Haunted New York
by Laura Kusnyer, 10/26/2010
Photo: Malcolm Brown
279 Water St., 212-227-3344, Financial District, Manhattan
In the film Gangs of New York, there are several scenes set in rowdy watering holes; at one bar in particular, the shelves hold pickling jars containing body parts. That tavern is said to be an homage to an earlier incarnation of the Bridge Café. Since opening in 1794, the establishment has served as brothel, pirate bar, packing store, Hungarian restaurant, seafood restaurant and more. [Editor's note: The Bridge Café has been closed since late 2012 due to Hurricane Sandy damage.] The body parts? That's a reference to Ms. Gallus Mag, the 6-foot-tall Irish bouncer who would bite or cut off the ears of misbehaving patrons and pickle them for posterity on shelves above the bar.
Though Ms. Mag's reign was in the early 19th century, back when the venue was called the Hole-in-the-Wall, many claim she's still lurking around the premises. Executive chef Joe Kunst says that one night, while in the second-floor office, he and his daughter heard heavy footsteps in the supposedly empty dining room below. Another time, the Food & Wine certificate that hangs in the window somehow jumped over the flowerpots on the windowsill and landed three feet away. "It's a physical impossibility," Kunst says. And though he's not 100% certain the place is spooked—"I don't disbelieve in anything I don't know enough about," he says with trepidation—something has definitely ruffled his feathers. Consider the mantra he utters every time he has to go upstairs: "I stop at the landing and say, 'Let me do what I gotta do. I won't bother you and you won't bother me, and everything will be fine.'"