Signage has been spotted with the words “Coming Soon – La Caridad 72nd Comida China y Criolla” at 130 West 72nd between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues. The storefront, located at the site of the former Friedmans, is prompting speculation that the Upper West Side mainstay may be making a return.
Located on the corner of 78th and Broadway, the original La Caridad 78 was an Upper West Side institution for 52 years, serving up Cuban-Chinese fusion to generations of New Yorkers before closing in 2020.
La Caridad’s cuisine ran the gamut from Cuban to Chinese, carrying everything from Lo Mein to Plantains, Eggrolls to Frijoles, and Pork Dumplings to Cuban Roast Pork. All were served amidst the restaurants iconic formica tables and dark red walls which featured pictures of the food in lieu of art. The two concessions to this no frills atmosphere were a series of Christmas-style lights hung along the top of the walls and a lone image of La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, the patron saint of Cuba, over the door.
La Caridad was founded in 1968 by Raphael Lee who came to the United States from Cuba fleeing Fidel Castro’s rise to power. Lee originally staffed it primarily with fellow Cuban-Chinese waiters and cooks. However, over the years their numbers dwindled. They were largely replaced by immigrants from China, without any Cuban heritage or cultural background. By the time of the restaurant’s closure, only one Cuban cook, Raphael Wong, was left on the staff.
The restaurant continued under Raphael’s son Sam Lee before its 2020 closure, although it is unclear if the Lee family is behind this latest iteration. ILTUWS was unable to get in contact with them for comment. However, a business license was filed with the State of New York by a LA CARIDAD 72 INC. on January 13, 2023 in Elmhurst by an Aung Minn (who appears to be the accountant), so plans for the restaurant have been in the works for more than 6 months.
So is this the next iteration of the original La Caridad or just a pretender? The name would seem to suggest it’s the real deal, as the only difference is its number. But what’s in a name? As anyone who remembers the tumultuous Shun Lee saga earlier this year can attest, only so much. It seems we’ll have to wait to find out.