It was a bit of a blustery day with just a threat of rain in the air so I didn’t feel like planning anything to strenuous. About 4:00 P.M. in the afternoon though I felt like I needed a breath of fresh, or at least Pub, air so I caught a subway and headed back to Greenwich Village.
Well, it was just a matter of time until I hit this Village landmark. It is famously located by an almost unmarked door at 86 Bedford in what looks to be a largely residential area. Only a small paper announcing brunch on Saturday and Sunday gives away the fact that there is a bar here at all. The other entrance, through a courtyard at 58 Barrow Street is even more difficult to find. This place has been here just about forever and has a somewhat lurid history of being a speakeasy, gambling den, and an enclave for off-beat political gatherings. Hidden rooms and secret passages abound. The term “being 86ed” supposedly originates here. Back when this was a speakeasy the police, by prior arrangement, would always raid the place by entering through the courtyard entrance. The management would then holler out “everyone 86 it” and this would be the signal to run out of the place through the 86 Barrow Street door. Over time to be 86ed came to mean being asked to leave and, even more onerous, being prohibited from ever returning, at least until suitable penance had been paid, generally by staying away for some period of time.
A fairly large place with three rooms. The middle room houses the old, beat-up bar with a large wooden bar rail. A strange looking copper-backed trough with eleven beer spigots is behind the bar. Unfortunately, it looks disturbingly like a communal urinal. Most of the brands of beer being served have Chumley’s name associated with them, as in Chumley’s Wing and Prayer Wheat, Chumley’s Captain Drennan’s Irish Red, Chumley’s Spring Sun Rye Ale. You get the picture. There is all kinds of junk on the shelf above the spigots; a wooden fire truck, a wooden tug boat, a red and a green lantern, just stuff. Book covers and pictures of authors, many of whom frequented this watering hole, cover most of the wall space but there are also several pictures of firemen on the wall. A niche above a small fireplace holds a large wooden goose. Old wooden tables and booths fill the place and old fashioned square shaded lights hang from the ceiling. A Mets game was playing on the television. I think it is almost a requirement that you carve you initials into the bar or a table. At least it looks like thousands of others thought so.
I ahd a draft Heather and Honey Brown Ale.
432) Kettle of Fish
This bar is now located at 59 Christopher Street, but it has traveled a bit. Kettle of Fish moved from 130 West. 3rd Street and reopened at 59 Christopher Street in June of 1999. It originally opened on McDougal St. in 1950 where it people such as Kerouac, Ginsberg, Dylan and many other 60's artists, poets and musicians hung out. They moved to their West 3rd Street location for 12 years. and then, most recently, moved to 59 Christopher St. which used to be the Lion’s Head where people such as Norman Mailer and Pete Hamill used to drink.
You step down a few stairs to enter this place where the bottoms of the windows are at street level. It has a low ceiling but has a nice sized back room with comfortable sofas, tables and chairs, a large screen television, and a couple of dart boards. The bar itself is a good sized old wooden bar with a brass rail and plain wooden bar chairs. Lots of small multi-colored Christmas lights are strewn about the place giving it a festive look. A few Halloween lights are still up as well. They have a big pumpkin carving contest here every year for Halloween. Very cluttered wood shelving behind the bar holds a good sized collection of reference books for resolving disagreements. There are a lot of bottles back there too and all kinds of knick knacks and baseball caps. Green inverted cone shaped lights hang over the bar and tan and gold stained glass lights hang from the ceiling throughout the rest of the place. Dark paneled walls everywhere except behind the bar where the wall is dark brick. There is a large stuffed dog on a shelf by the back wall and a small live dog sitting on a barstool between two women at my end of the bar.
I got excited when I saw a classic Williams Fish Tales pinball machine, in working order, tucked away. I tried my hand at it but didn’t very good. I blame this on the fact that the lighting was too dim, and it was.
I had a glass of Australian Chardonnay, made from grapes stomped by kangaroos, I would imagine, and then headed home.
Making progress with 432 down and 568 left for the year.