Three Sheets pool table

Dive In

In 2013, fishermen Rick Seiden and Ed Turschmann, who’d sailed the Long Island Sound catching shellfish for twenty years, ran aground—and not by accident.

Seiden and Turschmann had heard the siren’s call of 372 Elm Street, one of the only true dive bar properties downtown. The old version of Rudy’s had lasted 76 years in that spot, before the property owners booted the bar in 2010 and opened Elm Bar in its place. Rudy’s took up residency in nicer climes at 1227 Chapel, trading some of its working-class, dive bar touches in the doing.

But Seiden and Turschmann—both of whom had been regulars at the old Rudy’s for over two decades—saw an opportunity to recreate the old dive they used to love. They opened Three Sheets in December of 2013, christening the bar after a nautical idiom: “three sheets to the wind,” meaning “drunk.”

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Like the old Rudy’s, the bar draws a diverse crowd. Seiden sees students, grad students, cops, bikers, firemen, longshoremen and neighborhood folk. “I don’t know who doesn’t come in here,” he says. And though it may have a familiar feel to previous bars that’ve resided there, it has its own identity. “I think we’ve done a good job of bringing back the old Rudy’s feel,” says Seiden, “but I think it feels like Three Sheets now.”

Seiden and Turschmann have gone above and beyond the standard dive bar beer selection. Rotating craft beers ebb and flow through 16 tap lines, with only Yuengling and Down East Cider getting permanent spots. Some locals you might see at the bar are Two Roads, DuVig, Stubborn Beauty and Black Hog, to go with others from around America. They have nothing against foreign beers, says Seiden, but “there are just so many good beers in America now.” He used to have a favorite, but not anymore.

Another major tweak to the dive bar formula has been bubbling in the kitchen. Specials this week have included wacky wonton dumplings in pizza or blueberry cheesecake varieties ($5 per order) and two unorthodox sushi rolls. I tried the Crab Casino Roll ($12), a rich combo of soft crabmeat, crunchy bacon and roasted red peppers.

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As it was on the sea, Seiden and Turschmann’s specialty is shellfish. The duo’s 45-foot clam boat, Louie R., brings the spoils of the deep directly to Three Sheets’s lovingly scratched-up tables. The Clam Po’Boy ($11) comes overloaded with battered, deep-fried, delicious passengers: top neck clams, riding a baguette from Whole G bakery.

Besides revolving drinks and a quirky food menu, Three Sheets champions the arts. Every second Friday of the month, the bar hosts “Art in the Back & Music in the Front,” premiering work by one to three artists on its walls and pairing them with bands whose sound is thought to compliment the artwork. The visual pieces are often mixed media, sometimes inspired by tattoo art (which also comes through the door via many patrons), while the stage becomes a crossroads for all sorts of musicians: singer-songwriters, punk bands, rockabilly acts, country swing groups and indie rock outfits.

Special events aside, Three Sheets regularly hosts live music once or twice a week, with no cover and no cover bands. The walls, on the other hand, are always covered—with eccentric art. You’ll find musicians with burger heads, old “Pin-Up Boy” cartoons from the U.S. Coast Guard and a liquor license from 1902 (decorative), while the back wall of their pool room is a giant chalkboard always open for anyone to tag, beautify or corrupt.

Even while charting its own course, there’s no question Three Sheets is channeling some of the old Rudy’s mojo. The spot is a magnet for the motley, attracting foodies and greasy spoon-types, blue collars and popped collars, furious punk bands and pretty art.

“It was always a melting pot,” says Seiden, remembering the old dive he and his business partner frequented for so long, and it seems that that pot is now back on the stove, with the heat turned up.

Three Sheets
372 Elm St, New Haven (map)
Mon-Thurs 3pm-1am, Fri 3pm-2am, Sat 12pm-2am, Sun 12pm-1am
(475) 202-6909 |

Written and photographed by Daniel Shkolnik.

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