Back in early June, we received a tip from an anonymous reader who told us that Mexican restaurant Cafe Frida, located at 368 Columbus Avenue (between 77th and 78th Street), had closed for good. The reader was informed by a former employee of the restaurant, and OpenTable also seemed to confirm this.
We had reached out to the owner – Cristina Castañeda (who also owns El Mitote and Ella Social) – to see if we could confirm details with her. She got back to us on June 4, saying that the restaurant hadn’t been able to reopen due to the impact of new COVID restrictions, and that they were in negotiations with their landlord. “We have been there for 22 years and we are trying our best to stay for another round. I will keep you posted once we have some news,” Castañeda wrote.
We hadn’t heard from her since June. But on Wednesday, November 25, an announcement was posted on Cafe Frida’s website and Instagram page, along with a video.
Dear Friends of Cafe Frida:Today is Cafe Frida’s 22nd Birthday.
It seems like yesterday when on Balloon’s Day 1998, our owner Cristina Castañeda, opened her first restaurant. She was 31 and wheelchair-bound recovering from a serious accident. She had no financial backing and knew very little about the restaurant operations, but she was determined to bring a little piece of Mexico to New York.
She boot-strapped savings and decided to take the journey into the hospitality industry, deeply committed to her beliefs, to the city, and to her heritage.
With great courage, perseverance, and teamwork our beloved Cafe Frida survived and thrived for over two decades. Despite challenges, our restaurant team worked closely together as a family to build and maintain the business doing what we love most: making real and honest food, and making our guests feel welcome and happy.
We are grateful for everything we’ve learned and shared, but specially for the endless love and support of our regulars, and the loyalty of our staff.
Today, after 22 years of embracing the neighborhood, Cafe Frida is saying Goodbye, but not closing her doors.
With joy, we would also like to share a moment of hope during this historic moment, that leveraged to launch a new local favorite. Thanks to the support of New York, our landlords, and every one of you who has not forgotten us, we announce the birth of ‘La Covacha’, a new generation of restaurants, coming soon!
Thank you, a trillion times, to all guests and staff who have crossed our path along these precious years. A toast to Cafe Frida and to the many great memories.
Stay tuned for more news on #LaCovachaNY and visit our sister restaurants @elmitoteny @ellasocialny
Wishing everyone a healthy and loving Thanksgiving Day!
We reached out to Castañeda to learn more about La Covacha. She told us that “La Covacha is sort of like Cafe Frida’s granddaughter, same lineage, she will stick to honest food and deep authentic Mexican flavors, but local sourced, heirloom corn masa, boutique brands of Tequila and Mezcal, and focusing on very authentic street-food, very relaxed! We will have more details soon.” La Covacha will be opening at Cafe Frida’s former location – 368 Columbus Avenue, between 77th and 78th Streets.
In March, Castañeda’s Beyond Restaurant Group (which owns Cafe Frida, El Mitote and Ella Social), announced that they would be temporarily suspending service at all three restaurants. At the time, they were forced to lay off 100 of their employees, and launched a GoFundMe campaign to support them. As of writing, the campaign has raised $7,800 out of a $10,000 goal.
A Facebook post at the time stated that “Most of our employees have been with us since we opened our restaurant group in 1998. Unfortunately, we have exhausted our resources to keep them employed. There is uncertainty in the horizon ahead, and we need your help. 100% of your donations will go directly to our staff.”
In late April, El Mitote announced its reopening. In mid May, Ella Social followed suit. Both are currently open and prospering (as much as any restaurant can given the circumstances).
El Mitote is located at 208 Columbus Avenue, between 69th and 70th Streets. Learn more at www.elmitoteny.com.
Ella Social can be found at 249 Columbus Ave, between 71st and 72nd Streets: www.ellasocial.com.
We’ll let you know as soon as we have more info about Cafe Frida’s replacement, La Covacha.
I recently ate outside at Ella. It was safe and delicious. Really recommend it.
Heirloom masa is pretty exciting, high-quality tortillas can almost singlehandedly turn a Mexican restaurant into a destination.