The Dead Poet


By Dane Feldman

Photo courtesy of @TheDeadPoetBar.

To kick off the October series of Thirsty Thursday, I thought I would do something a little different: a bar review. I have reviewed only a small handful of bars simply because so many are forgettable even when they are good spots. The Dead Poet, located on Amsterdam Ave on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is no such place.

The Dead Poet’s owner, Drew Dvorkin, opened the pub in 2000. Before opening the bar, Dvorkin was an English teacher. Perhaps the bar’s name is starting to make a bit more sense.

But Dvorkin’s homage to his passion for literature goes one step further: the specialty cocktails on the menu are named for famed writers. The cocktails’ ingredients are inspired by each writer’s personality. The Langston Hughes, for example, is the classic sidecar, while the Pablo Neruda is house-made spiced rum sangria served over ice.

Twelve other specialty cocktails reside on the menu: the John Keats, Edgar Allen Poe, and the Walt Whitman, to name a few. My biggest regret during my visit to The Dead Poet is that I chickened out and didn’t order The Dead Poet: seven liquors combined with a splash of sour mix, which “create[s] a mysterious elixir that tastes like grape soda.” Cool. Also, it comes in a glass patrons can keep and bring back for cheaper refills.

Alas, I did not order The Dead Poet. Instead, I capitalized on a Saturday afternoon treat: the bar offers $5 mimosas through 3pm and serves them in 16oz beer glasses on ice. I guess I can’t really regret not trying the signature cocktail this time around.

The bar is situated almost directly across the street from the Meatball Shop, but there’s truly no need to leave the pub (even if it is for terrific meatballs). This place does more than drinks. In fact, The Dead Poet offers a variety of French fries, nachos, bar snacks, burgers, bangers, wings, and sandwiches.

I, for one, will be returning for a nice cold Dead Poet, a Diablo Double (a double cheeseburger with cheddar, pickled jalapeno relish, raw onion, and chipotle aioli), as well as a heaping order of “Everything Bagel” Fries (hand-cut fries topped with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, salt, onion, and garlic). Yes, this is real.

But this is a bar review and what would a bar review be without a mention of the bar itself? Well, the place is cozy inside and looks far older than it is thanks to great wall decor: old photos of writers, dusty Jameson bottles up high, worn books tucked away on built-in shelves, and clippings of quotes framed throughout.

Speaking of the Jameson bottles, everything situated near the bar is framed backwards so that it can be read forwards when patrons sit at the bar facing the mirror placed behind the bottles. That’s a neat trick if I ever saw one. Oh, and speaking of whiskey, Dvorkin’s bar is both about paying homage to writers and Irish pubs. The menu also contains 27 different whiskeys: six bourbons, five ryes, six kinds of scotch, and 10 Irish whiskeys.

I can’t think of a better place to hole up away from the crisp October air than inside The Dead Poet’s welcoming walls steeped in literary history and soaked in Jameson.