budapest café house new york café

The walls of the more than 120 years old New York Café, which was chosen as the world’s most beautiful café, have seen a lot of things… The regular guests included famous Hungarian poets, authors who always found inspiration at the tables of “Nyeho”. Below you find some intriguing legends and stories found on the official website of the café.

Ferenc Molnár and the key of the New York Café

Rumour had it that the opening of the café in 1894 was attended by the celebrated representatives of the cultural world.

According to the legend, in the heat of the moment, Ferenc Molnár and his mates threw the key of the New York Café into the Danube so that the café would never close again.

However, there are some flaws in the story concerning that Ferenc Molnár was only a teenager at the time, so most probably he was not invited. But it might be the case that the story actually happened at the reopening of the café, which remains a legend due to the lack of documentation.

New York Café history
Back in the day – Photo:é

What is certain that the Directorate of the café re-examined the story in 2014, but they did not find any evidence. Nonetheless, in order to stay true to the tradition, they threw the keys into the Danube so that the café would be open for at least 120 more years.

The Statue of Liberty fresco

Several legends are known about one of the most famous frescos of the café, which is found next to the entrance and depicts the Statue of Liberty.

Based on the legend, the fresco was made before the inauguration of the statue itself in New York.

But the truth is that the opening of the New York Café happened ten years later than the mounting of the statue.

New York Café history

What famous artists ordered

The New York Café always supported arts throughout its history. So it is no surprise that many of our famous writers, poets were regular guests – and the café still respects their memory.

Did you know that the favourite food of Mihály Babits was tripe? And that Endre Ady usually ordered lentil főzelék with stew?

New York Café history

Another curiosity is the “small literary” expression, which was born at the café in that time. Most Hungarian poets and writers led a poorish life. Hence they could not afford to order from the menu. That is why the café created a special, cheaper meal for them called “small literary”. The plate contained some ham, salami and cheese, for which the artists did not even have to pay most of the times.

Promoting art

“In the glamorous New York, they cleaned your shoes, ironed your clothes, cut our and nails…The café was a workshop, a writing desk and accommodation when needed. With all of its elegance, it was a democratic café. No one could resist its charm. Everyone knew everyone inside. The waiter served you immediately without ordering.

You got your black coffee, ink-well and paper without asking.”

New York Café history

Irénke, the literature-lover toilet keeper

Following the example of the famous Nyugat (West) magazine, after the change of regime, the editors of the 2000 magazine also gathered in the café. In that time, the cleanness of the toilets was guaranteed by Irénke Rózsáné, who always asked for the latest issue of the paper and was the fan of the writers. In exchange, she never accepted money from them for using the toilet.

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