McSorley’s Old Ale House is a New York treasure with an identity devoid of any pretenses.
It makes no apologies about long lines outside, cramped seating or it’s uniquely abrupt service. In fact, it took a 1970 court ruling to open the historic pub’s doors to women. Political correctness be damned.
McSorley’s is the oldest, continuously operated bar, according to its Web site. The bar was originally called “The Old House at Home” as it catered to the Irish working class when it opened back in 1854. The same year the Republican Party was founded and six years before Abraham Lincoln was elected President.
Even the drunkest of patrons can’t help but soak in the history adorning every square inch of this East Village icon. Its walls are adorned with genuine newspaper clippings about historic events like the sinking of the Titanic as well as pictures of famous patrons like poet E.E. Cummings.
Although it’s considered a tourist destination because of its history, McSorley’s has always maintained its local flavor. Only the locals know the best way to get a seat at one of the vaunted backroom tables, even if it means the barman has to abruptly kick a group of people to the curb.
You won’t see a local patron saddle up to the bar to order a mixed drink or European import. Instead, the locals laugh and smirk as the barman gives the newbie a sharp-tongued lesson on McSorley’s dark and McSorley's light ales, its only two alcoholic offerings.
Each order is served in two 8-ounce glasses, but don’t bother ordering a refill. The barman will drop down a fistful of rounds for the table and extend his hand for a hefty tip if you don’t drink your first round fast enough.
While the abrupt service may turn off some, it’s just another form of inside entertainment for patrons as they sit elbow to elbow with perfect strangers. The never-ending rounds of beer make for a lively atmosphere, inevitably loosening up the conversation and leading to memorable moments.
And that’s the best part of McSorley’s. It’s the experience of making memories with perfect strangers while enjoying a fine beer inside a living piece of history.
McSorley’s cannot be adequately described with a few words pounded out on a keyboard. You need to throw back a few beers and soak up the lively atmosphere on a busy night to truly understand the draw of this historical East Village marvel.