When Upper West Siders think about 1998 classic You’ve Got Mail, the first scenes which likely come to mind are those which were filmed at iconic UWS destinations Zabar’s and Cafe Lalo.
But the movie also features a shuttered UWS eatery which hasn’t gotten much media credit.
It was called Louie’s Westside Cafe, and it was located at 441 Amsterdam Avenue, on the corner of 81st Street, before St. James Gate took over the space.
In a 2016 article published on iamnotastalker.com, the author revealed that the former Louie’s was the backdrop of the breakup scene between the characters played by Meg Ryan and Greg Kinnear.
The author recounts freeze-framing the breakup scene for clues, eventually spotting green neon signage for Monsoon Vietnamese Cooking, which at the time of filming was located across the street at 435 Amsterdam Ave. Using Google Street View, the author was then able to conclude that the breakup scene took place at 441 Amsterdam Avenue – then home to Louie’s Westside Cafe.
A former patron also concurs, writing in a 2007 Yelp review that “Yes, this is the restaurant where the breakup scene between Meg Ryan’s character and Greg Kinear’s character in ‘You’ve Got Mail’ takes place.”
According to I Am Not A Stalker’s write-up, Louie’s first opened in 1986 – but a NY Times restaurant round-up published in 1994 called the eatery a “newcomer” – so we’ll have to let the jury (or the comments section) decide.
That aside, the Times write-up was complimentary, highlighting menu items including Louie’s “roasted eggplant cake with bitter greens” and “penne in a sauce of plum tomatoes and turkey meatballs.”
In case you want to reminisce about old restaurants, the NY Times included Louie’s in a roundup entitled “Good Eating; Upper West Side: Affordable Nights,” which also covered reviews of Amsterdam’s Bar & Rotisserie at 428 Amsterdam Avenue, Chaz & Wilson’s Grill at 201 West 79th Street, Jerry’s at 302 Columbus Avenue, Josie’s at 300 Amsterdam Avenue, and Scaletta at 50 West 77th Street.
Another review, which also agreed that Louie’s opened in 1986, wrote that owner Louie Sloves opened the restaurant “as a tiny storefront with 11 tables, 35 seats, and no liquor license. The crumbling surrounding bodegas turned into trendy shops and hi-rise buildings, and Louie’s expanded to include a full service bar and enclosed glass cafe. The goal was reached: a calm neighborhood restaurant; the kind of place where customers could return several times a week and feel at home.”