Wu's Wonton King

Art & Culture | History | Restaurants

A Tasty Chinese BYOB with a Storied history as an Intellectual Hub of the Lower East Side

Wu's Wonton King and Garden Cafeteria Lower East Side





About Wu's Wonton King

 & why it made the Carpe City list

  • This festive Cantonese spot is known for its suckling pig, duck and BBQ.
  • It is a great spot for groups and parties with its round tables and the fabulous bonus of being BYOB.
  • We also think its storied history as the Garden Cafeteria gives it some cool historical cred.
  • When the LES was the proverbial center of Jewish American life, Rutgers Square, at the intersection of Rutgers Street and East Broadway, served as the intellectual and political hub of the neighborhood.
  • To set the scene: The Forward Building, stationed on Rutgers Square at 175 East Broadway, was built as not only a newspaper office but also as “A Temple to Socialism.” (Check out the busts of Marx and Engleson the building’s exterior.)
  • If you made the trek down to Rutgers Square anytime between 1941 and 1983, you’d find that mix of literary verve and socialist agitation still going strong at The Garden Cafeteria, (165 East Broadway).
  • The Garden attracted Forward staffers, members of the Workman’s Circle, and literary titans like Ellie Wiesel and Isaac Bashevis Singer, who gathered to argue politics and prose at every hour of the day and night.
  • The Garden showed off its working-class-hero bona fides with a Socialist-Realist mural by Hugo Gellert (depicting the old Hester Street Market at Seward Park, where you can now find the Hester St. Fair.)
    • Gellert was a Hungarian immigrant who arrived in New York in 1906. He was a committed “radical” communist and considered to be one of the greatest political artists of the first half of the 20th century!
    • He was trained at Cooper Union and held staff positions at The New Yorker and The New York Times, while also contributing widely to Communist/Socialist periodicals including The Masses and The Liberator.
    • In the early 1930s, MoMA wasn’t into Gellert’s views and tried removing his work from its collection, but other artists came to his defense, threatening to withdraw their own works.

Carpe City Trivia

Gellert's mural might be gone but you can still find the Garden Cafeteria's original sign

  • The sign was discovered in 2005, hanging at 165 East Broadway, but underneath contemporary signage for the Wing Shoon Chinese Restaurant.
  • The nearby Museum at Eldridge Street and the LES Jewish Conservancy rallied to save the sign.
  • Today, you can see the sign in the Museum at Eldridge Street’s permanent collection.

By: Lucie Levine & Christi Scofield





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