1 = Dublin House
225 W 79th Street (btwn Amsterdam & Broadway) – Upper West Side
Subway 1 to 79th Street
“It is snowing in Wisconsin!”
The lady sitting next to me seemed to have said it to herself, but when I looked up at the TV behind the bar, she carried on as if she had been talking to me. “Snow in October probably means it is going to be a very cold winter, don’t you think?”
The TV was showing a live transmission of a college football game and it had, indeed, started to snow. The players were doing their best to carry on the game in what looked like quite nasty conditions.
“But isn’t that in Illinois?” I asked, having noticed that the score line on the bottom of the screen showed Illinois first and Wisconsin second. She explained that the home team was always listed second in the US and then she laughed when I said that was the opposite of what we did in the UK. “Most things are back to front here” she said.
She was waiting for friends to show up. They were having a reunion of some sort and she had arrived a little too early. She was retired, only just, and had worked all her life in finance. She had lived in Manhattan for many years but had now moved to Queens. She said she missed the city centre but her living costs were much cheaper in the suburbs. We carried on chatting for half an hour or so until her friends arrived. The conversation was mostly about the dilapidated state of public services and the crumbling subway system in New York.
The Dublin House was originally opened during prohibition in the 1920s by an Irish family. It opened officially as a pub in 1933 and has been there ever since. The neon harp outside has become something of a landmark in the area.
I thought the place was really quite atmospheric. The room is long, narrow and dimly lit and has a single bar running the length of it. There are just a few tables at the side but most seats are at the bar. They have a great beer selection, friendly Irish bar tenders but famously do no food.
2 = The Landmark Tavern
626 11th Avenue, (Corner of 46th Street) – Hell’s Kitchen
Subway 7 to 34th St Hudson Yards
“Is anybody sitting here?”
“Be my guest”
I’d been sitting alone for a while at the mahogany bar and I was already nursing my second Smithwicks. It had been a nice place to sit alone though. I was quite happy drinking and quietly admiring the bar. It had obviously been newly renovated but it seemed somehow quite traditional and relaxing too.
It was early, only just gone 4pm, and the place was almost empty. 4 guys were sitting at one of the tables and there was a young couple at the far end of the bar discussing something in French. The bar tender was busy at the other end of the bar preparing for the evening rush. There was a restaurant section too with all the tables already laid out for dinner. It was obvious they were expecting a busy night.
The tavern is located in the area to the west of Penn Station that stretches towards the Hudson River. The neighbourhood is known as “Hell’s Kitchen”. I love the wonderful names they dream up for the areas of New York and “Hell’s Kitchen” is one of the best. Apparently the tavern was originally a dock workers saloon. Now it is quite handy for the nearby Javit’s Convention Center located on the bank of the river.
He was an African-American guy, about the same age as me, and he was on his way home to Brooklyn from the Convention Center. We started off talking about the pub itself and different types of beer, but we moved on to travel and eventually to politics.
He asked me what I thought about President Obama, then well into his second term, and I gave him a suitably diplomatic answer. He wasn’t quite so diplomatic. Obamacare he said, referring to the new health system, was deeply flawed. The reason behind his strong opinion soon became clearer when he explained he was in the private health insurance industry.
Over more Smithwicks we discussed the vastly different health care systems of our two respective countries. He was actually quite complementary about the British NHS system. He had lived in London for two years and his wife had actually given birth at an NHS hospital. He told me that he thought the equipment they used was a few years behind the USA, but the system of aftercare and follow up was more advanced in the UK.
Whilst we were discussing healthcare we realised that we had something in common; both our fathers had succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease. We spent a sombre few minutes talking about the details of that terrible illness and the impact it has on the surrounding relatives. It was quite emotional but also strangely bonding. When he finally left in order to be home in time for dinner, we enjoyed a brotherly bear hug.
3 = Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar
519 2nd Avenue, (Corner of 29th Street) – Midtown /East Kip’s Bay
Subway 6 to 28th Street
“Well, we seem to be winning at the moment”
He said it in response to my question “How is it going?” and at first I couldn’t work out who he meant by “we”. It was only when he pointed to a television screen in the far corner that I understood that he meant Liverpool Football Club.
Liverpool were indeed winning at that moment; they were beating Huddersfield 1-0. But as the guy had been staring down at a half-finished pint of Guinness since I had walked in 15 minutes before, and as the TV screen was way over in the corner behind him, it was quite difficult to work out how he actually knew that.
We got talking. He was in his late 40s and from County Claire in Ireland but he had been working in and around New York for almost 20 years. He had been a Liverpool fan from childhood although he had actually worked in London for a while. He had lived a bit too close to the Arsenal ground he said.
He was a carpenter by trade and he told me that whilst he still made good money doing it, he was considering jacking it all in and going back to Ireland. He had grown tired of living in the USA; it was turning “Spanish” he said, and he missed his family.
We carried on talking for another 20 minutes or so, and then suddenly he seemed to sense that the match that he hadn’t been watching at all was finally finishing. Without even looking at the screen for the final score, he downed the rest of his pint, said a quick farewell and he was gone. Huddersfield 0 – Liverpool 1, (Salah 24′).
The pub was set up in 1986 by folk singer Paddy Reilly and it is certainly one of the more authentic Irish bars in New York. For a long time its big claim to fame was that the only beer it served was Guinness. It has relented a bit now and has 3 or 4 more beers on tap.
The back room has a pool table and a dart board the whole place is decorated with various memorabilia including some great Irish AA road direction signs.
4 = Molly’s Pub and Restaurant Shebeen
287 3rd Avenue, (North of 22nd Street) – Gramercy Park
Subway R, W to 23rd Street
“Do you have a football team you support then?”
The young Irish bar tender hadn’t been at all phased by my English accent. He had already asked me where in the UK I was from, taken my order for a pint of IPA (20 oz not the usual American 16oz) and now, as he handed me my drink he, had already switched the conversation to soccer.
He gave me that look of sympathy that I am quite used to getting from people who know anything about English soccer.
“but they used to be in the Premier League a while back though didn’t they?”
It seemed that most of the staff behind the bar at Molly’s was Irish. There was an older guy in a manager-type role and a younger woman fussing around there too. They were all super friendly and certainly added to the authenticity of the place.
Molly’s is, according to the guidebooks, designed to resemble a rural Irish shebeen from the 1950s. The frontage is even whitewashed, which although is probably just how a rural shebeen looked in Ireland the 1950s, is possibly a little out of place on 3rd Avenue today.
“The Shepherd’s Pie is really nice” said the bar tender handing me the menu.
“It certainly is” said both of the two guys sitting immediately to my right and smiling at me.
They explained they were regulars at Molly’s. They worked in a nearby TV company and often called in on their way home. One of them lived within walking distance and the other lived in Queens. They surveyed the room and told me that actually quite a few of the other people in that night were regulars too.
We spent most of the next three hours chatting over several pints of beer. We covered their jobs, my job, travel, politics, family and a lot more in between. I drunk far too much and in the end I even forgot to get the Shepherd’s Pie. I picked up a take away on the way back to the hotel.
5 = Peter McManus Café
152 7th Avenue (Corner 19th Street) – Chelsea
Subway 1 to 18th Street
“It looks pretty wet out there, you okay?”
I was actually pretty drenched and frantically trying to dry off a bit before I took the seat next to him.
It was my own fault of course. The thunderstorm had been forecast but I had ignored the warnings and not brought an umbrella from the hotel. The rain had been sudden and it was horrendous. I had tried to shelter in a doorway but in the end I had just run for it.
“I am fine, thanks” I said to him. “and I will have a large Pale Ale” I added to the waiting bar tender, who seemed less concerned about my dampness and more anxious in getting my order in quickly.
I had been grateful to find the last seat right at the end of the bar. Beyond me was the dining room and I wasn’t planning on eating so I hadn’t wanted to sit there. The whole place was buzzing, quite impervious to the serious weather outside.
We were sat at a lovely mahogany bar, the ceiling and the floor were both decorated impressively too and opposite us on the counter was a fine collection of Irish-related memorabilia, some of it for sale. This was quite a nice place to shelter from the rain.
He was Mexican-American, originally from California but now living in New York. He was in his late 20s and had spent several years in the US Marines. We spent some time talking about his travels with the military all around the world.
I mentioned about a bike ride I was planning to do in Belgium and France and he told me that he was a keen cyclist. He had actually met the famous Belgian bicycler; Eddy Merckx in Europe and had shipped a bike he had bought from him back to the states.