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Corner diners seem to be going the way of the Pterodactyl. But there is still a place in the historic West Village where they take pride in the breakfast, lunch and dinner they serve with a smile. It’s Bus Stop Café at 597 Hudson Street at Bethune Street, our June Business of the Month.
In 1995 Georgia Damalis opened this now-classic spot. Her brothers ran the restaurant Manatus, and they were doing well (one still-posted Yelp review of Manatus observed: “Thanks for the late-night memories. This was the spot to be at 2 am in New York City in 1994.”). The landlord of the Hudson Street space near where Bleecker Street starts was fascinated with the success story of the hard-working immigrants putting in 24 hours a day, 7 day’s a week, and offered them the space. Georgia’s family hails from the Greek town of Kefalonia, while she and her husband had most recently been programmers at IBM.
Initially, Georiga could not believe they were serious, Hudson Street was a mess. The construction and state of the streets were such that is was very difficult to get a sidewalk café permit. Now you can bask in the springtime West Village glow as you dine on this very quiet corner, even with an M11 bus stop there. That and the Marilyn Monroe film “Bus Stop” inspired the restaurant’s name.
Her brothers were very confident about her success. They told her, “after a few years I will not have to work anymore. That part was not true,” she said with a chuckle. Bus Stop Café has grown up with the neighborhood for 23 years. When asked what was so special about the neighborhood, Georiga said, “The people. I feel like I am back in my village in Greece. I get up and go out and talk to everyone.” She raised two daughters in the neighborhood.
Bus Stop Café serves people of every persuasion. Locals, families, seniors and millennials, and of course tourists. Georgia remembers the first person that came there was Al Pacino. He had a Caesar Salad and left a large tip, she recalled.
Most important are the locals who come regularly. Staff like Inesa know what dish or wine they want, and even what music they prefer or how many napkins they desire.
Of course, there have been changes. Georgia observes that Bleecker Street is not like old times when it was full of small eclectic shops. Big designer stores have come (and gone) and they do not always have the same connection to the neighborhood.
Recently, Georgia’s brother closed The Village Den. So how is Bus Stop Café still in business? She says luck and mentions the lovely parks across the street. Bus Stop Café is betwixt Abingdon Square and Bleecker Playground, right by Arthur W. Strickler Triangle on Bethune Street.
They have also kept the prices reasonable with a burger — veggie or otherwise — for under $10. Whether you’re looking for locally sourced superfood with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, or some classic, American comfort, they’re here to make you something delicious. The chicken with avocado is one of the most popular dishes.
Naturally, she saved her highest compliments and reason for success to the great staff that has worked there over the years.
From one of many wonderful reviews, Lily T. states “This lovely place is a gem in the West Village. They have been around ever since I can remember and for good reasons too! The food is flavorful always and solidly good in the many random times my friends and I have visited, quality is not compromised and has never been a question. Service is impeccable. The atmosphere just gives out a feeling of at-home coziness. Truly a landmark in the Village!”
So stop by for a cappuccino at 6 am, a sandwich or salad at noon, or a wine and dinner at night. Bus Stop Café is our June Business of the Month.
What special small business would you like to see featured next? Just click here to nominate our next one. Thank you! #shoplocalnyc
And here is a handy map of all of our Businesses of the Month: