2011 / 2012 / 2013 / 2014 / 2015 / 2016 / 2017 /
A question was recently put to me. The place where the question was asked was in a bar, quite appropriate given the topic of the question.
The question was asked by someone soon to be visiting the Big Apple, the City That Never Sleeps. The question: “What is your favorite New York City bar?”
Interesting question. Much depends on your mood, the amount of money in your pocket and what’s on your agenda.
If, for example, someone is going to an event at Madison Square Garden, there is the Blarney Rock, a couple blocks away. This is a New York Ranger hockey bar and a Syracuse basketball bar, so be careful who you cheer for in the Blarney Rock.
There are many other bars with Blarney in their name. My experience is that any Irish bar in New York City is a good bar.
There is the Old Time Bar & Grill on East 18th. The Old Town opened in 1892 and has that classic look with the pressed tin ceiling and tiled floor.
Back when David Letterman had a show on NBC, the Old Town was featured in every night’s opening segment. The camera would sweep in through the front door, show a bartender polishing a glass in front of a lone customer, asleep at the bar.
This was a bit of fiction on David Letterman’s part. Never have I seen the popular Old Time Bar & Grill with only one customer, and no one is allowed to sleep on the bar.
Then there’s Pete’s Tavern is on East 18th, corner of Irving Place, an easy walk from the Old Town. Pete’s says it is the oldest continuously operated tavern in the city. If you own a bar, it is a good for advertising purposes to be the oldest in your town.
The building that houses Pete's was built in 1829, and was originally the Portman Hotel. Alcohol might have been served there as early as 1851 when it was a grocery store.
The building was purchased in 1899 by Tom and John Healy, and became a bar named, appropriately, Healy's. During Prohibition, the bar continued to operate disguised as a flower shop.
Like Irish bars, any bar that operated secretly during Prohibition, is a good bar.
Yelp, a website that reviews and describes bars and restaurants has this write up about Pete’s: “Open and virtually unchanged since 1864, this homey destination attracts tourists as well as its share of locals. With a long attractive bar, wooden booths and well-drawn pints of beer, it is a comfortable stalwart in an ever-changing world.”
Trip.com says this: “This spot has so much history. It’s where O’Henry and Washington Irving used to hang out. If I could have been a fly on the wall back then. The interior is reminiscent of a scene from Cheers. Black and white tile floors, TV in the background playing the game, wooden booths and the long wooden bar.”
Speaking of O’Henry, who is my favorite short story writer, he wrote “Gift of the Magi,” which is my favorite short story, in the second booth from the front door of Pete’s, which is my favorite bar in New York City.