Monday, September 22, 2008


Established in 1854, McSorley's Old Ale House is the oldest bar in New York City.LOCATED IN THE EAST VILLAGE (MANHATTAN) at, 15 EAST 7th STREET... STOCK PHOTO: KINDLY DISREGARD THE TWO GENTLEMEN IN THE PHOTO.

Despite the social changes going on all around it, McSorley's has remained overwhelmingly the same. From the moment you walk in, the pleasant scent of ale fills the air. Then with a quick scan of the walls and ceiling, you'll see original memorabilia that is *reputed to have never been removed since 1910. These items include: photos, political buttons, musical instruments and even a pair of Houdini's handcuffs. One exception is, the dust covered *wishbones hanging over the bar. The story behind the bones stem from the boys going off to fight in WWI. They would hang a wishbone up with the intention of taking it down when they whatever is still up there represents the men who didn't make it.

McSorley's boasts a veritable who's who of famous elbow benders; like Abe Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Boss Tweed, Woody Guthrie and don't forget me...during my college years. I had my first taste of McSorley's, sometime in 1976...and returned many times. I even had my "Going Away Party" there when I was re-locating to Las Vegas (first week of January 1979).

My memories of those festivities are sketchy. However, I do remember two things; 1) Standing on a chair to toast other friends that had already re-located that weren't there...this ended abruptly when a couple of (legal or illegal?) Irish immigrant waiters "suggested" I get down. Please note that the whole staff speaks with a Brogue, (Brogue means Irish accent) 2) My female friends did not like the single toilet facility. In fact they had to post a guard outside the lockless door while they did their business.

The reason McSorley's had the single restroom was; it was one of New York City's last "men only" pubs. It wasn't until 1970 that women were permitted. The only reason McSorley's began allowing women was...they were mandated by law. Women's libbers took McSorley's (kicking and screaming) to court and the women won.

At the time of my going away party, the entire McSorley's "menu" consisted of: light or dark ale, coca-cola or diet, ham, turkey or roast beef sandwich, a cheese platter with raw onions and NOTHING ELSE ! Also the only condiment they offered, English Unbleached Mustard, sat on each table in a beer mug. This mustard is so unbelievably hot that I once (and I stress once) put a drop on my finger and gingerly dabbed a millionth of that drop on my tongue...and regretted it for hours. Forget the hottest Chinese mustard you can imagine...this stuff is POISON ! Down through the years, I have mentioned it to a lot of people and nobody (without knowledge of McSorley's) ever heard of English Unbleached Mustard.
WAITER SERVING EIGHT DARK ALES. IN 1979 A HALF-PINT (served exclusively in pairs?) WAS 80c A PAIR. IN 2007, THE PRICE HAD JUMPED TO $2.25 A PAIR.

McSorley's has had three mottoes; 1) Be good or be gone, 2) We were here before you were born, and 3) Good ale, raw onions and no ladies. (This one, no longer in vogue since 1970).

Needless to say, I never took any of my dates there but I did take my mother. In the late eighties, (Geez, this story is 20 years old), I came into Brooklyn to take mom out for Mother's Day. We wound up in Greenwich Village and accidentally found GRANDPA'S RESTAURANT, as in "Grandpa Al Lewis from the "THE MUNSTERS" TV show. He was even there but that's another story. After lunch there, mom and I strolled around doing the tourist thing. Later, mom wanted her 3 o'clock coffee and I kiddingly mentioned that McSorley's was nearby. Mom knew of its "historical" significance and surprisingly wanted to go.

We took-in the "saw-dust joint" and all its charms while having an ale each. Before leaving, I took a couple of minutes to use the restroom. When I returned, my mom discreetly pointed out a fat, drunken slob on the verge of passing out. He was dressed like a motorcycle gang member and I still remember he had a large wad of spittle (it might have been 2 week-old mashed potatoes) in his beard.

When we got outside, my mother said, "That Hell's Angel guy approached me while you were in the bathroom and asked, 'is that dude coming back?'" That story never gets old. We still get a great kick out of telling it...especially when we try to guess how much fun mom would have had if she let him pick her up.

To help prove my point, check-out what poet E. E. Cummings once wrote in a 1923, "McSorley's ale never lets you grow old." Go check it out when you go to Manhattan...I insist...if you don't believe me, NEW YORK MAGAZINE ranked McSorley's in it's top five of "Historical Bars in New York City."

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