Is Frog Club Really "The New Yorkiest Room In New York?"

by Guest of A Guest · March 12, 2024

    Frog Club, part cheekily part boldly, claims to be "The New Yorkiest Room in New York!™." And perhaps they're right - in ways the city should be potentially both slightly proud of and mostly guilted by.

    The latest project by Chef Liz Johnson, of downtown hang Mimi and celebrated Los Angeles spot Horses, hides in plain sight at 86 Bedford Street, the unmarked green door that formerly led diners to Chumley's. 

    Prior to its opening last week, the restaurant had already spent months as a headline maker, readers wrapped up in Johnson's scandalous soufflé of a divorce with former husband and business partner Will Aghajanian (the couple met while interns at Noma) - a story whose main ingredients included everything from accusations of verbal abuse and death threats to animal cruelty and acts of kitchen violence...

    But back to the real spectacle. 

    In a nod to the location's Prohibition-Era speakeasy past, and to the theatrics of its devised exclusivity, hopeful diners are met at the door by a phone bouncer - a man named Tony with a flower in his jacket pocket - who ensures all camera lenses are covered with stickers so that no photos may be taken inside the establishment. No doubt this dramatic choice will create even more of a snap-happy itch guests will find ways to scratch. An infraction which over time the restaurant will surely come to adopt a more accommodating, lax attitude towards, like Zero Bond and Soho House and all other fake, privacy-shrouded spots. 

    Take a picture of the plates hanging from the ceiling and the frog mural wrapped around the walls, sure, but don't you dare grab a photo of those lobster pierogis. This is their safe space, where they come to be enjoyed, not pointed at and discussed in the comments section like Taylor Swift on a date with Matt Healy at Cipriani!

    Speaking of the comments section, the restaurant's strategic social media plan is itself a brilliant comedy, identifying the 68-seat nostalgic American hole-in-the-wall as an "other" in a sea of culinary money shots.

    Of Frog Club's five Instagram posts - a photo of stacked plates, a close up painting of a lobster - the most meaningful and masterfully crafted is a fuzzy, old PBS show-style video playfully (and yet, also, seriously) contextualizing Johnson as "one of the early principals in the new nostalgia craze," prior to her whipping up a Black & White Bellini with crème fraîche and Ossetra caviar, and a Spinach Soufflé.

    Other delicious, photogenic menu delights sure to tempt diners are Green Tomato Strings, the Original Greenwich Wings (frog legs), Bacon-Wrapped Bone-In Filet Mignon, a Burger pillowed by an English muffin, Banana Chiffon Pie, Tutti Fruity Spaghetti Sundae, Frog Princess Cake and more..

    But the no-photos schtick is just one of many house rules, with the restaurant most recently having posted its list of 'Ways To Get 86'd' (a reference to the fact that the building is the origin spot of the phrase 'to 86').

    As is the case with any normal establishment, Frog Club is unsurprisingly not a fan of no-shows, serial reservation cancellers, annoying drunk guests, annoying (influencer) guests who expect meals for free, and... kissing the Chef without her consent?

    Now, that last one's a bit of a head scratcher under most circumstances, let alone considering Johnson not too long ago worked in a kitchen with her husband while he was mandated by a restraining order to stay 10 feet away from her at all times.. 

    Weird, but weirder still, it seems that consent has its price. As reported by the New York Times, the menu offers a “Kiss the Chef” option for $1,000. By 10:30 PM on opening night, a male diner had cashed in to buy himself a kiss on the cheek.

    Now, does one have to tip on that I wonder?

    Open just Monday through Thursday, with reservations available via email up to two weeks in advance, Frog Club is indeed a frustratingly New York operation. Stewed in a scandalous origin story with a penchant for the performative, "Don't look at me!" dance that really might as well be a neon sign saying, "But really, do look at me!" Playfully distrustful of its "select" clientele. Appealing to New Yorker's warped sense of nostalgia, setting itself apart with a nouveau faux interpretation of dining days of yore. 

    And yet still, too interesting to resist.

    [Photos via Frog Club]