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Quick quiz before we start this story. Dolly Varden is Hell’s Kitchen’s newest bar, it opens tonight. So… is Dolly Varden?

  1. A play on Dolly Parton
  2. A type of dress
  3. An Alaskan Trout
  4. A famous New York train car
  5. A character in a Charles Dickens novel

Answers in a minute… Read on!

Dolly Varden is the newest addition to the Hell’s Kitchen cocktail circuit. It’s been built in the space that used to be House of Brews on W51st Street just west of 8th Avenue. The bar was scheduled to open at the end of March, but the pandemic put a stop to that.

The bar starts indoor service today, Friday, at 5pm with a limited capacity of just 20 people. That will increase as the second floor is opened in the coming weeks. When New York is back to normal their maximum occupancy is 150 people.

Photo: Adrian Mueller/Dolly Varden

Food is the creation of executive chef Forster Sorensen, who was at Au Cheval in Chicago, and the cocktail menus is by Artemio Vasquez, formerly of speakeasy Please Don’t Tell.

You were right if you answered “a famous New York train car”. The downstairs bar is themed around the final West Side passenger car. There was a passenger train called the “Dolly Varden”, a local train leaving W30th Street station going to Spuyten Duyvil in the early 1900s on the West Side freight line.

Each booth has a different railway image. You can get on an English steam train pulling in to visit Downton Abbey in one booth and be heading across the flat American plains in another.

There’s a hat tip to Broadway as you get your check with a “Paybill” cover. Photo: Phil O’Brien

Upstairs is not ready for guests yet, but if you answered “a character in a Charles Dickens novel” you would be right too.

Dolly Varden was a character in Dickens’ novel Barnaby Rudge. As Encyclopedia Britannica tells us: “Dolly’s memorable costumes led to the naming for her of a style of 19th-century woman’s ensemble consisting of a wide-skirted, tight-bodiced print dress worn with a white fichu (light triangular scarf) and a flowered hat with a wide, drooping brim. She was also commemorated in the naming of the brightly colored Dolly Varden trout.”

So you were right if you answered “Dickens character”, almost right on the dress, and you know now about an Alaskan Trout. “We would love to use the fish, but it’s super seasonal and it’s a very expensive fish,” said the General Manager Jason Jeffords, when we asked if the trout would be on the menu. “It’s very hard to get.”

Photo: Adrian Mueller/Dolly Varden

Expect bright colors and Victorian decor upstairs on their floor dedicated to Dickens’ Dolly.

So, the bar has nothing to do with Dolly Parton, but Jeffords told us: “I get Dolly Parton all the time when I say Dolly Varden. So you are not the first person to think that.” It’s a good bet that everyone in Hell’s Kitchen is soon going to say “Meet me at Dolly’s!”

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3 Comments

  1. OMG. The place looks fantastic. The menu is small but all my favorite foods. Right up my alley. I live in union square but I will travel to Hell’s Kitchen

  2. Your bar is right up my alley it looks Fantastic! Can’t wait to tell my friends and try Your cocktails.

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