By Jimmy Kontomanolis | July 2, 2019 | Food & Drink
For nearly 140 years, The White Horse Tavern has been a staple of the West Village, and has since become the second oldest continuously run tavern in New York City. Situated on the corner of Hudson and 11th Streets, the tavern has seen many incarnations, from starting off as a longshoremen’s bar to surviving the Prohibition era to becoming a literary haunt in the 1950s and 1960s (Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan, and Jack Kerouac were regulars).
But what does The White Horse Tavern of 2019 look like? To Eytan Sugarman, the restaurateur and new owner of the legendary pub, it’s all about “trying us again for the first time. I’m excited about people trying what we see as the new version or a slightly more refined version of the White Horse.” A native New Yorker, Sugarman has been in the hospitality industry for 20 years, and currently owns Hunt & Fish Club, the upscale eatery in Times Square, and Southern Hospitality, which he opened on the Upper East Side in 2007 with friend Justin Timberlake. “When the opportunity came to purchase and be a part of it, I was thrilled and I jumped at it. Anyone that knows me knows that I write articles about the New York that I know disappearing and places that mean so much to the restaurant culture and fabric of New York disappearing,” he says. “I heard about White Horse and I had the opportunity to get involved and save it, and I couldn’t resist.”
To elevate The White Horse Tavern and continue to solidify its position as a neighborhood pub for a new generation, focus has been put on creating a new and improved dining experience. “I think we’re pushing the boundaries of what the White Horse has ever been, trying to really have first class food and first class cocktails. Not that there’s anything wrong with what White Horse was previously, but I don’t think the focus was on having a chef-driven product,” Sugarman continues. “So we’re really trying to give it the attention to detail and product that we think it deserves.”
And the chef to bring new life to The White Horse Tavern is Ed Szymanski, a New York Times 2-Star reviewed chef with a background at Beatrice Inn, The Spotted Pig, and most recently, Cherry Point in Brooklyn. Sugarman and Szymanski met through a mutual friend and immediately clicked. From there, a lot of research went into creating White Horse’s new menu. “The way we can do The White Horse Tavern with the most respect to its legacy is to keep it an accessible place,” Szymanski says. “We’re doing the best versions of things like Caesar salads and Scotch eggs and meat pies. We have oysters now, which is not something the White Horse has ever had before, but why not? It’s a balancing act between digging into the history of the place and the New York dining scene and respecting what New York is in 2019.”
Among Szymanski’s favorite dishes on the new menu, he’s quick to call out the Scotch eggs (“I grew up eating them and had a lot of bad versions as a child.”), Caesar salad (the greatest he’s ever had), and the cheeseburger, which includes White Horse Tavern’s own version of American cheese made from shredded wheels purchased from another West Village institution, Murray’s Cheese.
That kind of attention to detail is what both Sugarman and Szymanski agree makes the reopened tavern so special, and it carries through to the ambiance of the pub, from the lighting to the music to the service. “I’m excited for people to walk into the dining room or be seated outside on a nice day and experience the best version of what the White Horse can be,” Szymanski says. We’d say Sugarman and Szymanski are laying the groundwork for The White Horse Tavern’s next 140 years. Monday through Friday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Saturdays through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., 567 Hudson St., 212-989-3956, whitehorsetavern1880.com
Photography courtesy of Dylan Leazier for White Horse Tavern