Austin restaurateurs successfully resurrect historic New York bar

Stephen Acevedo

When Tom Maitland, managing director of Austin restaurant Eberly, heard that one of his favorite New York bars was closing, he felt compelled to keep its spirit alive. What he didn’t anticipate was completely relocating and rebuilding the bar in South Austin. 

“Back in the ’90s when I was an art dealer, my friends and I would always hang out and drink at the Cedar Tavern because of its rich history with New York artists,” Maitland said. 

Toward the end of its days in New York City, Cedar Tavern mostly served as a sports pub for New York University students. From the ’40s to the ’60s, however, it was the main stomping grounds for some of the titans of music, art and literature before they made names for themselves.

“The Greenwich Village was a very Bohemian area at that time,” Maitland said. “Artists like Jack Kerouac, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Jackson Pollock would spend their time drinking and fighting at Cedar Tavern and the spots around it.”

When Cedar Tavern closed its doors for good, Maitland began looking into what could be done with the 150-year-old bar space.

“I called my friends John Scott and Eddy Patterson, who owned Stubb’s at the time, and told them that we should take a shot at trying to get the bar because that’s a piece of American history right there,” Maitland said. 

After ten years of keeping it in storage, they finally found the perfect opportunity to resurrect Cedar Tavern in Eberly on South Lamar. 

“It took us about nine months to reconstruct the bar, as there were only two known photographs of its original form,” Maitland said. “It was like a giant
jigsaw puzzle.”

While Eberly is organized like a traditional dining space, the Cedar Tavern bar has its own separate section and a much more cozy and intimate feel to it. 

In addition to bar seating, there is an assortment of beautiful couches and ottomans. The lights are dim and the music is just loud enough for people to enjoy without imposing on conversations, making it a perfect area to socialize. 

Cedar Tavern has a separate menu from the rest of Eberly, and while it is small, there’s something for everyone. 

One of the menu’s highlights are the sliders. Made with pulled beef short rib, pickled onions and a delicious hollandaise-like sauce on a house-made brioche bun, these little sandwiches pack a wonderfully savory flavor that would make even the most seasoned carnivore’s mouth water. 

Cedar Tavern’s New York roots shine in its pizza selection, although even they couldn’t escape a Texas spin. The belly n’ butts pizza is a knockout with a combination of smoked pork belly, braised pork butt and chimichurri. Its generous use of fresh goat cheese gives it a tangy flavor and creamy texture that perfectly compliments the smoky meat. 

Cedar Tavern’s menu also offers vegetarian pizza, fresh oysters and tuna tartare for its vegetarian and pescatarian audiences. The pimento cheese platter shines above the rest with a variety of vegetables and wood-grilled lavash bread upon which to spread house-made pimento cheese. Courtesy of fermented jalapeños and an unusually thick texture for a pimento spread, the cheese offers a delightfully bold flavor. This plate is more than enough for a whole meal. 

Maitland said the goal of Cedar Tavern’s menu is to foster a communal atmosphere by providing hand-held options that can be shared. Overall, it succeeds in providing exceptional food and in fostering an environment where Austinites old and young can come and enjoy a piece of the Greenwich Village from the comfort of home.  

Location: 615 S. Lamar

Hours: Sun-Thu, 5p.m.-10p.m., Fri-Sat. 5p.m.-11p.m.

Score: 9.5/10