More memories of downtown York cafeterias
It’s AWFULLY cold. I’m done with winter. So what better thing to blog about than… comfort food! Today I’m going to share some feedback and memories I’ve received about several former cafeteria-type restaurants in downtown York. I hope you’ll tuck into something warm and enjoy!
Now, here are some more memories about some of these great eateries!
Responding to the Ask Joan question about a downtown cafeteria, Jim Fahringer said, “The question about the cafeteria in back of Bear’s was interesting. Actually, I am thinking that Kathy Reisinger may be thinking of the Bear’s Cafeteria. Bear’s had their own cafeteria. I ate there in the very late 1960s and very early 1970s. The entrance was to the rear of Bear’s Department Store. I ate there with my great aunt who owned and operated Thompson’s Book and Stationary Store. She took me there a number of times. The food was actually very good – at least to a 17 to 19 year old growing teen! Les’s Cafeteria was in the back of Central Market – approximately where Cherry Lane meets the alley that runs between the first block of West Market Street and West Philadelphia Streets. If I remember correctly, the building that housed Les’s Cafeteria was actually connected to the Central Market. This cafeteria was only a few steps from the back entrance of Thompson’s Book and Stationary Store which was located at 35 West Market Street. I ate there a number of times also but I personally enjoyed the food at Bear’s Cafeteria more. … Speaking of cafeterias, does anyone remember the old YMCA Cafeteria? I ate there a number of times with my grandmother and great aunt but I was rather young. The food was quite good. I ate there in the 1960s. If my memory serves me correctly, the cafeteria stood on the north side of East Market Street between Duke Street and Queen Street – at least that is what I remember. It could have been between Queen Street and Pine Street but I don’t think so.”
Nancy Lipschutz wrote and said, “The old YWCA cafeteria was located in the 100 block of East Market St., across the street from the former YWCA building. I believe Bailey travel is located there now. One of the Y’s specials was shepherd’s pie.”
And from Dan Kohler, I heard, “I remember Bear’s Dept. store because she was a cook in their cafeteria in the basement. I really loved going there because I got free stuff. When the ladies would take a break some of them would sit in a booth with my mother and I. They must have thought I was cute because they’d fuss over me and bring me free goodies. At least I didn’t pay for anything. One time one of the ladies gave me buttermilk by accident. The first mouthful went on the table. It was then replaced with whole milk, you know, the kind that leaves a coating of grease in your mouth. Good stuff! When I was about sixteen I got the job winding down the awnings with a long pole with a hook on the end at Bear’s, Jack’s and Walker’s men’s store very early Sunday mornings and then winding them back up Sunday evening. I think I made $20 for all three stores. Heck I’d do it now for $20. Of course $20 went a lot further then. Before the York Co. Shopping Center opened downtown York on a Saturday was packed.”
Back to Les’s, Allan Dameshek noted, “Just wanted to tell you about Les’s Cafeteria.. It was owned by Lester Holtzapple, a former army cook, and was located where the Mudhook Brewery is now located in the building connected to Central Market. I don’t remember if there was access then into the restaurant from the market house. Everyone ate at Les’s… business execs, workers, et al, because he made good food, especially his soups… The prices were very low. When you ate there and went back to work you always took the smell of the restaurant with you… but who cared!”
Craig Smith also noted that the former Les’s is in the current Mudhook Brewing Company location, entering from Cherry Lane, and wrote, “Les was an old Navy cook and made the best soups… His specialty was turtle/snapper soup which he served with the rest of his fare cafeteria-style. The bowls/plates were white with the green trim we all experienced in the ’50s-’60s in the school cafeteria, but Les prided himself in making sure the bowl/plate was overflowing with food! A real character in his T-shirt and white apron!”
Another reader, Bob Fahringer, wrote, “In regards to your information about Les’s Cafeteria. I remember going in there when I was a youngster. My grandmother worked for Lester Holtzapple (Les) for years. He and his family were good friends of my mother’s side of the family, so much as they attended our annual family reunion for years. As my parents can recall, Les operated his cafeteria from sometime in the late ’50s till about the early ’70s. It was located on the right side of the alley between the Strand and the Market. It was a separate building from the Market. My parents added that his food was excellent.”
Sarann Boring wrote and said, “When I worked at Graybill Electric on Broad Street we ate at Les’s Cafeteria every payday after cashing our checks at the York Bank & Trust on Market St. across from the Court House. Les’s was at Clarke & Cherry Lane & looked like it was built against the Central Market. It was a long narrow restaurant & I think the entrance was at Cherry Lane.”
And Hilda Rudy noted, “I too worked downtown at McCrory’s for many years. At least twice a week we ate at Les’s. It was one of the best places to eat. The owner was Lester Holtzapple. He was the best cook. You could get soup and hot sandwiches (my favorite was hot chicken). Thank you for helping bring back good memories.”
I also heard from William F. Hoffmeyer, Esq., who added, “Les’s Cafeteria occupied the space which is now occupied by the Mudhook Restaurant and Brewery. Les Holtzapple was the owner of Les’s and a delightful character in his own right. Both myself and members of my staff ate at Les’s from the late 1960s through either the late 1970s or early 1980s. Les made the absolute best turtle soup ever made by an human hands and people came from all around to purchase his turtle soup even if they did not eat in his restaurant. Les passed away shortly after he retired and after a brief hiatus with another owner whose name escapes me, Ruth Lehman opened La Country Cuisine Restaurant, which she operated until it was purchased by the current owner of Mudhook. Since Les’s Cafeteria/La Country Cuisine/Mudhoook is directly behind my law office, it was truly my neighborhood restaurant where I ate virtually ever breakfast and lunch. I am sure that Les’s comeback to the question ‘What’s good today?,’ ‘I don’t know, I don’t eat here,’ is well remembered by those of us who frequented Les’s Cafeteria.”
Finally, regarding another downtown eatery, the Golden Glow cafeteria, you will see some pictures with today’s post from June Lloyd, who blogs at Universal York. She had a 2012 post sharing memories of that cafeteria, Golden Glow Cafeteria glows in York memories; I hope you’ll check that out.
And finally today, from Karen Behr, I heard, “My grandmother and I often ate at a cafeteria on first block of N. George St. called the Golden Glow. All the food was homemade and delicious! I always thought that the staff were farm wives, but that is probably due to a child’s imagination!? Perhaps this cafeteria had an entrance in the alley? The timeframe would have been the ’60s.”
While I am not sure about the entrance location, it does seem from memories shared in June’s post that it is correct that the cafeteria was owned by members of a farm family!