Torn-Down Tuesday: Laube’s Cafeteria, Pearl and West Eagle streets

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

A 46-year era came to an end in 1968 as Laube’s Cafeteria – first opened in 1922 – closed as business nearly ground to a halt with the building of the Main Place Mall across the street and demolition started for the Rath Building just to the south.

Charles Laube started the restaurant empire, which briefly spread to Rochester, in 1907 after moving to Buffalo from Germany. His first place was called “My Lunch,” a 32-seat diner at 33 Niagara St. When the larger building opened up around the corner at Pearl and West Eagle, Laube hopped at the chance and created one of Buffalo’s most beloved dining spots through the 1930s and 1940s.

The Family Court Building now stands where generations of Buffalonians ate affordable meals at Laubes Cafeteria. Buffalo News archives

The Family Court Building now stands where generations of Buffalonians ate affordable meals at Laube’s Cafeteria. (Buffalo News archives)

Diners catching one last meal before the neon and grills went cold remembered how novel the idea of balcony seating was when the place first opened.

Laubes Cafeteria Buffalo Stories archives

Laube Cafeterias. (Buffalo Stories archives)

“Being taken to Laube’s for lunch before a matinee at the Buffalo Theater was a treat – maybe the best part about coming downtown,” remembered one Buffalonian.

At its peak, 2,000 people a day ate at Laube’s Cafeteria, where the well-known slogan was “famous for food.” Laube’s was also famous for quality and high standards, only giving into the overwhelming savings of paper napkins over cloth napkins within the last few years of operation.

The fate of the Laube’s building was sealed within months of the restaurant’s closure. The City of Buffalo bought the property, and leveled it with hopes of a companion development to Main Place Mall.

The Laube family still operated a cafeteria inside the YMCA as well as a full-service restaurant inside the Lord Amherst Hotel at Main and Kensington in Snyder.

By then, the family’s best remembered restaurant, Laube’s Old Spain, located next door to Shea’s Buffalo Theatre in downtown Buffalo, had already been closed. The City of Buffalo assumed ownership of the Shea’s Buffalo and Laube’s Old Spain building for back taxes at the same auction in 1975.

Laubes Old Spain, Main Street, next to Sheas Buffalo. Later the home of Swiss Chalet, it is now The Sheas Smith Theatre. Buffalo Stories archives

Laube’s Old Spain, was located on Main Street next to Shea’s Buffalo. Later the home of Swiss Chalet, it is now the Shea’s Smith Theatre. (Buffalo Stories archives)

 

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. The operator of Buffalo Stories Tours writes about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo special at blog.buffalostories.com and daily at buffalonews.com/history. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and spent 20 years working in Buffalo radio and TV, climbing his way to news director at WBEN Radio. Since then, he's been an adjunct professor and produced PBS documentaries. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.