Chumley’s Bar Reopened, and With SWANK

Written by admin on December 12, 2016
chumley's bar new york

Chumley’s Bar, exterior (the NEW one)

Well, it’s finally happened. Since it caved in on itself during renovation back in 2007, Chumley’s, the legendary speakeasy/literary dive/Greenwich Village stalwart since 1922, is, since October, in business again. But like a body with a head transplant (or a head with a body transplant), it ain’t quite the same.

The new place, built pretty much from scratch on the original site at 86 Bedford Avenue, is a swanked-up, plushly-boothed, full-service restaurant, complete with Beef Tartare, Hamachi Crudo, and $16 cocktails like the Hand Me Harvard and the Basement of Thieves. Hey, nothing in New York ever stays the same, and this sort of transformation has been happening all over town (see: Minetta Tavern, a lovely, if shabby, 1930s-era restaurant on nearby MacDougal Street that was swankified back in 2009). Take an old place (or in the case of Chumley’s, a crumbly hole in the ground), build it out, spiff it up, and bingo: it’s a scene. You want dinner at Chumley’s? Reservations only, my friend. Call 212-675-2081.

I have a warm place in my heart for Chumley’s Bar. I visited several times before we even moved to New York, and our first Christmas in the city, far from family, found Colleen and me at a booth in front of Chumley’s beat up old fire place, munching fries and playing Scrabble, happy as clams at high tide. The place was one of a kind, but what can you do? That Chumley’s is dead. Long live the new Chumley’s! I’ll check it out for sure, and I’ll bet there’s plenty to like about the 2016 version, if only to experience the novelty of another gleaming new chow hole in Manhattan. 

Years back I drew a tribute to Chumley’s Bar, specifically their beat up, almost medieval door facing Bedford Street, supposedly the inspiration for the service industry term “86,” as in “86 that guy! He’s hammered and turning into a puddle.” In other words, show him the door (86); he’s outta here. The same eventually went for anything the kitchen ran out of, as in “86 the branzino! That’s the last one!”

My Version of Chumley’s Bar Door, the Original One, at 86 Bedford

You can buy a print of this, or other Great Good Places of New York (to be featured in my upcoming book of the same name, published by Rizzoli in 2018) on my website store. They’re signed & numbered and ship for free anywhere in the U.S.

chumley's bar

Chumley’s (16″ by 20″), silk screen on paper (J. Tebeau © 2016)

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