Frances Edelstein, Holocaust Survivor And ‘Polish Tea Room’ Owner, Dies At 92

She was a Holocaust survivor who shared fed Broadway’s elite - and Times Square characters — at a heimish eatery so beloved it inspired a Neil Simon play.

Frances Edelstein, who ran Cafe Edison with her husband, Harry, for 30 years, died in New Jersey this week at 92.

The couple had run lunch counters in Brooklyn when a friend who owned Midtown’s Edison Hotel asked them to take over his restaurant. Relaunching Cafe Edison in 1980, the Edelsteins “turned it into a bastion of matzo brei, borscht and corned beef, served in generous portions,” according to The New York Times. “It makes me happy when I think of all the gentiles we made Jewish,” Frances Edelstein told the Times in 2001.

That same year, Neil Simon’s “45 Seconds to Broadway,” opened in New York, set in a restaurant he called the Polish Cafe; it was a loving tribute to the Edelsteins and their eatery. Cafe Edison earned the nickname “The Polish Tearoom” from regulars; it was a sly spin on New York’s “Russian Tea Room,” a gilded midtown hangout. Until its closing in 2014, Cafe Edison became a favored hangout for Broadway actors, directors, and theater hangers-on, along with hordes of tourists. The Edelsteins even earned an honorary Tony award in 2004.

Frances Edelstein was born Frima Trost in Poland in 1926. Except for one brother, her entire family died in the Holocaust. Her husband’s family was also murdered by the Nazis in Poland. The couple married in Warsaw, and arrived in the US in 1947.

It was recipes she remembered from her own mother that inspired Frances Edelstein’s cooking. “If my grandchildren wanted kreplach — which aren’t easy to make — she’d have 100 of them the next day,” Frances Edelstein’s daughter, Harriet Strohl, told The New York Times. “They’d say, ‘Oh, bubbe, we haven’t had stuffed cabbage in a long time’ — she’d make 30 of them.”

Frances Edelstein, Holocaust Survivor And ‘Polish Tea Room’ Owner, Dies At 92

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Frances Edelstein, Holocaust Survivor And ‘Polish Tea Room’ Owner, Dies At 92

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close
Close