Phebe’s Tavern & Grill in the East Village has been derided for its less than classy clientele, and tends to blend into the background, but it’s actually been around since 1969, and was once considered the “Sardi’s of Off Off Broadway.” The bar on Bowery has just reopened after renovations that began just days before Labor Day weekend.
Bartender Eleni Angeles explained that the latest owners — who also operate Penny Farthing and Linen Hall — had just renewed their lease, securing the property for the near future, and thought it was the perfect opportunity to revamp the place. “It’s just a facelift,” Angeles explained. “They wanted to change the look a little bit, but keep the character.”
Of course, that character has changed a bit since 1977, when Robert Palmer, in a Times item about the Bowery scene, noted that “when theater types mingle with CBGB’s denizens after hours, Phebe’s becomes a kind of theater with a flair of its own.” An employee told Roxyplex that deals for “Hair” and “Torch Song Trilogy” were signed there and that Lanford Wilson, Sam Shepard, and Michael Bennett had written scripts there; according to a regular, patrons have included Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Tennessee Williams, and Al Pacino.
Since those days, Phebe’s enjoyed a brief incarnation as a lounge, Fuel at Phebe’s, before going back to its roots as a neighborhood spot.
Among the latest changes are an extended bar, renovated bathrooms, and a polished and repainted exterior and interior. The caged-in deck has been converted to more of a decidedly indoor space, although with large windows that still let in that sweet, sweet smell of the Bowery. The old wooden bar remains, but now it’s painted a sort of patchy, shabby-chic white, though the exposed brick remains throughout. The tall pub tables made for giants have been replaced with booths.
“There are no more deer heads in here,” Angeles added with satisfaction. “We used to have street signs too, but now it’s less random.”
The menu has also seen some minor changes. “I think they’re trying to increase the quality of the food overall,” Angeles said. Phebe’s now offers lunch specials, including a Cobb salad and ahi tuna salad. They’ve also added a veggie burger and a new appetizer to the menu– bacon-wrapped shrimp with jalapeño. As for drinks, Phebe’s is trying out some new beers including Blue Point toasted lager and a rotating Goose Island tap. The trend-spotters responsible for the makeover have also added a rosé.
Check out Phebe’s new lunch specials below, including the aforementioned ahi tuna salad which Angeles promises is “really, really good.”