Beachside, On Second Avenue
For nearly a half-century, the Beach Cafe has served up the usual — and the pleasantly uncommon.
Every week for the rest of the year, Our Town will celebrate its 45th anniversary by profiling a neighborhood business that has been around longer than we have. Know of a local business that should be our list? Email us at email@example.com.
Tucked on the corner of Second Avenue and 70th Street, the Beach Café is some distance away from the seashore.
But it’s been serving oysters, clams, shrimp and other ocean-worthy fare for long enough that the name’s come to stand for something entirely its own — a welcoming neighborhood restaurant and bar that, though in business since 1968, still dishes out novelty, on a plate, in a glass or otherwise within its cozy, low-lit dining room.
“Everyday is like opening up a present — you never know what you’re going to get around here,” Dave Goodside, the restaurant’s owner, said.
Goodside’s been working at the Beach for 32 years and owned and run it for the last 10.
Brothers Tom and Bill White opened the restaurant opened 1968, in a decidedly different era on the Upper East Side, when, for instance, Liza Minnelli and Arthur Miller were regulars.
The moniker was derived from nautical artifacts tucked into an old barn upstate the Whites owned and which they hauled to the Upper East Side. Although the maritime theme has been toned down over the years, paintings of beach scenes and parasols still hang from the exposed brick dining room. The blue-and-white checkered tablecloths are also a mainstay.
“We started out as an under-the-radar place and became a very respective and sought-out local watering hole for very important workers that make regular stops here,” Goodside said.
Then there’s the menu, too, which has evolved to feature more seafood. But the Beach is still known for how it turns out an American classic . “People swear we have the best hamburgers they’ve ever had,” Goodside said.
These days, faithful locals make up the bulk of the Beach’s patrons, he said. Lunches, though, also welcome doctors from the York Avenue hospitals, local professionals and museumgoers who stop in for shrimp salad and tea. After that, a “vibrant happy hour” — with aforementioned oysters, clams and shrimp — draw in the crowds, Goodside said.
The restaurant’s akin to community center, he said. “Whenever something terrible is happening in the world or something great is happening, people would come to the beach cafe to meet other people to talk about it,” he said.
The last six-plus years, though, have been the most challenging in the restaurant’s nearly half-century, as the Second Avenue subway line takes shape underneath the restaurant. Above ground, a few feet from the restaurant’s blue and gray awning, Cyclone fencing and dirt and unspeakable racket, including dynamite blasts, have been constant company.
“We never dreamed of how it big of an impact it would be in our business even though we were told,” Goodside said.
Warned that business would drop dramatically, Goodside and his employees didn’t believe it in their hearts.
But a loyal clientele — as invested as the employees and the stakeholders — have kept the café afloat, Goodside said. And a place that serves continues to serve little gifts, mostly by way of its patrons.
“It’s a spot for people to connect, more of a spot for people to socialize,” he said. “That’s what this place has always been all about.”
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