I love drinking beer. It’s one of the highlights of my weekends. Well, that and any other day I can imbibe a tasty brew. Who am I kidding? I can drink beer every day if I could but then I would have to face the realization of being a raging alcoholic! Living in NYC there are so many watering holes to get your drink on. Most times I prefer the local spots, beer bars, speakeasies, pubs, and dive bars. Occasionally I will hit up a club but those can get pretty obnoxious and pricey. My favorites though are the golden oldies. Those places that are from an earlier era and a time gone by. I’m a bit of a history buff and what better a combination than having a cold beer in the hallowed halls of one of my favorite bars in NYC – McSorley’s Old Ale House.
It really is a must visit for any beer loving New Yorker and tourists alike. If you crave the simple things in life that are a throwback to yesteryear – a cheap tasty beer, good people, a historic fun setting – then an afternoon at McSorely’s is well spent. The place itself is a like a living breathing history lesson. Going strong and celebrating its 159th year you can still see all that this place has endured, and visualize the people that have walked through those age beaten doors. Every wall is covered with old pictures, yellowed newspaper articles, paintings, and drawings of major news events and the people who made them over the decades. From Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Ed Koch, and many more political posters and images of famous dignitaries, athletes, and entertainers can be found here. Some well known and others lost to time. There are old items and knick-knacks everywhere along the bar above and behind it. You can come here a hundred times and discover something different each time. There is a real working coal stove in the middle of the room keeping everyone warm during cold winter days, and even sawdust on the floor which helps soak up spilled beer off the creaky wooden planks. Sure, this place is a bit grungy looking and needs a good dusting I’m sure, but that is part of the charm here. I have enjoyed many a beer at this bar and have never seen a fight. Everyone comes here to have a good time, and are respectful of it’s history and patrons. It’s almost a religious experience to some and treat it with reverence. As the famous slogan demands behind the bar – “Be Good or Be Gone”.
Over the years I have brought many a friend here, along with family and the occassional coworker. We have relatives in Texas who were here for the first time not too long ago and walked out definitely wanting to come back next visit. I take my dad here when he visits from Florida and we have had quite a few drunken adventures here! This place feels like an old friend that you are always happy to see.
This past Sunday was no different. After a good session at the nearby gun range I decided to drop in for a few beers. It was not too crowded yet and I found a great spot at the bar. At times this place is packed, so getting there early is key. Plus, it gives one a chance to really take it all in, view and read some of the items all around. McSorely’s only offers up two kinds of beer – a light or dark ale. Two mugs for $5. They are not overly large mugs but still a great deal in this day and age. They have a small but decent little pub menu of sandwiches, burgers, chili, etc. All very cheap too. My favorite is the cheese and cracker plate – saltines in the bag, slices of cheese, fresh cut onion, and some hot ass mustard! Damn, this is good. Just build your own little saltine appetizers and go to town. Drown it down with a dark ale. Your breath will kill a small farm animal after this, and that mustard will singe out your nose hairs! Love it.
I was going solo yesterday but when coming here always feels like you are never alone. It’s easy for me to converse with people around me. Chatted up some tourists from the UK (“This place is brilliant!”) and a bunch from St Louis (“We left our wives at the hotel to come here.”) Offered advice on where else to drink and eat. Just a small fact – this used to be a men’s only spot until women were finally allowed into McSorley’s in 1970! Nothing against all the dudes, but the eye-candy is a welcome sight over just hanging out with guys. Before you know it hours go by quickly as you lose track of time in this historical time capsule. It’s really easy to waste away an afternoon here with friends and family.
Always worth a visit. Just keep in mind that it’s cash only. They only serve their light and dark beer. No cocktails, hard booze, of foo-foo drinks. Just a simple historic place to enjoy a simple relaxed time in a fun atmosphere.
Remember, as their slogan proclaims “We were here before you were born”.