YE OLD WAVERLY INN
Greenwich Village , New York
16 Bank Street , Greenwich Village , New York
This red brick town house was built in the eighteen-thirties. Before being reborn, last year, it was a low-key hangout beloved for its high-rolling Connect Four matches. For years, its denizens have reported sightings of an apparition, which, it is said, wears a top hat and causes fireplace logs to ignite spontaneously. In 1958, an ocelot named Lancelot appeared in the dining room, having supposedly jumped out of a nearby window and crawled through the restaurant’s cellar grate.
Apocrypha abound, as ever—though lately, since the editor in chief of Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter, and several partners took over, they’re of a less hoary variety. Did Ellen Barkin throw a drink at Ron Perelman? Does the truffled mac and cheese really cost fifty-five bucks? The lack of a functional reservations line would suggest that most of us will never get the chance to find out. But one of the place’s pretensions is that it’s anti-pretense; if you want a table, just walk up and ask. (Not that the famous people are subjected to this ritual.) And, so, sprinkled in amongst the fashionable types—on a chilly recent evening, Jann Wenner drank rosé while the Ralph Laurens supped en famille and Mr. Herrera perused his menu by votive-candle light—are tattooed old-timers and true believers who thrill at Carter’s attempts to resurrect the Don’t-I-know-you-from-somewhere city of Mrs. Astor’s Four Hundred and can tick off every last personage depicted in the room’s magnificent mural, by Edward Sorel. For the layman, the experience feels sort of like being on an airplane: things are fine in coach, but you get the idea they’re having even more fun in first class.
FRAN LEBOWITZ, the New York City society commentator-at-large, tells of dining recently at the Waverly Inn & Garden in Greenwich Village.
Her companion was Toni Morrison, the winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in literature. When the two stepped out onto the sidewalk, the paparazzi who were waiting across Bank Street were stumped.
“Hey, Fran, who are you with?” they screamed.
Ms. Lebowitz is a friend of Graydon Carter, an owner of the restaurant — so much so that her likeness adorns the Edward Sorel mural in the main dining room. Still, she sighed at the state of fame as it relates to restaurant clientele.
“It’s Lindsay Lohan they want,” she said. No worries. Ms. Lohan has been spotted here, too.
On any given evening the restaurant plays host to some combination of billionaires, movie stars, intellectuals and fashion designers, with a rock icon or sports legend thrown in. In the beginning, they may have been lured by Mr. Carter’s estimable connections as editor of Vanity Fair magazine. But now they are as likely to be drawn by Mr. Carter’s prowess as a restaurateur.
His second career, which seemed like a lark, now looks more serious. Last week, he and two partners bought the Monkey Bar from the Glazier Group, which had struggled to make a go of the place for the past few years. The Glazier family has been in the restaurant business in New York for about 25 years; Mr. Carter started operating the Waverly Inn less than two years ago.
Hearing of the Monkey Bar deal, the restaurateur Keith McNally, who has run his fair share of hot restaurants, gave a nod to Mr. Carter’s rise: “I think Graydon’s done an outstanding job,” he said, “at paving the way for more restaurateurs to edit magazines.”
There are still powerful folk who would rather dine uptown at the Four Seasons, Michael’s or Le Cirque. But for celebrity power deep enough to lure paparazzi night after night, few outposts in New York today rival the Waverly Inn.
Patrick McMullan, a party photographer whose work sometimes appears in Vanity Fair, said, “It is really the only place I can think of right now where they are consistently parked outside.”
Or as Emil Varda, the restaurant’s impeccably mannered managing partner, puts it, “We have some nights when every table has a guest that is from the pages of ‘Who’s Who.’ ”
Restaurant reviews have referred to the place as “Graydon’s private club,” but the high-wattage crowd actually means that it is much less of a clubby, let’s get drunk, swap tables and occasionally throw a punch kind of a place than Elaine’s was in its day.
“It is not a glad-handing, table-hopping place at all,” Mr. Carter said.
Edward Menicheschi, Vanity Fair’s publisher, who eats there several times a week, has his own description:
“It is theater,” he said, “only there is no line between actors and audience.”
In fall of 2006, the Waverly Inn began seating guests. Almost two years later, in what is becoming a long-running inside gag, the place is still not officially open. The phone number doesn’t work and “preview” is printed defiantly on the top of the menu. Clearly amused by his own cheekiness, Mr. Carter says he does not know when that will change. “Oh, we’re still trying to work the bugs out,” he said.
Of course, it is all part of the game of calibrating accessibility. So far the balance is exquisite.
One editor tells a story of trying to get into Elaine’s during its heyday as arbiter of in-ness in the 1970s. Elaine Kaufman, the restaurant’s owner, gatekeeper and, often, its bouncer, greeted the editor at the door herself and blocked the way into the restaurant, even though it was an off hour and the editor could see that nearly every table was unoccupied. “We are full,” Ms. Kaufman explained.
Ms. Kaufman, 79 and now four decades into owning a restaurant that still attracts its share of names, says such stories were never true — except that she did throw a trash can at the paparazzi. “I live off the energy of real people,” she said.
Mr. Carter, too, insists that he is a man of the people, saying that his place “will seat just about anybody.”
Insiders just call Mr. Carter’s office directly but it is in fact possible to drop by the reservations desk at the restaurant and book a table for those netherworld hours before 6:30 or after 11:15 p.m., and on weekends from June through August. (The desk takes reservations for dinner, the only time the restaurant is open, just three days ahead.)
Mr. Carter, who lives on Bank Street and likes to pretend that Greenwich Village is still a little Bohemia, has made a special point of being nice to the locals. This includes the decision to store the garbage in a refrigerated room overnight so that it can be picked up at the civilized hour of 10 a.m., instead of the usual 2 a.m.
Marilyn Dorato, president of the local block association and the owner of a brownstone right next to the Waverly Inn, said that in the beginning the neighborhood’s biggest complaints was about limos double-parked and idling, but that the security firm the restaurant hired has greatly improved that situation.
As for Mr. Carter’s claim that his neighbors are welcome, she says that is true. “I see locals there all the time,” she said. She should know; she eat there once a week herself, at the same table.
Mr. Carter and other insiders describe the cast of regulars — known to staff members as “friends and family” — roughly as follows:
Mr. Carter’s four grown children; Ronald O. Perelman, the billionaire; the Waverly’s landlord and his children; Barry Diller, the media mogul; two dozen neighbors who live within a radius of two blocks; Robert De Niro and Gwyneth Paltrow, the actors; Mr. Carter’s next-door neighbors, the fashion designers Calvin Klein and Donna Karan, often together; and a sprinkling of writers and editors from the Condé Nast empire.
And while Mr. Varda insists the restaurant is too small to keep empty tables available, there always seems to be space for regulars, especially regulars of a certain heft. The film producer Harvey Weinstein, for example, lives nearby and, according to Mr. Varda, frequently arrives for dinner without calling ahead to reserve. “He is family,” Mr. Varda said, “so we make room anyway.”
That said, Mr. Carter, who remains intimately involved in the room’s nightly seating plan, does have a view of who is not welcome.
He said he tried to avoid “any stars of reality TV and hedge fund managers. For that reason, we screen calls from the 203 area code,” he said, poking fun at chateau country in the Connecticut suburbs.
That’s not all: “I don’t like people who are rude to our waiters,” he said. And he is keeping track.
The reservations system has miniprofiles on clients: the number of times they have eaten at the restaurant, (Mr. Menicheschi, the publisher, supposedly is near the top of the list with more than 200 meals) whether they complained about the food, whether they yelled at a waiter or ever wrote an unflattering word about Mr. Carter. No, not really on the last one.
Has anyone been blacklisted? Mr. Carter won’t say, but Mr. Varda admits that there is one group. “B-list stars who call the paparazzi from inside the restaurant,” he said. “They are not invited back.” (Privacy is so sacred at the Waverly that Mr. Varda says he has stopped a major film star from photographing his own family at dinner.) Also, waiters have been dismissed for being overly attentive to celebrities.
The Waverly, as observers are fond of pointing out, is the very sort of establishment that Mr. Carter would have happily eviscerated when he co-edited the humor magazine “Spy” two decades ago. If the magazine had published one of its snidely annotated seating charts for the Waverly, it would have had three clear zones: the bar, the main dining room and the garden room, otherwise known as “Siberia.”
There is also a tiny outside area out front with tables in summer, but that is irrelevant — one frequent diner called it “tragic.”
At the entrance to the brownstone is the bar, which acts as a collection and filtration system. It is here that the treatment is roughest and least predictable. After 9 p.m. it is also jammed with leggy model types and junior investment bankers (their bosses being home in Connecticut). The average age here is about 20 years younger than in the main room.
That is, except for the bartenders, who appear to have been mixing drinks since the Boer War. The good news is that they are exceptional with a litchi martini. The bad news is that they are accountable to no one. There are six stools at the bar and even when one comes open it may be reserved for a preferred customer.
How Graydon Carter and The WAVELRY INN
STOLE Da SILVANO ‘S THUNDER
GRAYDEN CARTER and his WAVERLY INN it seems has “STOLEN” the THUNDER from SILVANO MARCHETTO and his famed Greenwich Village Italian Eatery “Da Silvano” on 6th Avenue. Da Silvano was long thee In Spot, Hottest Celebrity Haunt in Town. That was up until about a year and a half ago when Graydon Carter bought and Re-Opened the Ye Old Waverly Inn along with NIGHTCLUB and Boutique Hotel Impresario ERIC GOODE (AREA, Maritime Hotel, Bowery Hotel, Bowery Bar)
For a number of YEARS, every mover and shaken in the Movie, Record, Fashion, and Publishing Business used to pack Da Silvano, practically every night of the week. You would regularly find Gwyneth Palthrow, David Bowie, Calvin Klein, Richard Gere,
PAUL McCARTNEY, KEITH RICHARDS, MICK JAGGER, Sy Newhouse, Madonna, Giselle, Stephanie Seymour, Pamela Anderson, the LIST goes on and on and on. “I think you get the picture?” Even Graydon Carter used to eat Dinner at Da Silvano an average of 5 nights a week. He had his own table, as did writer NICK TOSHES who had his regular table as well and had lunch every Monday thru Friday, holding court with Editors, Literary Agents, Patti Smith, Oliver Ray, and Jerry Stahl.
If you want to get a good meal, only order Pasta Dishes, Fish, or Steak.
Da Silvano, still si one of the biggest Celebrity Spots in New York, but it has lost much of its Thunder to the WAVERLY, that and the fact that the food is not all that good and the prices are, as CRAZY EDDY used to say, “INSANE.” If you want to eat some great ITALIAN FOOD, all you have to do is walk about 12 feet to BAR PITTI next store to Silvano’s and has thee absolute “BEST ITALIAN FOOD in New York, “Bar Pitti.”
Article written by Daniel Bellino “Z” 2007
Former Long-Time Editor in Cheif
Ye WAVERLY INN
Photo Copyright Daniel Bellino Zwicke
by DANIEL BELLINO ZWICKE
The 9 OLDEST RESTUARANTS in NEW YORK NY TIMES article from 1982
If you read the article the 9 Oldest Restaurants in NY, PADDY’S CLAM HOUSE on 34th Street near MADISON SQUARE GARDEN and The GAGE & TOLLNER on Fulton Street in Brooklyn no loner exist.