For those of us who came to the city within the past decade, it’s hard to imagine East 14th Street without its stretch of bulky NYU dorms, big-box supermarkets, and mini-chain restaurants. But of course this wasn’t always what the area looked like. In the late 19th century, the area centered around Irving Place, was full of entertainment venues like the Academy of Music, the city’s opera house, Steinway Hall, Tammany Hall, and the City Theatre movie house. And at the heart of it all was a restaurant that catered to both the theater crowd and the German population of the East Village–Luchow’s.
Luchow’s was established in 1882 at 110 East 14th Street at Irving Place when German immigrant August Lüchow purchased the café/beer garden where he worked as a bartender and waiter. It remained in operation for a full century, becoming an unofficial neighborhood and city landmark, until it was replaced by NYU’s University Hall dormitory.
In 1855, New York had the third largest German-speaking population in the world, outside of Vienna and Berlin, and the majority of these immigrants settled in what is today the heart of the East Village, then known as “Little Germany” or Kleindeutschland. ….