In May 1977 three artists stumbled across a tiny storefront in the heart of Greenwich Village and thought it the perfect place to open a café. For two months they scraped and sanded, plumbed and plastered, and did the intricate dance one does with the authorities who live beyond the Village, and on the weekend of July 4, 1977, perpetually 201 years behind the US, they opened the Cornelia Street Café.
Over the last thirty years it has quintupled in size, it has won numerous awards both for its food and for its performances, but it has remained at heart an artists’ café. Singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega started out here, as did Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues. Senator & presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy & attorney-activist William Kunstler have read their poetry; Dr. Oliver Sacks continues to read his prose. Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann presents a monthly Science Series; members of Monty Python & the Royal Shakespeare Company intermittently perform. Cornelia Street now offers some 700 shows a year, two a night, ranging from science to songwriting, from Russian poetry to Latin jazz, from theatre to cabaret. In 1980 Stash Records released the award-winning album, Cornelia Street: The Songwriters Exchange, a collection of songs born at the café.
In the early days there was a toaster-oven, a cappuccino machine and a refrigerator display case. Now there are two full kitchens and two full bars which serve more than thirty wines by the glass. There are three dining rooms, one with a working fireplace. And in the summer there is one of the Village's loveliest sidewalk cafes.
The Cornelia Street Café is owned and operated by founder Robin Hirsch, together with Judith Kallas, Bob Siegler and chef Dan Latham. It is open seven days a week, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. It serves Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Dinner, New Year’s Eve Dinner, Valentine's Day dinner--and more than seven hundred cultural events a year.