I write this wearing a smile.
That’s because it’s a Sunday, the U.S. Open is on all day and I’m thinking about how much fun I had last night.
Limiting yourself to just one section of this city is about as foolish a thing you can do. Relying solely on my two feet for transportation, I had stayed in the midtown area for the New York nightlife scene. Very foolish.
Luckily, I’m not a complete social outcast and have made some friends. One of them is living in a dormitory at NYU this summer, so we — my roommate Max and a few other new friends — headed southward to Lower Manhattan and found the coolest place in NYC.
It’s called McSorley’s Old Ale House and it’s why I’m smiling. The name tells exactly what it is: an old ale house. In fact, it’s the oldest Irish pub in New York City. I quickly understood why it’s been in business for 150-plus years.
The guy at the door — call him a bouncer if you really care — was jolly as ever. He was excited to see that we were excited about being there. We still didn’t know what it had in store.
The “bouncer” glanced at my ID like all I had to do was pull it out of my wallet. It couldn’t have been more than two seconds between the time it left my fingers and was placed back there. I honestly don’t think he looked at it, but we’ll never know. It also doesn’t matter.
The first and only thing he said was “Hey, you guys got here at the right time.” He was right. Our group of six was ushered through the bar to a back room where everyone was having a good time. Each wall is splattered with photos and memorabilia that likely haven’t moved since the 1800s.
Our waiter, Tim (soon to be referred to as Timmy) — call him a waiter if you really care — was dressed in a simple grey sport coat and his dark gray hair lay frizzled to shoulder length. He sat us down with a “What’ll it be, light or dark?” because that’s all they have. It’s either light house ale or dark house ale, nothing more. Some bar, huh?
That’s really all they need. The beer was great. You tell Timmy one of three things: all light, all dark or light and dark. The next time you see him he’s carrying more beer than you could dream of.
The mugs aren’t huge nor were they full but everyone in the group gets two each for the price of $5.50, rather cheap for the Big Apple. You keep your head on a swivel because Timmy and his fellow “waiters” are slugging 12-20 mugs around a tightly packed room with plenty of people turning tipsy into drunk.
The aura of McSorley’s was exactly what you would hope and expect from an Irish pub. People weren’t there to meet the opposite sex, intentions aside. They weren’t there to dance in darkness and flashing lights. They were at McSorley’s to have a great time and drink with other people looking to have a great time and drink.
One adjacent table housed a group of couples likely in their fifties, definitely tourists — though its too early for me to refer to anyone as such. Their neighbors were a bunch of lads as Tim called them — guys in their upper-20s, rowdy as ever, downing the tiny mugs like liquid candy.
Pretty soon the “lads” were chugging beers with the men and women in their fifties. Then we all stood up and sang “God Bless America” together. It was awesome.
McSorley’s tries to accomodate as many people as possible, so our table soon had three guests from the city, all of Irish descent who hit up McSorley’s once each month. They said they can’t decide to hit the town and find more fun anywhere else.
They taught us tabletop drinking games, forced us into more rounds than we originally planned and showed us how the Irish like to have a good time in little over an hour.
Oh yeah, Tim takes his notes of orders in a reporters notebook. The final bill for our group of six read $93.50 with a few tallies above the number like a child had scribbled up whatever numeral came to mind. He also counted on his fingers. His math was spot on, however, and we gave him a healthy tip.
It was easily my best night in the city.
Just like I’m sure it was back in the 1800s, McSorley’s is the coolest place in NYC.
I unfortunately own neither of these photos.