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Liz Johnson, Chef of LA’s Controversial Horses, Opens in an Historic Manhattan Space

It’s the most dramatic restaurant opening of the year so far

The exterior of Frog Club, a restaurant in the West Village.
Frog Club is taking over the former Chumley’s space.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY
Melissa McCart is the editor for Eater New York.

The West Village restaurant conceived by Los Angeles chefs, Liz Johnson and Will Aghajanian, opens on February 14 in the historic former home of Chumley’s, at 86 Bedford Street, near Grove Street. The restaurant, called Frog Club, had been delayed due to the very public breakup and divorce proceedings between Johnson and Aghajanian.

Frog Club, originally Froggy’s, was supposed to be a collaboration between the two chefs, who, in 2001, opened Horses, the celebrated and later controversial Los Angeles restaurant. But on Tuesday afternoon, Johnson announced the restaurant’s opening on her own in a 12-minute video that spoofs Great Chefs, a PBS cooking show that started in the ’80s.

In the video, a velvet-voiced narrator names Johnson as the sole owner, noting that she is “one of the early principals of the new nostalgia craze.” Dressed in chef whites, she cooks menu items like a black-and-white blini, and a dish she calls, “spinach souffle NY, NY.” The video wraps with the announcement that the restaurant is officially open, Monday to Thursday. Reservations can be made two weeks in advance through its website.

Aghajanian said on Tuesday afternoon that the restaurant, which he says is based on, “his design and concept,” was stuck “in legal limbo.” He did not acknowledge that he was no longer a partner as the video suggests, but says he is still involved, and that elements are based on “my childhood in D.C.” nodding to restaurants like Clyde’s and Old Ebbitt Grill. (Johnson declined to speak with Eater for this article.)

When the restaurant in the Chumley’s space was first announced, restaurateur Thomas Carter, formerly of Estela, had signed on as a partner several years after accusations that he created “a culture of fear” at his restaurants. He told Eater a few months ago that he is no longer involved.

Before opening Horses in Hollywood in September 2021 with the help of Spotted Pig’s Ken Friedman behind the scenes, Johnson and Aghajanian led Mimi in Soho, followed by Catbird Seat in Nashville.