Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ghosts of Greenwich Village: Minetta Tavern

MINETTA TAVERN (113 MacDougal Street, corner of Minetta Lane).

The Minetta Tavern opened in the late 1930s and was famous as a bohemian hangout after World War II. The writer Anatole Broyard used to hang out there, trolling for women. The first-wave Abstract Expressionist Franz Kline drew the caricatures that still line the wall. Joe Gould, the famed semi-homeless bohemian, “who was allegedly writing his monumental “Oral History of the World” was paid by the management in spaghetti and meatballs to be an “actual live bohemian” for tourists to gawk at while he’d sit and write.

In 1945, a rebellious 15-year-old from the Irish enclave in the Bronx named Brigid Murnaghan, wandered into the Minetta, with a school friend, looking for the bohemian life. “I could have been taken to an opium den, for all I knew,” said Murnaghan in an interview in 2009. A friendly drinker at the Minetta told the girls that they should go to the San Remo, a more intellectual bar down the street.

In the 1940s, the Minetta was known for its house special, the manicotti, which was 75 cents a plate. A few years ago, the famed restaurateur Keith McNally took over the Minetta and turned it into a high-end bistro, where diners routinely spend $150 per person.