Old Kid on a New Block: Cafe Clementine

After much anticipation, Cafe Clementine, which had to leave its longtime location on West Broadway and White when the building was sold, reopened at Greenwich and Duane on Tuesday and is already adding some light and life to that corner abandoned by Tribeca’s Cornerstone in 2017. (There’s a reason they called it cornerstone — that spot really does feel like the heart of the neighborhood.)

The owners are Rosa Tlaseca, Constancio Rodriguez and Juan Reyes, who were the day-to-day operations folks behind Clementine since 2005. It’s really incredible – and lucky for us — that they stuck with it for these past two years through what was one of the more painful cases of city bureaucracy I’ve seen. The three live in Queens and took separate jobs while they hacked their way through the process.

Clementine was founded in 1997 by longtime Soho resident Barbara Stratton, after training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park and years cooking at Donald Sacks and Jerry’s on Prince Street; its first iteration was as Columbine, on the corner of West Broadway and White, where One White Street is now. (You can read Barbara’s recollection of the neighborhood after 9/11 here an a great story in the Trib from 2014, when Barbara protested her B grade from the DOH.) When 1 White was sold in 2010, she moved the business next door and renamed it Clementine. There it was ensconced, a neighborhood favorite, until October 2020, when the building was sold.

Barbara still has a hand in this new version: she has designed the menu and, as Rosa said, “guided us through the whole thing.”

“She kept pushing,” Rosa said. “She would say, ‘You have to open no matter what!'”

The new spot is not recognizable from the Cornerstone days. It’s bright and airy, with counters along both windows and four seats — an excellent perch for watching the world go by. (The former Cornerstone owner even came by to admire the place.) They are still working with an electric burner — ConEd said the gas is still a month or two away — but Rosa said they’ve done that before and will manage for now. (Constancio does the pastries; Juan is all over the kitchen, and Rosa runs the business.)

We grabbed the smoked turkey with bacon on soft Grandaisy seven-grain ($13) and the French ham with butter on a Grandaisy baguette ($11) and decamped to Washington Market Park. Both were just about perfect sandwiches — fresh, carefully prepared, just the right size, wrapped in paper like a real sandwich (thank goodness). I loved the rich Mexican cauliflower soup — there’s a dollop of cheddar swirled with cilantro on the top — and will go back for that regularly.

Of course we had all five cookies, which was an investment (a cookie is $4.50) but irresistible. The chocolate cherry was my #1, but my pals were sticking with the Urban Legend Cowboy with milk chocolate and pecans. Worth the pennies.

Cafe Clementine
325 Greenwich at Duane
Hours for now: 10a to 7p

A post-script from Barbara: “My business survived September 11th, the power outage in the hottest month of 2003, Hurricane Sandy, a building-wide gas shut off for 6 months, and many closures due to water turnoffs in the streets. The amazing crew I was fortunate to have made our tough times so much easier. Rosa, Juan Carlos and Luis are the new face of Café Clementine. When we closed the doors for the last time on March 16, 2020, I handed them the keys — if the business was to continue, I knew they were the ones to make it happen. I was close to retirement so I packed my bags, leashed up the dogs and am now very happy planting flowers at my tiny cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. Peace and love, B

Another quick postscript on Cornerstone, since it was a staple in the neighborhood for three decades. It opened at that spot in 1991 and closed in February 2017, initially for ConEd repairs but then never reopened. At the time, owner Sasha Zielin was stuck in a regulation catch-22. “In order for Cornerstone to resume business, we needed to get a permit,” he wrote in an email. “When we tried to get it, violations popped up on the building that were unrelated to Cornerstone. It seems like the landlord would rather sell the building instead of fixing those violations. As of now, things are not looking good for us. We are devastated!”

The building was sold in 2019, and a new saga began.



  1. so thrilled to see this! i’ve missed cafe clementine so much!! congrats to the new owners- so grateful they didn’t give up. i will be here every day!

  2. What a journey of patience! I am so happy they have opened and hope the scaffold comes down soon! Been a big fan for years and welcome them back to the neighborhood.
    I had a long day of work yesterday so maybe I will treat myself to their fabulous tuna sandwich and deadly chocolate chip cookie today!!