NYC’s Oldest Joints

New York City can’t really compare with Europe when it comes to old establishments that have been slinging drinks for centuries, but it certainly can hang when it comes to restaurants.

Delmonico’s Steakhouse (94*/100) is rumored to be the world’s very first fine dining restaurant (year 1837). The restaurant, at the time, innovated many dishes that are now well known and popular, like Chicken a’ la King, and Lobster Newberg. They are also the namesake of the “Delmonico” cut of steak, which is typically a boneless rib eye.

Fraunce’s Tavern is a very old joint, dating back to 1762, which is actually now a Revolutionary War museum. It was the location of George Washington’s farewell/presidential address, and later his funeral procession, but it may have shuttered once or twice between then and now.

McSorley’s Old Ale House is NYC’s first Irish bar, and it is a place known for limited options. For example, the clientele was limited to men from 1854 until 1970 when it was forced to allow women into the bar. Their motto was “Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies.” As far as beer goes, you can either have dark beer or light beer. You get two mugs that are mostly filled for the price of one beer, mostly because it is faster to pour two half-assed mugs than it is to properly pour a full mug while waiting for the head to settle. While there, you should man-up and try the liverwurst and onion sandwich. If you’re really feeling manly, spread some of that super spicy dijon mustard onto the bread, which is usually sitting at each table.

mcsorleys

Pete’s Tavern is the oldest continuously operating establishment in NYC. It opened in 1864 and has not closed or switched locations since. Great fun things to see in here, like the cash cage:

Old Town, which is just down the street from Pete’s, is one of NYC’s oldest and most awesome bars. It opened in 1892 and has remained relatively unchanged since. The beautiful high tin-patterened ceilings beckon you to a time when things were less technological and more raw. They also put up a pretty solid burger.

Chumley’s – may it rest in peace – was an old speakeasy buried in a Barrow Street courtyard in NYC’s Greenwich Village. While not as old as some other joints on this list (1922), it has great character. Trap doors, hidden stairways and secret hallways allowed for covert gambling and drinking during the Prohibition era. Rumor has it that the term “86” originated when unruly guests were escorted out the second Bedford Street door, which held the address “86 Bedford Street.” The place recently suffered a collapsed wall and has been closed and undergoing repairs ever since. Apparently it will stay closed, however, since neighbors living in the courtyard had been complaining about the noise emanating from the tavern for decades.

Keen’s Steakhouse (96*/100) was established in 1885 as a men only club (an off-shoot of The Lambs Club), but in 1905 a woman (Lillie Langtry) took the establishment to court and won her entry. The bar here is incredible, and the place is famous for having lots of historical memorabilia on the walls, including churchwarden pipes, and for their mutton chop.

White Horse Tavern opened in the west village in 1880 but was known more as a longshoremen’s bar than a literary center until Dylan Thomas and other writers began frequenting it in the 50’s and 60’s. It became a hub of Bohemian culture. It is one of the few major gathering-places for writers and artists from this period that remains open. It has become a popular destination among tourists these days due to that literary history.

Ear Inn was established in 1817 as a housing joint for sailors. Food, beer and whiskey was made on the premises to feed and water the sailors. The bar actually had no name. This “clubhouse” to sailors and longshoremen was simply known as “The Green Door.” Then in 1977, new resident-owners christened the place the Ear Inn. The new name was chosen to avoid the Landmark Commission’s lengthy review of any new sign. The neon BAR sign was painted to read EAR, after the musical Ear Magazine that was published upstairs.

2 thoughts on “NYC’s Oldest Joints”

  1. Chumleys and Ear always made me feel “in the know” when I would bring out of towners there. I wish I liked McSorleys more, but the frat and yuppie contingent was a little high when Sometimes. I liked it best in the afternoon before the crowd.

    1. Yes! I know the feeling. It’s a real shame about Chumleys, and you’re absolutely right about McSorleys. There has to be more that I’m missing or forgetting here. If you know of any, let me know.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *