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McSorley's Old Ale House
In 1851, John McSorley fled potato-starved Ireland for New York, establishing one of the most storied bars in the U.S. Supposedly dating from 1854, McSorley's Old Ale House is New York's oldest continuously operated saloon, claiming to have served countless "presidents, residents, authors and thieves," including Teddy Roosevelt, John Lennon and Woody Guthrie, who proselytized about unions from a table in the front. Even Honest Abe supposedly stopped by.
McSorley's was one of the last "Men Only" pubs in New York, keeping its door closed to women until 1970 when the National Organization for Women, behind attorneys Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCroew, took their case to District Court and won (Seidenberg V. McSorley's Old Ale House). It still took another sixteen years until a ladies room was installed, displacing the galley.
Don't ask for a Bud or Miller or Samuel Adams at McSorley's. They serve only two ales - light and dark, served in tandem half pint glass. Not a piece of the aged artwork, memorabilia or old newspaper articles covering the walls has been removed since 1910. Above the bar, wishbones gather many generations worth of dust from their perch on the old gas lamp. Look closely and you'll spot an original wanted poster for Abe Lincoln's assassin as well as Babe Ruth's farewell photo from Yankee stadium (a donation from the photographer - a regular himself). There are no stools, which means you have to stand up at the bar...if you're lucky enough next to the pair of Houdini's handcuffs linked to the rail. The original taps are still on display, if no longer in use. A dust-covered set of turkey wishbones hang from the light fixture - a tradition dating back to World War I when soldiers going off to war hung them there. Those that returned came back to claim their wish, the wishbones of those who didn't return are left hanging from the light fixture and not dusted as a mark of respect.
The legendary backroom - where the ale flowed during prohibition, is adorned with a fireplace and the infamous portrait of a nude with her parrot. A coal burning stove has been a fixture for as long as McSorley's has been in business, providing warmth for patrons on cold winter days. The bathroom doors are made of transparent glass. The floor is covered with sawdust and the waiters and bartenders, authentic Irish.
Two of McSorley's most famous mottos include "Be Good or Be Gone", and "We were here before you were born". Prior to 1970, 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.
Noodles choosing a drunk to roll
the wishbones of the soldiers who never returned
It can get crowded and some may be put off by the sawdust on the floor.
However McSorley's is a popular place and prices for drink and basic food
are competitive. There are favorable comments on many blogs and web
sites from visitors who had a really good time there.
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