Local Business Update: Mudville 9

I can’t think of a more poignant image of our restaurants in their current state of hibernation than the long, gleaming, beautiful bar at Mudville 9 bereft of not just customers, but bar stools as well. Yet the restaurant forges on — a staple of bended elbows here since 1977. I’ve wanted to catch up on things there since last summer’s renovations — and now here we are, talking about surviving a global pandemic and its implications for the restaurant industry in New York City.

The bar was opened by the Schwimmer family whose roots go back four generations here, to a paper and twine stall in the actual Washington Market. Eric Schwimmer took the bar over in 2002, and brought on a managing partner recently — Joe Rao, of the Harlem Rao’s. (Yes, his grandfather was the mobster Joe Rao, whose mugshot now hangs on the wall at Mudville. Joe’s great grandfather, Joshua, founded the restaurant in Harlem.)

Eric also opened Washington Market Tavern in 2014 on Murray, a business — and a beautiful renovation — that only lasted 10 months. (It later became Rosa Mexicano, which closed in 2019.) But the Schwimmer roots here in Tribeca — he owns the real estate for Mudville — has allowed them to keep the doors open through this blitz. “We are doing better since we are small and don’t have a huge infrastructure,” Joe said. Still, business is down more than 60 percent and the lunch business — as we all know — is completely dead.

“You’re not getting someone who is home, 15 feet from their refrigerator, coming out to lunch,” Joe said. And while they have heated their curbside setup and even towed TVs out to the sidewalk for a bit of the sports bar feel, “it’s going to be a tough winter.”

Joe grew up in Atlantic Beach with five sisters but his mother trusted only him with the sauce — he was a foodie from the beginning. He started out after college at Merrill Lynch but was too restless for a desk job. He was the Mudville manager in 2006, so it seemed natural for Eric to bring him back for this larger role. He moved to Chambers Street last year to shorten his commute to just a few paces. “I want to be the one who turns on the lights and opens the place, and I want to be the one who locks the door at night.”

“I love this business — it hits both sides of your brain, the analytical side and the people side. It’s like instant gratification if someone has a good meal and a good time,” he said.

Some might be nostalgic for the old wood-framed facade, but the new renovation actually looks like a restoration, especially the cast iron and glass brick details. Inside is still old-New-York cozy. (These pics were taken in November, FYI.)

Working with a perishable product in these times is extremely challenging as a manager, but the delivery business has kept them stable, and they didn’t close for one single day during the shutdown. Pickup and deliveries and the curbside area are open every day but Monday. “The neighborhood has been super supportive,” Joe said, “so knock wood, we will inch closer and closer to good.”



  1. Thanks for this. Always friendly and warm feelings every time I stop by for a beer or food.

  2. I hope Mudville continues to “make it” thru these hard times. The very best french fries for miles around and the steak sandwich can be delish too.

  3. Some of my favorite wings in the city. I think I’m due for a fix sometime soon.