Jack Kerouac birthday tour
Wed Mar 9 2011
In honor of the writer's birthday on Saturday 12, we've rounded up the spots where he wrote, drank and jammed.
Kettle of Fish
This Greenwich Village watering hole has gone through many incarnations (and locations) since it was established in 1950—but it maintains some of the divey, bookish spirit from the days when it was frequented by Kerouac and Bob Dylan. Pose with the now-indoor neon BAR sign to re-create the famous photo of the writer swaying drunkenly outside the original digs, or simply stop by to revel in the retro basement vibe with a game of darts and a $4 brew (Rolling Rock, Bud or Yuengling). 59 Christopher St between Seventh Ave South and Waverly Pl (212-414-2278, kettleoffishnyc.com)
Although the baroque interior (intricately carved furniture, Renaissance art in gilded frames) doesn't immediately suggest a Beat hangout, Caffe Reggio served as a writing spot for Kerouac and similar poets like Gregory Corso (and has the peculiar honor of being the first spot in the U.S. to serve cappuccino). Bring your favorite Kerouac tome and settle in with the aforementioned beverage ($3.75) and a slice of Italian cheesecake ($5.25). 119 MacDougal St between Minetta Ln and W 3rd St (212-475-9557, caffereggio.com)
Kerouac's former apartment
While 454 West 20th Street (between Ninth and Tenth Avenues) was one of many flats Kerouac claimed as his residence, it has the distinction of being the one in which he conceived his most famous novel, On the Road, which started out as a mere letter about his travels to then-wife Joan Haverty. Make a pilgrimage to the brick building to capture some of the writer's spirit—or take a walk along the nearby, soon-to-be extended High Line (Tenth Ave at 20th St; 212-206-9922, thehighline.org) to observe the "absolute madness and fantastic hoorair of New York" from above.
White Horse Tavern
Get comfortable on a leather-topped stool at this bohemian space, where like-minded writers such as Dylan Thomas once fed their talent with booze in the dark-wood interior. Kerouac was such a regular, in fact, that the message KEROUAC, GO HOME was allegedly written on the bathroom wall above the urinal. If too many margaritas (Kerouac's drink of choice, $6) leave you hazy the next morning, stop by for a cheap three-egg or French-toast brunch (Saturdays and Sundays, $6.95). 567 Hudson St at 11th St (212-989-3956, whitehorsetavernnyc.com)
Catch a show at this midtown jazz joint, which despite multiple moves retains the original spot's retro decor with heavy velvet drapes and alluring red lighting. "Dean and I went to see [pianist George] Shearing at Birdland in the midst of the long mad weekend," Kerouac writes in On the Road, describing what was most likely a real-life event. Check out pianist Cedar Walton with his quartet (Thu 10--Sat 12 at 8:30, 11pm; $30--$40). 315 W 44th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-581-3080, birdlandjazz.com)