The barometer for every dive bar for nearly 170 years.
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.
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 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.