As I was growing up in New York, Chumleys had legendary status for me. The concealed, historic West Village bar was where my mothers began their relationship.( In fact, theyd met the night before at a party; but their chance session at Chumleys is what sealed the deal .)
When I got caught up in the lure of the restaurant world, I loved that the insider term to 86( to stop serving someone ), was allegedly devised there. Legend has it that, during Prohibition, clients would exit via the door at 86 Bedford St. when the cops were coming through the entryway on Barrow Street.
And then, there are the astounding literary illuminates who hung out there. Ill name only a few: William Faulkner, Ring Lardner, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Edna St. Vincent Millay, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
But some places dont age well, especially when they hit their eighties. At some point, Chumleys, which opened in 1922, became a place where patrons peed outside in the courtyard and got into late-night , noisy fights( in front of multimillion dollar Village townhouses ). There was a lot of Budweiser on tap and greasy pasta coming out of the kitchen. In 2007 a chimney breakdown shut it down, and everyone guessed the legendary bar was gone for good.
Enter Alessandro Borgognone, who owns Sushi Nakazawa around the corner. As the property appeared as if it were about to be lost, Borgognone scooped it up and embarked on a giant restoration to bring back the original, fabulous spirit of the place.
Once again, the walls are lined with the book jackets of novelists who sat at the tables, and the walls are packed with the authors portraitsmore than 250 of them. Portraits of F. Scott and Zelda still hang about the nook that is known as the Fitzgeralds corner. But because the breakdown destroyed so much, Chumleys dining room has shrunk at least 10 percent, both in height and thicknes.( The upside is good air conditioning and better plumbing .) Former clients will note that steps no longer lead into the dining room. And the courtyard doorway, once one of the Puckish aspects of the place that induced going there so charming, is now permanently closed.( That also entails the now privately, owned courtyard, known as Pamela Court, won’t be used as a de facto bathroom .) Those days are definitely run, told Borgognone.
The biggest improvements at Chumleys can be found in the drinks and especially, on the menu. Once upon a time in the history of the joint, the food may have been good; toward the end, it was dismal. Now, South America-born chef Victoria Blamey has serious ambitions for the cook: she’s previously run at such notable New York places as Atera, Corton, and Upland.