Jack Kerouac at the Kettle of Fish in the Village

Opened in 1950, the Kettle of Fish—with its large neon “bar” sign outside the door—was already old-school by the time The New Inside Guide to Greenwich Village came out in 1965:

By then it had earned its cred as a hangout for the early-1960s folk music crowd, and before that as a haunt of beat writers, such as Jack Kerouac.

In Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters, author and Kerouac girlfriend Joyce Johnson recalls a night in 1958 when Kerouac visited the Kettle of Fish with poet Gregory Corso:

“Shortly before he returned to Orlando to start packing, [Jack] went out one night with Gregory Corso to the Kettle of Fish, a bar on MacDougal Street that had a rough clientele and was frequented by moving men like Henri Cru. In the fall Jack and I had been photographed in front of its red neon sign by Jerry Yulsman.

“In the small hours of the morning, Jack and Gregory left the bar, followed outside by two men, who beat Jack up, banging his head repeatedly against the curb and breaking his nose and his arm. To his horror, he found he lacked the will to defend himself. . . .”

Kerouac and Joyce Johnson at the Kettle of Fish on MacDougal. The bar moved to the old Lion’s Head space on Christopher Street several years back, where it still is today—and strangely has become the epicenter of Green Bay Packers fandom, as the Daily News explains.

The Kettle of Fish in the 1950s, part neighborhood pub, part beat haunt

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15 Responses to “Jack Kerouac at the Kettle of Fish in the Village”

  1. Nancy Says:

    Wow- that review (except for the prices and phone exchange) could have been written today. How little language has changed.

  2. Nabe News: January 4 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] Ephemeral NY takes the time machine back to the Kettle of Fish in Greenwich Village.  Opened in 1950, it was a bar that became haunt for many beat writers and folkies [Ephemeral NY] […]

  3. Carlo Says:

    This is now the Esperanto Cafe, and still very hip.

  4. The Hipster: A Pox On New York Since (At Least) 1965 Says:

    […] to Ephemeral New York for the Kerouac shot. And also for the excerpt from 1965's The New Inside Guide To Greenwich […]

  5. Brendon Says:

    That image of Kerouac was used for a Gap ad about 15 years ago. They photoshopped Joyce Johnson out of it.

    Great read!

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks. Wow, a Gap ad. I can’t imagine it helped them sell a lot of khakis.

  7. AwalkerinNYC Says:

    In the early 60’s The Kettle of Fish was a good place to find such up and coming singer-songwriters as Phil Ochs, Eric Andersen, and a kid named Dylan. Apparently, as Dylan outpaced everyone else, jealousies emerged, especially after he told Ochs: “You’re not a songwriter, you’re a journalist.”

  8. A scandalous Beat murder in Riverside Park « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] them were Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (with Carr at left, at Columbia), and William S. Burroughs—not a student, but part of the crowd. […]

  9. Packers, Giants and Jack Kerouac: New York epicenter of Green Bay fandom is … | e Online News Says:

    […] which opened on MacDougal St. in 1950, was a favorite hangout of the originalbeatnik, Jack Kerouac. But as the excellent urbanite blog Ephmeral New York notes, the lifespan of cool on the island of Manhattan is notoriously short. By 1965, a guidebook to the […]

  10. richard takacs Says:

    Trying to locate Roy Norman who frequented and might have worked as bartender at the Kettle in the 60’s

  11. Jim Lacey Says:

    I used to spend time at the Kettle when it was a neighborhood pub and a watering spot for Beats and would-be bohemians. Of course it’s moved to the location of the old Lion’s Head. What ever happened to the famous painting of those striking Italian gentlemen at leisure?

  12. 7 Spots in NYC Where You Can Drink Like The Beat Generation Writers Did | Untapped Cities Says:

    […] current location is at 59 Christopher St.) and used to be a hangout for Jack Kerouac and Bob Dylan. Ephemeral New York excerpts Door Wide Open: A Beat Love Affair in Letters by Joyce Johnson, a writer and former […]

  13. The 1960s heyday of Village bar the Lion’s Head | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Lion’s Head has been shuttered for 21 years; in its place is the Kettle of Fish (below), another old-school Village bar that moved over from Bleecker […]

  14. Rick Dale Says:

    Check this out: https://thedailybeatblog.blogspot.com/2018/11/the-last-bohemians-blog-about-history.html

  15. Old Villager Says:

    In the early 90s, Kettle of Fish was on West 3rd St. just off 6th. (Been the Fat Black Pussycat since Kettle left that location). Used to party with some of the house band from Cafe Wha there after hours.

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