Hidden on the Upper East Side is a little piece of Belgium.
B Café is an elegant bistro with European flair, offering dishes that evoke a sense of nostalgia for both expats and well-traveled locals. Those craving Belgian cuisine come for the waffles, Steak Frites Belgique, Moules Frites, and, of course, a glass of Belgian beer.
The owner, Skel Islamaj, is proud to be serving food from his heritage. In his early twenties, he landed in Boston from Belgium and fell in love with the city—and the restaurant industry. He worked for several years at well established businesses including Anthony’s Pier IV and the Swiss Hotel, before coming to NY to assist Jean George in opening some of his first restaurants. In 1998, Islamaj finally "decided to do [his] own concept," and B Frites - a french fry shop - was born. And then in 2006, Islamaj finally felt ready to open his own full-fledged Belgian restaurant, B Café.
“We are off the beaten track so the restaurant has to be a destination place. I am grateful to the neighborhood, however, who primarily supports B Cafe.” And, in return, Islamaj wants to give a little piece of Belgium to everyone. “I get a lot of people who travel to Europe and come back and tell me that this restaurant tastes and feels like Belgium.”
Built in 1874 as a row of four four-story brick tenement buildings by architect Fr. S. Barus, #240 did not always have a commercial ground floor, with retail space likely added in the early 20th century. Little is known about its shops and services over the last hundred years, but we know a great deal about the residents of #240 and its neighbors. When built in 1874, most tenants were Irish or of Irish ancestry. With the rapidly increasing wave of Italian immigration, by 1900 only 4 households at 240 were still Irish, while all the others were Italian. The entire south side of this block was dominated by Italians, many working in the tobacco industry. This block remained predominantly Italian for at least three decades. The 1940 census stopped recording parent’s place of birth; at that time, while a few residents were Italian, the majority were New York born.