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Food History

Meet Me at The Rendezvous (1930s)


I’m drawn to aspects of what feel like Church Hill pre-history: the Marshall Street Viaduct, the trolley, the independent town Fairmount, old Fulton, the Central Lunatic Asylum… All of the back-in-day details that help answer the question of what was here before? or before before before…?

One of the names that calls out for some digging into is The Rendezvous, a longtime restaurant located where The Hill Cafe is now. Local realtor/historian/renovator of houses Bill Hartsock recently scored this match cover from the 1930s and has a little history of the place:

I can’t give you hard facts, but I do know that The Rendevous operated as a restaurant from the 1920s to the 1950s.

After white flight started after WWII the place changed to what used to be known as a “nip joint”. By the 1980’s it was called a “shot house”, with boarded up windows and just a small slot in the front door so the owners could see who was at the door. You could spend a dollar and get a shot of moonshine or other shady liquor!

When I bought, and moved in to 2700 E. Broad St. in 1987 the Hill Cafe had already been created.

The phone in the apartment on the second floor of 2700 (there were four apartments in there at the time) was on a party line with the Hill Cafe, which was probably left over from the Rendevous. Possibly, the proprietor of The Rendevous lived there at the time and answered the phone at both places. Every time the phone rang at the Hill Cafe I got the call, too. Some nights it was hard to sleep!

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jean mcdaniel

When I moved here in 1978, the Rendezvous was a beer joint with the windows painted black. It was a badge of bravado among the white folks if you had the nerve to go in there and order a beer. You had to go alone. I put on my combat uniform, boots and dog tags for emotional support. They were very nice to me. It was the only beer I ever drank in my life! It was a continues source of gun fire on the week ends as well as beer bottles thrown on the surrounding streets. The whole neighborhood… Read more »

Tom Whitt

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It was a beer joint back in the late 1970’s. I had breakfast there with a roommate who hailed from New York City and claimed it was safe (during the day), and the toast was great ’cause they never cleaned the grill, which gave everything “flavor.” There were more knife fights back then, too. I don’t recall gunfire back then, I think guns came in with crack, which was a little later. There *were* broken beer bottles outside, though.


Pat Tyler, wife of former Councilman Bruce Tyler bought the Rendezvous and gutted the place to create the Hill Café. They put a lot of sweat equity in it. In 1987 or so, the Rendezvous was still a regular gunfire place. Most of in the area never bothered to duck after a while. One summer night, one of the patrons forgot to pay back a drug debt and was chased to the 300 Block of 27th Street from the dude he owed money. There, he and my car took a total of 5-6 shots from a Tech 9. From my… Read more »


We started renovation on a house diagonally across the street in the summer of 1988; the Rendezvous windows were always blacked out & we never ventured in. Other than some overheard spirited conversations from patrons, I don’t remember anything particularly unusual ever going on (at least on the outside) & we never had any trouble.

I believe most of the patrons walked there instead of driving because it was rare to have a parking problem at that intersection back then. Quite different from today!

Alison Campbell

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Mark Olinger

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