97 St. Marks
The default after-hours eatery for the bulk of the Gothic-Industrial scene is Yaffa Cafe; within easy walking distance of a number of popular club venues. It's popularity very much extends beyond our scene and into several others; you will find club kids of every variety, slumming yuppies, sex workers, computer programmers, and lean-if-not-starving artists scribbling frantically upon a sketchpad next to an ever-full cup of coffee. The food is good and cheap, the menu contains a strong vegetarian selection, it never closes; and though some of it's staff have short tempers, a greater number have a charm and amiability which compensates adequately. Some of them are musicians and clubgoers themselves.
Yaffa embraces subversiveness in every aspect of it's operation. The decor is the most garish example of kitsch one could ever find, with plastic fruit glued to the walls, ridiculously bad nostalgia art, and overtly hideous blue-sky-with-fluffy-clouds wallpaper on the ceiling. The menu itself is eccentric a strange mix of mediterranian and vegetarian cuisine, with a selection of gargantuan salads, delicious stir-frys, exotic chicken platters, desserts, and some of the best pasta dishes around. (PS: their babaganoush and their gazpacho are unparalleled.) Upon departure, one will see a sign at the register offering a free Yaffa Condom. It's no joke; this cafe knows it's clientele extremely well.
Though the bulk of the restaurant is in the basement of some anonymous apartment building, during warmer months the back yard becomes an extension of the restaurant. The backyard is beautiful and elegant; here the kitsch doth not stray. By daylight, the trees give a wonderful dappled shade and diffuse the wind into a pleasant breeze. By night, tiny white christmas tree lights are lit on all the trees, giving it the attractive illusion of a starscape scattered among the clientele.
The atmosphere of Yaffa is conducive to conversation. The music will seldom be more controversial than The Cure, it's quiet enough to hang in the air inobtrusively along with the smoke. The staff, particularly when it's very late, rarely presses customers to leave as long as they're not loud. It's often courteous to order minor side dishes and tip generously if your 4:00AM after-club fiesta has somehow dragged on till 7:00AM, but that's just commonsense.
Commentary by Clifford Hartleigh Low, Wednesday, February 18, 1998.