• 15 East 7th Street
• New York, NY 10003
• (212) 473-9148 •

New York City, like most cities that have been around long enough, is peppered with cultural anchors that tie us to a history and root our collective identity to the greater whole. Even someone from far away can feel like like part of the group. As the city modernizes and changes at breakneck speed, these anchors are a security blanket keeping us from feeling swept away. McSorley's Old Ale House, like a folded slice of pizza or a huge pastrami sandwich is, to some, one such anchor; a reminder of an old New York that has miraculously never gone the way of FAO Schwarz and the Ziegfeld Theater.

This is only half true. McSorley's is like FAO Schwarz. See, in real life, the only people who shopped at FAO were tourists who wanted to go someplace quintessentially New York, like they were in a movie. And, if my trips to McSorley's are proof of anything, that's who goes here too. Sure, there were a few non-tourists. Me, for example. And the guy reading the paper in the corner with the cheese plate. We were in the minority.

See, McSorley's is a theme restaurant - pardon me. Theme bar. An old interior with old brass, old glass, sawdust, and a worn, disheveled bar that, elsewhere would be a sign of decrepitude. The walls of the rear dining room are wallpapered with newspaper articles and posters about the bar, dating back through time. The place is a showcase to it's age. Once you realize that it's all just a big show, it loses its appeal as a neighborhood haunt... to me. To the throngs of folks who jam their way inside here, the appeal is very apparent. Don't pay attention to these photos below. Two of the three times I went recently, the place was wall-to-wall people. Mostly tourists, you can tell, but them's the ones what pays the bills.

Anyway, this isn't a blog for Lonely Planet or Fodor's, so let's talk about the food. I went to McSorley's a little after lunchtime to avoid the crowds and met my dad, Dudeman, who was interested in seeing how much, if at all, the spot had changed since her was last here in the 1980s. We grabbed a seat just inside the rear dining area and waited for the waiter to notice or even care. He did not. The service at McSorley's is both atrocious and immediate. It took forever for anyone to pay attention to us, but after that, our glasses were never far from full.

There are two beers at McSorley's, an ale and a porter. There is no third choice. No tripels or IPAs or sours. When you order a pint, they give you two half pint glasses, each one-third filled with foam and half of it will spill on the table when they slam it down in front of you. Both are rather thin, extremely light, and almost nonalcoholic. We ordered three rounds and I could have driven home. Taste-wise, I give them a five out of ten. For lunch, Dudeman got the Corn Beef Sandwich, which he thought was pretty good and I was indifferent towards. I got the Cheeseburger with Fries. Their food menu is rather... limp. The fries were fine, although the burger was actually pretty good, but also totally laughable. As soon as it landed in front of me, I felt crushed. I wanted some kind of vintage burger. Something to take me back to 1875. Instead I got a clearly frozen meat patty with a slice of unmelted cheese on a store-bought bun. This is the hamburger you'd get at a cafeteria when the pizza sliced rotating in the carousel looked too old to bother with. At least it was cheap.

McSorley's is less a local bar run by stubborn Luddites refusing to bend to the will of time than it is a museum with beer. It's a place for tourists, like a restaurant in Colonial Williamsburg, but with fewer tri-corner hats. That's how it's survived. And with a lower overhead than FAO Schwarz, it seems likely to be here for another hundred years. Faux nostalgia, however, cannot substitute for the real thing, and there are plenty of places out there that are real, even if they aren't as old.

McSorley's Old Ale House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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