Colorful and breezy California-style cafe El Rey will close next week after nearly five years and much acclaim on the Lower East Side.
Owner Nick Morgenstern says he and the restaurant’s landlord failed to strike an agreement for the space at 100 Stanton St., between Ludlow and Orchard Streets, prompting the once-critically acclaimed cafe’s closure. El Rey’s last day will be Thursday, November 29.
“I’ve decided it’s time to bid El Rey farewell and focus on continuing to grow Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream,” Morgenstern says in a statement sent to Eater.
Morgernstern opened El Rey in 2013 as a coffee shop and soon rolled out a vegetable-focused, wholesome menu created by chef Gerardo Gonzalez. In 2015, the all-day cafe began serving dinner, adding dishes like vegan chicharrónes, an octopus salad, and green mole with burrata. The LES spot soon rose in popularity and garnered plenty of critical acclaim.
But in 2016 El Rey lost its executive chef and switched to a grab-and-go cafe, with food mostly coming in toast and bowl form. (Eater critic Robert Sietsema, however, wasn’t a fan of the “clammy and disheveled egg sandwich” he found there after the switch, he writes.)
At one point, El Rey also had a presence inside the Todd Snyder store at Madison Square Park, but that location has too closed, with Snyder taking on new partners for the cafe over summer.
With the restaurant’s closure, Morgenstern will now focus on his namesake ice cream brand. In October, he opened a flagship location of Morgenstern’s in Greenwich Village, serving more flavors in swanky new digs that includes a full kitchen, which the restaurateur plans to use to make savory breakfast and other dishes alongside ice cream.