McSorley’s Old Ale House

New York, New York

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

Opened in 1854, McSorley’s is the great-great-grandfather of dive bars, a preserved piece of New York City & American history that has endured the decades with a beer menu consisting of “Light” & “Dark” and a food menu famous for a cheese platter that includes a raw onion.

Field Rating

10

out of 10

The barometer for every dive bar for nearly 170 years.

Field Note

McSorley’s tells a story of its own. Opened in 1854, a staple of the Ukrainian Village neighborhood of New York, McSorley’s lays convincing claim to the title of oldest Irish pub in the city. And the historical accolades run deep, maybe most impressively including the amazing accomplishment that no wall adornment has been taken down since 1910.

McSorley’s is so well-respected, that not only does the bar have a Wikipedia entry, but that Wikipedia entry conjures up the names of Abraham Lincoln and Boss Tweed as past patrons. E.E. Cummings wrote a poem about this place. In 1923. That’s the kind of historical pedigree in play here.

The bar serves two kinds of beer: “Dark” and “Light.” Either response yields two mugs of your selection.

And the place lives up to every word every written. The bar serves two kinds of beer: “Dark” and “Light.” Either response yields two mugs of your selection and though the food options expanded in 2017 for the first time in 50 years (hot dogs), the marquee item is still the classic cheese board, complemented with a raw onion.

McSorley’s is less a dive bar and more ‘original.’ The people and patrons have changed over time, but there’s a sense of reliability that someone could walk into McSorley’s in 50 years, say that word ‘dark’ and be presented with two frosty mugs. As the neighborhood evolves around it, McSorley’s serves as the eye of the perpetual storm. Unchanging wall art. Enduringly authentic staff. Ancient sawdust strewn across the floor. The word ‘institution’ is made for a place like this.

The bar’s slogan, “Be Good or Be Gone” adorns the walls and doubles as pretty sound life advice.

The bar’s slogan, “Be Good or Be Gone” adorns the walls and doubles as pretty sound life advice. The worn furniture has long ago sworn off the use of coasters. The chairs are wooden and simple. The cash register looks it might be the first one ever assembled. And the walls are made of the kind of wood planks that have soaked in every conversation, every world event, every wayward beer for almost 170 years.

On a cool summer early evening, there may be no better place on earth than one of the tiny tables up front with a view to the street and the New York air wafting in. Plate of crackers. Some simple cheese. A raw onion, why not. Find a way to get to McSorley’s. It was good enough for Lincoln, after all.

Photos

The Basics

15 E 7th St
New York, New York 10003

Classification:
Neighborhood Bar

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