Thursday, 4 December 2008


McSorley's Old Ale House is the oldest Irish Tavern in NYC, located at 15 East 7th Street in the East Village. It was one of the last of the 'Mens Only' pubs. It opened its doors in 1854 and ever since has been a gathering place, a watering hole, the subject of art and literature and even a Supreme Court controversy. Women were not allowed in until 1970 when the National Organization for Women attorney's Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow took their case to the District Court and won. It did so "kicking and screaming."

McSorley's serves only two ales, light and dark - $4.50 for two (2007 pricing), each glass is half a pint. The aged artwork, newspaper articles covering the walls, the sawdust floors, and the Irish waiters and bartenders help to give McSorley's Old Ale House an atmosphere that many consider reminiscent of 'Olde New York.' No piece of memorabilia has been removed from the walls since 1910. Much historical paraphernalia exists in the bar, like Houdini's handcuffs, which are connected to the bar rail. Also one must take notice of the wishbones hanging above the bar. Story has it that they were hung there by boys going off to World War I and when they came back they would remove them, so those that are left are from the men who did not return.

Famous people have frequented McSorley's, including Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Boss Tweed, and Woody Guthrie. Literary figures like Brendan Behan, Paul Blackburn, LeRoi Jones, Gilbert Sorrentino, George Jean Nathan were regulars. McSorley's was the focus of several articles by New Yorker author Joseph Mitchell and included in his much acclaimed collection of NYC stories "Up in the Old Hotel."

Two of McSorley's most famous mottos include "Be Good or Be Gone", and "We were here before you were born". Prior to the 1970 Supreme Court ruling, the motto was"Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies." The raw onions can still be had as part of the famous McSorley's cheese platter. The prime condiment is some extremely spicy hot mustard found on each table in a beer mug.


From poem by Edward Estlin Cummings (1884-1962)

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