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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Then and Now: New York Coney Island Cafe

In the late 1920s, George and Ernest Pappas started the New York Coney Island Cafe at 336 W. Riverside.

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Image One Spokane Public Library via the Northwest Room
Image Two Jesse Tinsley | The Spokesman-Review

Then and Now: New York Coney Island Cafe

The Oliver Block, a two-story commercial building in the 300 block of West Riverside, was built by Spokane pioneer Daniel K. Oliver, a Civil War veteran and carpenter, around 1892. The upstairs included meeting rooms for local clubs and fraternal organizations. The street level was often a restaurant. Oliver died in 1906.

In the late 1920s, George and Ernest Pappas started the New York Coney Island Cafe at 336 West Riverside. Coney Island sauce was a meat-based sauce that was developed by Greek immigrants in their American restaurants. The sauce, described by some as a beanless chili, was poured over hot dogs and hamburgers for an inexpensive and filling meal, which in the 1920s was two hot dogs for 15 cents.

The Pappas brothers were succeeded by proprietors Tom Corisis and Tom Anastos in the 1930s. The pair would eventually own several Coney Island restaurants across Washington and Montana. They received a beer license for the restaurant as soon as Prohibition ended in 1933.

Around 1950, the restaurant was taken over by the Obde brothers Fred, George and James, who had owned the Blue Bell Tavern at Division Street and Main Avenue since 1946. Their parents, Joseph and Jamelia Obde, were immigrants from Syria, of Lebanese descent, who moved to Spokane around 1918. Joseph Obde was a shoe repairman for Saad’s Shoe Repair, but he also worked in the family’s restaurant and bars. Fred Obde was also a Spokane Police officer. Older brother Edward Obde became a Spokane Fire Department assistant chief. Older brother Nave Obde also worked in the restaurants but was a truck inspector for the state of Washington.

In 1962, the Obde brothers remodeled the place, dropped the Coney Island name and added a bar, called the Fez Room. The local newspaper reported that the eastern downtown area was populated by many bars in the post WWII-era and was part of “Skid Road.”

The Obde’s sold out in the late 1970s, and the downtown restaurant was gone by 1981. George Obde ran an Obde’s Restaurant on the South Hill until about 1982.

The El Toreador restaurant started up in Obde’s spot in 1981. The building was destroyed in a suspected arson fire in 2000 and torn down.

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