Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Red Flame Coffee House: Don't Look Twice, It's All Right

Red Flame Coffee House Restaurant New York City Midtown Vintage Destination
By Mitch Broder

When I finally returned to one of my favorite New York coffee shops, I thought it was a bank.

Eventually, everything in New York is.

It was the massive new glass façade that forgivably led me astray. But when I looked through it, I saw the truth: It was still my coffee shop. Dressed like a bank.

The coffee shop is the Red Flame, near Times Square, which used to call itself a coffee house but now calls itself a diner. It closed last year for renovations. I was afraid to go back. Places that completely evoke the feeling of an era should never close, especially for renovations.

What I realized was that the Red Flame didn't completely evoke any era. I hate to say it. It had atmosphere, but it didn’t look like much. It opened in 1979 and had been made over since, but the last motif was — well, red. A renovation held promise.

Red Flame Coffee House Restaurant New York City Midtown Interior

When I focused, I saw that the layout was just the same. Mostly, the motif has been changed from red to white. Everything seems white, except for the seats, which are brown-yellow-and-green — which, oddly enough, evokes 1979.

I sat in my usual booth and had my usual waiter, who still brought me a newspaper and didn't ask where I’d been so long. Soon after, he brought me what is still one of the best diner hamburgers, along with still-excellent lentil soup and still-sweet slaw in a white pleated cup.

The tables still have fresh flowers. People still wait to sit down. I suspect that if I’d gotten a Coke, it still would have been refilled. And they still give out New York calendars, but this year I was too late. Maybe that will teach me not to be so afraid of change, but I doubt it.

Find The Red Flame at 67 West 44th Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, in Manhattan.


  1. "...I saw the truth: It was still my coffee shop. Dressed like a bank."
    You are so smart, Mr. Broder.
    I am ready for more articles now.

  2. hey Mitch, what's the name of this letter?...ç
    thanks :) Emma