 1271 are office towers built in 1961.

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7 Responses to ““The most unusual cafeteria in New York””

  1. Steve Swirsky Says:

    Great card. Love the mural. Steve

  2. Somebuddy Says:

    I swear I have eaten there. There must be an identical place still in existence. Same area. Owned by Asians and run as a salad bar primarily, with upstairs seating. Now I need to figure out where it is….

  3. adrianlesher Says:

    Here are a few references from Google books. Incidentally, other Google sites indicate that Longley’s was part of the Bickley empire.

    Memoirs of a beatnik – Page 144

    books.google.com/books?isbn=0140235396
    Diane Di Prima – 1998 – Snippet view – More editions
    The southern boundary of our world was Fiftieth Street, where there was a Longley’s Cafeteria in which all of the coffee after the first cup was free, and poisonous — it being left all afternoon on hotplates with the cream already in it growing …

    Recollections of my life as a woman: the New York years : a memoir – Page 133

    books.google.com/books?id=zHpaAAAAMAAJ
    Diane Di Prima – 2001 – Snippet view
    bathrooms for washing up; the Museum of Modern Art to eat little sandwiches with tea or coffee, see the old movies, hang out with a painting or sculpture and write (the Brancusi room was a favorite — its space, and light); Longley’s cafeteria to

    Crimes of the Beats – Page 107

    books.google.com/books?id=RliuAAAAIAAJ
    Unbearables (Literary group) – 1998 – Snippet view – More editions
    She got it from some guy she met at the counter at Longley’s cafeteria. She really dug him too, she thought he dug her the same way. They saw each other for about three weeks. It was serious. They both dug the same things, dope, jazz, work

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    Love that first description of the moldy coffee. What would the high-end coffee fanatics of today’s gourmet New York do when faced with that? Thanks for digging this all up!

  5. Richard Snow Says:

    Longley’s cafeterias were part of the Bickford’s chain–and, from the look of the postcard, slightly fancier. (The Bickfords that I remember were stark to the point of grimness.) There were Longleys in Manhattan and Queens, and, oddly enough, in Baltimore. This one was operating as late as 1967.

  6. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    ah, thank you! Lots has been written about Bickfords, but information about Longley’s is elusive.

  7. Barbara Says:

    Just bought a book called f w dodge architectural bars, motels, restaurants. There is a whole spread on Longleys and the architecture.

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