As a conversationally challenged barkeep slams a pair of mini-steins on the table, you may wonder exactly what sort of establishment you've stepped into. "Dark or light," he snaps when you're lucky enough to interrupt his purposeful strides across the floor.
I suppose you can sacrifice certain charms when your family bar once played host to Honest Abe (by no means the only president to frequent the place), Boss Tweed and and numerous men both famous and infamous.
The walls are covered in ephemera, from Civil-war era flags to newspaper articles. The Rat Pack loved the place, as did Elvis.
e.e cummings, moved to rhapsodize, wrote here in a poem that begins "i was sitting in mcsorley's":
"and I was sitting in the din thinking drinking the ale, which never lets you grow old blinking at the low ceiling my being pleasantly was punctuated by the always retchings of a worthless lamp.
Inside snugandevil. i was sitting in mcsorley’s It,did not answer.
outside.(it was New York and beautifully, snowing. . . ."
John Sloan, one of the more famous NY painters, crafted that lovely image that sits atop of this post, featuring the second manager of the bar, Bill McSorley, Jr.
"Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies"
McSorley's, despite playing host to a coterie of painters, writers, poets and politicians since 1861, may be more famous today for keeping out the fairer sex in until 1970.
Only one woman made it in before then, a Vaudevillean named Maggie Klein. What made her so special? Oh yeah, she dressed up as a man and snuck in.
Even Wonder Woman was denied service in 1941 (clearly H.G. Peter was a man ahead of his time):
Some things haven't changed. The floors and seats are covered in sawdust, sawdust with insect-like abilities to crawl up and down your jackets and into your boots. The legendary wishbones still linger over the bar, tormenting us all with memories of so many wars past (read more about that here).
But I am glad to have seen this place, a strange little place that holds its own against the ravages of time.