Different Tastes

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Prohibition killed off the great public restaurants of the bigger hotels and old classics like Sherry’s and Delmonico’s. But more modest places for working people, shoppers, and theater- and moviegoers thrived. Ye Waverly Inn chose a colonial costume and a menu of meat loaf, chicken pot pie, succotash, and the like to appeal to sturdy American family tastes. The quaint little place at the corner of the Bank street and Waverly Place is not, in fact, colonial: the building it occupies is a Greek-revival townhouse built in the 1830s, and the Waverly itself began its genteel colonial-revival career in 1920, perhaps in symbolic response to the riotous life all around it in Greenwich Village. In any event, no Waverly diner would ever have asked for a shot of hooch in his teacup; for that kind of thing you went to Lee Chumley’s speak-easy over on Bedford street. There writerS, actors, painters, and the usual hangers-on liked to sit and talk and play chess—and, of course, drink, although Chumley’s was at least as popular for its dollar dinner as it was for its liquor. It was hard to find, and still is: there is not now, nor has there been since Lee bought the joint in 1926, any identifying sign out front.