This post was written by editorial intern Rachel, who is thinking about doing a cross-country book and bar tour.
If you’re anything like me, then at some point in your life, you’ve been planning a night out with friends and thought, “Man, I wish there was some sort of establishment that catered both to my desire to be social and my desire to stay in and read.” As it turns out, you and I are not alone in this dilemma.
A quick search online shows that there are a number of literary themed bars in cities across the country (and the world, for that matter.) The ones included on this list were chosen for various reasons; some have histories tied to famous literary figures, some hold literary events, and some just have a particularly literary atmosphere.
The Dead Poet (New York City)
Opened in 2000 and found on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, owner Drew Dvorkin was inspired by a passion for Irish pubs and literature. Inside, you can find old fashioned lampposts, a working jukebox, free popcorn (which is delicious, based on my personal experience), and a menu full of signature drinks named after famous authors. There’s even a lending library of sorts, with a number of classic books that patrons can sign out to take home.
Bukowski Tavern (Boston)
Named after the famously boozy author, the Bukowski Tavern was founded in 1994 and has locations in Back Bay and in Cambridge. It may be a little bit dark and cramped, but it has a neon “Dead Authors’ Club” sign in the window and both locations have a “wheel of beer.” (Think Wheel of Fortune, but for beer.) Most recommended dish? Something the tavern calls “white trash poutine tater tots,” which are, by all accounts, excellent.
Sheffield’s Beer & Wine Garden (Chicago)
Sheffield’s is routinely voted the best beer garden in Chicago. Though their unique craft beer menu (rotated daily) and their smoked-in-house BBQ are certainly commendable, the big reason that Sheffield’s is on this list is the monthly Reading Under the Influence series that takes place in the back room. Every month, a few writers read a short piece of original work on a given theme. Then they read a few lines of famous writing and follow it up with a trivia contest for the audience. Previous themes have included “dude ranch,” “save it for later,” and “attitude adjustment,” among others.
Vesuvio Cafe (San Francisco)
Open since 1948 and located across the street from the infamous City Lights Bookstore, Vesuvio was commonly known as a favorite west coast drinking spot for the Beat poets. The bar was famously frequented by such notable figures as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, and Francis Ford Coppola. The alley that Vesuvio shares with the City Lights Bookstore was even renamed to Jack Kerouac Alley in 1988.
The George Inn (London, England)
The sign out front of the George Inn reads:
“It is known that the George Inn existed in the late 16 Century although the present building dates from 1677. Both Shakespeare and Dickens knew the hospitality of the inn which has continued right up to the present day.”
The George Inn is located not far from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and even has a mention in Dickens’ Little Dorrit. Because of all this, it can get pretty busy, but its ties to the past make this a draw for all you literature lovers out there.
La Rotonde (Paris, France)
Around since 1911, La Rotonde was a favorite among the inter-war American ex-patriots. Frequented by Gertrude Stein, T. S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and mentioned by name in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, La Rotonde remains popular, even today.
This is, of course, only a small sample of the literary bars out there. I’ve only had a chance to visit the first bar on this list (it’s excellent), but if you’ve ever been to any of the others, or know of any other literary bars that you love, leave us a comment down below!
Happy reading (and drinking)!