Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul’s search for a book launch party venue leaves him melancholy.
Yesterday’s search through the actual streets of Alphabet City for a venue to host the launch party of the memoir Alphabet City has left me feeling a little blue. I was hoping to host the event at a spot mentioned in the book—a locale like Leshko’s or Le Tableau that really mean something to me.
I know, I know. Any trip down memory lane is an exercise in disappointment. And it’s not like I haven’t been back to the East Village since my sitcom life moved sets to Washington Heights. So I knew how much things had changed. But I always hold out hope that there will be one special nook that reminds me of the old days, and begs me to come back.
But Leshko’s—my original go-to Seinfeld diner, the scene of many late night pep talks over pierogies and coffee—has long since faded away. At one point, the new owners gave it a hip 50s mod makeover and kept the name, but now it’s a Latin fusion spot known as Yuca Bar. There’s no way my own Latin Chef would be happy with a soiree there.
I was more willing to bend the rules for whatever had become of our go-to Egyptian French fusion bistro Le Tableau. The little funky restaurant earned an enduring spot in my heart when Angela and I were left temporarily homeless after the Fire Department forced us to evacuate the apartment after an ammonia spill from a nearby crystal meth lab. I grabbed my little dog Winnie, and Angela grabbed her giant cat Louis, and we were two pathetic souls in the rain until the owner of Le Tableau took pity on us. He bent the health department rules, and let us dine inside while Louis bellowed and Winnie begged for lamb. Alas, the former Le Tableau now stands shuttered after several other unsuccessful ventures took over the space.
I ventured over to Avenue C—a street that Angela warned me was off-limits when we first moved to the neighborhood. Now it’s a street bustling with hipness, and I remembered a little place called the Alphabet City Wine Co. With most wines under $20, the intimate space has a couple of leather club chairs and a turntable, inviting customers to sit and linger. Had it been opened when my sitcom life was filming nearby, it would have been the wine store equivalent of Friends’ Central Perk.
The owner Keith was scurrying with paper towels and moving boxes out of the back, cleaning up from a spill. When I explained to him what I was looking for, it took him a second to get the connection that my book and his store shared a name. Then he volunteered to do anything he could to help out. Although Avenue C and the Alphabet City Wine Co. don’t appear in my book—the can-do, just gentrifying spirit is right on target. We’re a match made in sitcom heaven.
As I ambled back down East 5th street between Avenues A & B, I passed by Winnie and Frida’s old grooming spot Doggie Dearest (still open), and peered through the glass front door of the apartment building we once called home. At the end of the first floor hallway, on the door to the backyard—the scene of many Alphabet City celebrations—I could see the handwritten note I tacked up so many years ago explaining to the other tenants’ that for security reasons the backyard was for the enjoyment of my apartment only. Funny, that little missive still does the trick after all these years, proving that while some things change, many stay the same.
And a little part of me still survives in Alphabet City.