Famed Photo Walls of NY

Grandlife guide

Famed Photo Walls of NY

back to list

Three years ago, legendary Midtown eatery Carnegie Deli closed its doors after 80 years of business. And when they closed up shop, owner Marian Harper decided to put all of the signed photos of celebrity visitors out on the curb for people to snag. The boxes emptied quickly, with passersby going home with what feels like an authentic memento, a snapshot of when the often mundane New York deli experience and the A-List collide.

It’s a classic feature of New York’s most iconic delis and restaurants—those cluttered walls with framed photos that, if you look closely, might contain your favorite actor or historic head of state posing with the restaurant’s owner. It’s a record of the who’s who intermingling with the ordinary, a rare moment in which the lives of the rich and famous intersect with the everyday New York experience.

Though, as Lucien Bahaj, owner of Lower East Side restaurant Lucien, tells me, “People don’t come here to look at the pictures, they come here for the fresh, homestyle food.” It’s true—on their walls you will see Lady Gaga’s photo next to that of a smiling customer, and that’s the beauty of these photo walls: through great food, the clientele becomes totally democratized.

We’ve lined up four of the best, most star-studded photo walls in downtown NYC.

Katz’s Delicatessen

Katz’s Deli, pictured above, is often heralded as the best deli in America with its famous NYC location taking the cake in terms of cultural significance, and its densely packed walls prove it. With over 750 photographs, Katz’s exceeds every other establishment on the list in terms of its dizzying range of famous faces featured: members of the Wu-Tang Clan, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, famed porn actor Ron Jeremy—the list goes on. It’s the coveted site where Meg Ryan faked an orgasm in When Harry Met Sally, with a hanging sign marking the exact table where she sat. But regardless of where you sit, their mile-high pastrami will make it worth it.

205 E Houston St; T. (212) 366-1182

Famed Photo Walls of NY
Wu Tang at Katz's Deli.

Lucien

It’s notoriously difficult for a restaurant in NYC to really stick, but ever since opening on the Lower East Side in 1998, French bistro Lucien has been perennially packed. And although it’s not uncommon here to rub elbows with the stranger next to you, the Parisian-style room is nonetheless inviting and romantic, its walls inundated with a no-empty-space framed photo philosophy. Look up and you will see the likes of Adele, Daniel Radcliffe, Jon Hamm, Joan Didion, and Lady Gaga on the walls, and once you taste the hearty, home-style French cuisine, you’ll understand why so many big names flock here.

14 1st Ave #1; T. (212) 260-6481

Famed Photo Walls of NY

Joe’s Pizza, West Village

At this point, Joe’s Pizza is less West Village highlight than downright neighborhood necessity. Founded in 1975 by Italian immigrant Pino “Joe” Pozzuoli, who still runs the joint himself, the institution’s “average” customer spans the likes of A-listers including Bill Murray, Conan O’Brien, Anne Hathaway and Mickey Rourke, all to be found on their walls if you’re lucky enough to snag a seat. But with their no-frills menu (cheese, pepperoni and fresh mozzarella), the late-night pizza experience becomes democratized; you and your favorite celeb (Leonardo DiCaprio is featured on the wall multiple times) probably had the same experience, the same authentic pizza craving fulfilled. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by, grab a slice, and revel in a true New York classic.

7 Carmine St; T. (212) 366-1182

Famed Photo Walls of NY

Village Vanguard

One of the most revered jazz clubs in the world, Village Vanguard originally started out as a space for budding poets, comedians, and musicians. But with the advent of television in the 1950s, where variety acts like comedy shows flourished, the club’s owner Max Gordon decided to focus on jazz. Since then, the cozy basement venue, which can only fit a snug 123 people maximum, has hosted the likes of Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and so many more jazz legends, all of whom can be found on its walls. It’s famously difficult to find a bad table at Village Vanguard, so if you and your date are looking for a romantic jazz night, or even just a chill night out with world-class musical performances, know that it all incubates inside of this historic West Village gem.

178 7th Ave South; T. (212) 255-4037

WORDS Ivan Guzman

You May Also Like

Downtown Vintage Treasure Troves

Downtown Vintage Treasure Troves

fashion
stories
Victorian blouses, sequined disco tops, perfectly worn 501s—these emporiums will sort out any gaps you might have. 
Get Lost in Chinatown

Get Lost in Chinatown

coffee & cafés
fashion
food & drink
reading
stories
From a family-run tofu shop to a private hair studio—our favorite under-the-radar spots.
Supporting Ukraine Through Its NYC Roots

Supporting Ukraine Through Its NYC Roots

art & design
bars & nightlife
coffee & cafés
food & drink
stories
Our favorite Ukrainian spots in a city that boasts the largest Ukrainian population in the country. 
On Show: New York Art World Icons Warhol & Basquiat

On Show: New York Art World Icons Warhol & Basquiat

art & design
stories
If you only catch a few exhibitions this spring, make sure it’s these ones...
Weekends in SoHo

Weekends in SoHo

art & design
bars & nightlife
fashion
food & drink
stories
Combining heritage with a new age of restaurants, bars, cafes, and boutiques, explore the neighborhood with this curated guide.
The Originals: NYC Institutions Still Worth a Visit

The Originals: NYC Institutions Still Worth a Visit

bars & nightlife
food & drink
stories
From an essential NYC Jewish deli to a chemist to a comedy club with anecdotes and fun facts from those who were—or still are—there.
Best in Class: NYC Concept Stores

Best in Class: NYC Concept Stores

fashion
shopping
stories
In typical New York fashion, a class of concept stores has raised the bar for what you can expect from a clothing boutique.
New York Spring Gardens Downtown Elizabeth Street Garden Gramercy Park Washington Square Park

Diggin' It: Downtown Garden Escapes

food & drink
stories
Lunch date, garden party, solo respite—these 5 outdoor spots have your alfresco needs covered this spring.
Best Rate Promise
Soho Grand Hotel

310 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013

(212) 965-3000
The Roxy Hotel New York

2 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10013

212.519.6600