"I chose photos that either had the author smoking, drinking, or writing," said James DiPaolo, Chumley’s on-site curator, as I played "guess the famous person" with the hundreds of book jackets and photos crowding the walls of this revived speakeasy. "On some I got a trifecta!” he crowed, before pointing out corners where Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Lillian Hellman, Eugene O’Neill, James Thurber, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and countless other literary lions once boozed it up. Chumley’s was THE watering hole for New York’s writers and revolutionaries for many decades, opening in the 1920s in a building that was already 100 years old. Alas, a brick wall collapsed in 2007, forcing its closure. What you see is totally rebuilt, and very different from the original, but thanks to DiPaolo’s efforts—this garrulous guide is on hand most nights to talk literary history—ghosts of the past still waft through. And thanks to the kitchen’s efforts, those who stop by for this modern séance are far better fed than Chumley’s patrons were back in the day. In fact, based on the food alone, I’d give this place three stars, if it weren’t for the high noise levels. There’s some bar food, including one of the best burgers in the city (sided by aged beef fat-drenched fries!), but otherwise the cuisine is bistro-style, rich and hugely satisfying, especially the apple-and-boudin-sausage tart and the classic bouillabaisse. Note: As speakeasy tradition dictates, the entrance is totally anonymous—look for the door marked “86.”
New York City
New York City› Restaurant
86 Bedford St. (btw. Barrow and Grove sts.)
Our Rating Neighborhood Greenwich Village Hours Mon–Thurs 5:30–10:15pm, Fri–Sat 5:30–10:30pm, Sun 11am–3pm Transportation Subway: 1 to Christopher St. or A, B, C, D, E, F to West 4th Street. Phone 212/675-2081 Prices Main courses $29–$36 Cuisine Type American Web site Chumley's
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