The Waverly Inn

Posted by Lance in NY Ghosts
The Waverly Inn - Photo

The Waverly Inn

West Village dining institution is a favorite haunt for celebs and spirits.

Welcome to The Waverly Inn, one of the few places in New York where you can rub shoulders with both the famous and the dead. This West Village dining institution, situated in a lovely red townhouse, has been serving dishes since the 1920s, but was not always a gathering space for spooks and stars.

Firstly, the building (built in 1844) was originally used as a tavern and bordello. Interestingly, many of the city’s most haunted destinations began as bordellos, or brothels. Perhaps dead patrons of sex, mischief and drinking are especially reluctant to leave where they satisfied their various vices! Afterwards, 16 Bank Street was transformed into a carriage house, which stored the coaches and steeds of the city’s elite. Prior to becoming known as the Ye Waverly Inn & Garden, it operated as a tea house, whose fans included the famous likes of Robert Frost and Edna St. Vincent May.

In 2006, the restaurant opened its doors under its current title: The Waverly Inn. Its new owner, Vanity Fair editor-in-chief Graydon Carter with a penchant for investing in New York restaurants, dropped the “Ye” but kept the restaurant’s “musty, decades-old, casual feel, [which includes] uneven wooden floors, low ceilings, fireplaces and ivy-covered patio”1.

Some people don’t like how this West Village dining institution has been transformed into a private club for Carter and his slew of famous friends. Others enjoy the restaurant’s new air of exclusivity. But if you are a fan of both good food and ghosts, The Waverly Inn is arguably your best choice in the city. That’s because haunted happenings at The Waverly Inn date back before Carter’s arrival. Since the restaurant’s inception, a male ghost, dressed in formal 1920s gear, has been spotted by staff and diners alike. Sightings of him, as well as other spirits, occur the most often in the restaurant’s smoking room, known as Room 16. The ghost especially likes to play around with the inn’s fireplaces, moving their andirons and pokers. Continues Tom Ogden, in his book Haunted Greenwich Village:

Some nights, no matter how long anyone worked on the kindling in one fireplace or another, he or she just couldn’t get the wood to ignite. But all the person had to do was give up and start to walk away, and the tinder would burst into flames.”2

In 1997, a mysterious fire broke out in the restaurant, right before Christmas. The cause of the blaze bamboozled firemen, since “there were no signs of accelerants, no combustibles, and no electrical outlets in the area”3 from where it originated. As a result, many said it was started by the inn’s fire-loving spirit, whose presence they’d already grown quite used to. After the incident, the New York Times interviewed a few patrons and employees. From their responses4, it is obvious that strange occurrences and ghost run-ins had become the norm by that time. No one seemed to really mind all of the inn’s paranormal activity. They all expressed a fascination, rather than a fear, of the inn’s dead residents. Ms. Maria Ennes, who was the general manager at the time, even said she saw them as customers. Some stories also tell of the spirits lending her a hand around the restaurant – rearranging furniture, lighting candles, and so on. As for the more mischievous ghosts, they like to cause some chaos in the kitchen, turning on burners and upending pots and pans.

But it wasn’t just the inn’s unique and haunted history that drew Graydon Carter to the establishment. Its quaint location – right at the corner of a beautiful, tree-lined street in the West Village – and chefs’ ability to churn out the best of classic American fare – such as frisée salads and chicken pot pies – were just as enticing. Thus, in 2006, he joined forces with entrepreneur Eric Goode and hotelier Sean MacPherson (a pair that had been shaping the hospitality industry for years) to rescue The Waverly Inn from its 2005 closing5.

Now the inn’s “Accidental Arsonist6 hasn’t been seen as much since Graydon Carter and his team took over, but that doesn’t mean he’s left building. On June 25, 2012, the restaurant was ravaged by yet “another fire of indeterminate cause7. Although no one was injured, the inn’s famous mural, painted by Edward Sorel, was significantly damaged.

Besides fires, chef changes also regularly occur at The Waverly Inn. Before Carter became its new owner, Chef Patrick Haynes was in charge of the kitchen. Since Carter’s ownership, other culinary gurus have rotated in: John DeLucie (famous for his truffled macaroni and cheese), Ashley Merriman (whose Hudson Valley duck breast has many celebrity fans), and Jeffrey Teller (who arrived from M. Wells Steakhouse.) Teller has been shaking up the restaurant’s menu since 2015, adding delicacies including “lobster Thermidor, steak bordelaise, baba au rhum and chocolate soufflé.”8 But getting a chance to try his dishes is no easy feat. With Carter always catering to his celebrity friends at The Waverly Inn, it is nearly impossible for regular folk to book a table. Even Adam Platt, the famous food critic for New York Magazine, had to “beg9 to get in.

Those who do manage to step through the restaurant’s doors are transported to old New York. The inn’s old-school vibe – it’s decorated with things like velvet curtains, floral wallpaper, and red banquettes – is rare in today’s modernized city. It can get quite noisy on some evenings – besides the sounds of spirits, you have the ruckus of paparazzi, who are always following the inn’s celebrity fans – though.  The restaurant’s prices are also quite steep, but what would you expect from a place that uses only local and organic ingredients and filters its water? Paranormal, celebrity and billionaire encounters are of course for free.

In the end, securing a reservation at The Waverly Inn is definitely worth the struggle. In a dimly lit, speakeasy setting, you will get a chance to spot actors, actresses, models, media tycoons… and ghosts. These active spirits have been known to shut doors, move around furniture, and add to noise of conversing diners. They would certainly love to get up close and personal with you!


Works Cited

  1. “The Waverly Inn.” Time Out New York. 15 March 2012. Web. 20 December 2015. Para. 4.
  2. Ogden, Tom. Haunted Greenwich Village: Bohemian Banshees, Spooky Sites, And Gonzo Ghost Walks. New York: Tom Ogden, 2012. Page 152.
  3. Gainer, Elaine. Ghosts and Murders of Manhattan. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Page 49.
  4. Stevens, Kimberly. “Inn’s Ghost Liked Smoke, but Fire?” The New York Times. 2 February 1997. Web. 20 December 2015.
  5. “The Waverly Inn.” Time Out New York. 15 March 2012. Web. 20 December 2015. Para. 1.
  6. Ogden, Tom. Haunted Greenwich Village: Bohemian Banshees, Spooky Sites, And Gonzo Ghost Walks. New York: Tom Ogden, 2012. Page 150.
  7. Gainer, Elaine. Ghosts and Murders of Manhattan. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2013. Page 49.
  8. Landman, Berth. “Jeffrey Teller Is the New Chef at Waverly Inn.” New York Eater. 20 July 2015. Web. 20 December 2015. Para. 1.
  9. Adam Platt. “Vanity Fare.” New York Magazine. 26 March 2007. Web. 20 December 2015. Para. 3.