Whether it’s Gatsby’s mansion or Holden Caulfield’s drinking holes, some of the best things about reading are the places books conjure. Although plenty of authors use real-life locations only as the inspiration for their novels’ settings, some incorporate real places wholesale. It's enough to inspire a literary field trip! After all, what better way is there to get into a book than eating and drinking like its characters? Check out this list of real-life bars and restaurants that can help you live like you’re in a classic novel — just watch out for any tragic endings!
1. Harry’s Bar from Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
In his novel, Waugh waxes poetic about “hot cheese sandwiches and champagne cocktails at Harry’s bar,” but what the real-life Venice-based Harry’s Bar is actually known for are Carpaccio (thinly sliced raw meat) and the Bellini (Prosecco and peach cocktail). The bar has been open since 1931 and was declared a national landmark by the Italian Ministry for Cultural Affairs in 2001.
Conducting your own international Brideshead Revisited tour not really in your budget? Don’t worry: The Cipriani family, owners and operators of Harry’s, are also behind no less than five New York City venues, so you can pretend to be Lord Marchmain without ever leaving Manhattan.
2. Sobrino de Botin from The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Even if you prefer The Guinness Book of Records to Hemingway’s classic novel, you’ll still want to dine at Botin as the Madrid joint is not only featured in The Sun Also Rises, but also claims the title of oldest restaurant in the world. If you want to dine like Brett and Jake, stop by Botin for the house speciality: roast suckling pig and Rioja wine.
You won’t have a hard time spotting Sobrino de Botin if you’re neighborhood as the restaurant has proudly decorated its windows with a photo of Hemingway and a quote from his novel — prompting another nearby establishment to advertise “HEMINGWAY NEVER ATE HERE.”
3. Firefly from Mistress by James Patterson
Patterson’s 2013 novel might not be your taste literature-wise, but Firefly, the Washington D.C. restaurant he mentions in his book, is definitely a place to visit. The real-life establishment can be found in the Hotel Madera in Dupont Circle and serves up house-made charcuterie, goat milk gnocchi, chocolate mousse brulee and more.
Firefly’s head chef claims that he’s never seen Patterson visit the restaurant but is happy that the establishment’s brief mention in the novelist’s saga of love gone wrong is bringing in customers. Sampling Firefly’s mini pot-roasts are, after all, an easier gateway into the world of the novel than pretending you’re a paranoid motorcyclist like Patterson’s main character.
4. Voodoo Doughnut from 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James
You might not want to try the 50 Shades lifestyle (or try reading the book), but if you want to get just a small taste of the world James crafts, you can stop in to order some of Portland’s famous Voodoo Doughnuts. The bakery features concoctions like Captain Crunch-coated donuts and bacon maple donuts — or if you’re really feeling 50 Shades-y, the “Cock-n-Balls” doughnut, helpfully frosted with the words “Bite me!” James has also compiled a list of wines featured in her novel, so you can have the 50 Shades dining experience at the comfort of your own kitchen table.
5. Jamaica Inn from Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
The setting for du Maurier’s 1936 novel is actually a real place located in Cornwall, England. Du Maurier was inspired to write about the pub after she became lost horseback riding through fog and found herself there. The author based her character the Vicar of Altarnun after the rector she met at Jamaica Inn, who told her the stories that made the pub famous before du Maurier’s novel, tales of smugglers, ghosts and hauntings. The novel has inspired a Hitchcock film, a television series and even a song by Tori Amos, but the most famous tribute to the inn and bar remains du Maurier’s original work.
Have you visited any of the spots on our list? Do you think you could take Hemingway in a drinking match at Botin? And what the hell do you think a “Cock-n-Balls” doughnut tastes like? Let us know below in the comments, and be sure to mention any restaurants or bars from your favorite books that aren’t on this list! If you find our next favorite literary bar, there might just be a free drink in it for you.
Adina Applebaum is Michigan native studying English and creative writing at Barnard College. Her crowning achievements in life are memorizing all the lyrics on The Slim Shady LP and eating an entire gallon of chocolate-covered raisins during orientation week of college.
This blog post about literary bars and restaurants is brought to you by Nine Rabbits, the bestselling novel by Virginia Zaharieva now available from Black Balloon Publishing.
About the Book:
A restless writer's fiery enthusiasm for her family's culinary traditions defines her from childhood to passionate adulthood as she strives for a life less ordinary. Lush gardens, nostalgic meals and sensual memories are as charming as the narrator herself.
About the Author:
Virginia Zaharieva was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1959. She is a writer, psychotherapist, feminist and mother. Her novel Nine Rabbits is among the most celebrated Bulgarian books to appear over the past two decades and the first of Zaharieva's work available in English.
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