Wa Jeal Sichuan Cuisine, formally Mocca Restaurant – 1588 Second Avenue

Wa Jeal Sichuan Cuisine
1588 Second Avenue
New York
NY 10028


Upon its closure in 2004, Matthew von Unwerth wrote a tribute to Mocca Restaurant, which had spent 40 years on Second Avenue near 82nd Street. The following is an excerpt from “The Rise and Decline of a Hapsburg Empire,” which was published in the New York Times.

“Mocca… was a vestige of old Yorkville, the neighborhood of mostly German and Eastern European immigrants who settled the area more than a century ago. Even 20 years ago, the neighborhood was a thriving country unto itself, with its own restaurants, churches and schools, all filled with the sounds of the Old World… The décor of Mocca (the name means coffee in Hungarian) was unpretty, with mottled tiles, a tin ceiling, tannish walls. The servers were tenured, their faces as enduring and familiar as the menu they brought to your table. And the bar, which offered the comforts of a barack palinka (apricot brandy) or unicum (uneasily characterized), occupied a coat closet at the back of the large room…

Like its counterparts in Europe, Mocca was timeless, and changeless in the uncompetitive way of a neighborhood place… Its patrons belonged to the Yorkville community and its working-class culture… for some of them, as in immigrant communities everywhere, venturing outside the neighborhood may as well have required a passport into a foreign country. For these barely hyphenated Americans, who whether by choice, fear or lack of opportunity remained unassimilated into their new culture, Mocca was the center of their world.”


The two brownstone buildings on the east side of Second Avenue near 82nd Street were built in 1874 by Frederick Sigmund Barus as 4-story tenements with stores. Modest details at the window sills have been removed and the storefronts have been heavily altered. The detailed cornice, with pinnacles at the ends, however, remains. Barus was born in Prussia and came to the U.S. in 1850, living in Iowa, New Orleans, and then settling in Queens with his wife and 8 children in 1879. 1588 Second Avenue was home of the beloved Hungarian restaurant Mocca.