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McSorley's Old Ale House Review by In The Great Wide Thirsty Thursdays Travel Blog photo by Leonard J DeFrancisci-
*By Leonard J. DeFrancisci, CC BY-SA 3.0

Take a step back in time at the oldest Irish pub in America, which is also the longest continuously running bar in New York City, where the beers come in two’s… McSorley’s Old Ale House!


Where is McSorley’s Old Ale House?

McSorley’s is located in the East Village/Lower East Side Historic District of Manhattan in New York City. The exact address is 15 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003.

How to Get to McSorley’s

Being that this is New York City, public transportation is abundant. There are 4 nearby bus stops that service the M8, M101, M102, and M103 bus lines. The Astor Place subway station is just a couple blocks away and services the 4 and 6 subway lines. The 8th Street subway station is another block west of the Astor Place station and serves the N, Q, R, and W subway lines. Driving is not recommended, as again, it’s New York City.

McSorley's Old Ale House Beers Come In Two's In The Great Wide Thirsty Thursday Travel Blog

Reservations at McSorley’s

McSorley’s does not take reservations. This historic pub is first-come, first-serve, as a bar should be. Given the history of McSorley’s, it’s quite busy, all of the time, but we still easily got a table on the random Tuesday night we visited.

McSorley's Bar 1912 Painting by John French Sloan Oldest Irish Pub in America In The Great Wide Travel Blog
McSorley's Bar, a 1912 painting by John French Sloan

History of McSorley’s Old Ale House - the Oldest Irish Pub in America

McSorley’s was established in 1854 by Irish immigrant John McSorley. At the time, it was just a single-story building, but in the 1860s, the 5-story tenement building that is now on top of McSorley’s was built, and John McSorley would eventually own the entire building, moving in above the bar. The bar was a working man’s pub, offering cheese and cracker plates with raw onions to keep people there to drink more ale.

John’s son, Bill, took over management in 1890, and obtained ownership after his father passed (which he did in the tenements above the bar) in 1910. Bill experimented with serving liquor in 1905, but it was abruptly stopped shortly after starting. We can’t find any record of what went wrong, only that it ended abruptly.

McSorley’s managed to survive the Prohibition by serving their own home brew, titled ‘Near Beer’, made in their basement, that had so little alcohol in it that it could still legally be sold in the establishment. Bill ran the bar for 25 years, eventually selling it to a patron and local policeman, Daniel O’Connell.

Three years later, Daniel passed away and ownership of McSorley’s was transferred to his daughter, Dorothy. However, since the bar’s inception, it had been a ‘men only’ establishment. In fact, one of their slogans was “Good Ale, Raw Onions and No Ladies”. When Dorothy took over, this did not change, as she had promised her father that she wouldn’t set foot in the bar while it was open to the public. She only tended to her duties on Sunday nights after the bar closed.

In 1964, Dorothy’s husband, who was managing the bar, took a trip to Ireland and had his car break down on the side of the road. A man named Matty Maher gave him a ride and Dorothy’s husband told Matty that if he came to America, he would give him a job at McSorley’s. Matty showed up in New York City a few months later and got a job as a bartender.

By 1970, Dorothy’s son, Danny, was managing the bar, and the National Organization of Women sued the bar to allow women to enter, with the city agreeing. Danny wanted his mother, Dorothy, to be the first woman ever served at McSorley’s, but she still refused, citing her promise to her father.

In 1977, Danny sold the bar to Matty Maher, who would run it until his death in 2020. He installed the women’s restroom in 1986, and hired his daughter, Teresa, to be the first woman to work there, in 1994. Teresa now owns the bar with her husband, Gregory de la Haba.

McSorley's Old Ale House Review News Article Women Not Allowed Abolished At The Oldest Bar In New York City In The Great Wide Travel Blog Thirsty Thursdays

Our Experience

We were introduced to McSorley’s by a friend of ours who Phoebe has known since high school, but hadn’t seen in several years. He lived in Brooklyn for a while before moving away for work, but he agreed to come back to meet us in New York City to show us around. Always have a local guide if you can!

McSorley’s is very unassuming, with a small storefront and two small rooms. Since the pandemic, they’ve installed some outdoor seating as well, probably doubling their available space. Upon entering, it’s apparent that it’s a very old pub. Sawdust covers the floor, making it easier to clean up the spilled beer (or to save them sweeping time), and there is not a single inch of wall space that isn’t covered by some historical photo or document about the bar. Although a lot of newer bars now attempt to replicate the look, you can really FEEL the history of this place as soon as you walk in.

As we entered, we were looking around for our friend, but a gentleman walked up to us, pointed at a table in the backroom, and told us to sit down. Without waiting for us to sit, he asked if we wanted “light or dark.” We decided to get one of each, and within a minute, 2 mugs of light ale and 2 mugs of dark ale plopped down on the table in front of us. The man turned away before we could even thank him and didn’t ask for any money.

McSorley’s only serves their own brand of beer, and those two are your only options: light and dark. It’s available in bottle form in some stores along the east coast, and while it’s a nice novelty, I don’t think we’d drink it outside of the bar itself. The ale is fine, but it’s nothing to write home about. The draw to this place is the place itself. If you want food too, they still do offer a cheese and cracker plate like they used to serve to keep people in the bar drinking more beer (replete with raw onions), but it’s not free anymore. They also offer a couple very simple sandwiches with fries for an affordable price, but we just went for the beer.

McSorley’s is a cash-only bar, which can be annoying in this day and age, but it made for an interesting experience as we were getting ready to leave. The man who served us magically appeared at the table, we handed him a fistful of cash, and he disappeared again. I’m still not really sure how much the beers cost, or if we actually paid for our drinks, but we’re assuming that we did. We found this reference saying that beers (well, 2 beers) are $5.50.

McSorley's Bar New York City Review by In The Great Wide Thirsty Thursdays Travel Blog and Photo By Mattchavez
*Photo By Mattchavez at English Wikipedia

Our Verdict

Whenever we’re in New York City, we will make sure to stop in at McSorley’s for an ale (2, really). It’s not the greatest bar in the city, but it is the oldest continuously run pub and it’s apparent as to why: the bar is reluctant to change, only doing so when forced to. There’s something comforting about knowing that this pub will be there, waiting for us, like no time has passed since the last time we were there.

McSorley's Oldest Pub In New York City Review In The Great Wide Thirsty Thursdays Travel Blog

Quick Reference Guide



How to Get There

NYC Metro: there are 4 nearby bus stops that serve the M8, M101, M102, and M103 bus lines. The Astor Place subway station is just a couple blocks away and serves the 4 and 6 subway lines. The 8th Street subway station is another block west of the Astor Place station and serves the N, Q, R, and W subway lines. Driving is not recommended.

Time Commitment

1 hour or all night - take your pick! They’re open until 1am.


Reservation Info

McSorley’s does not take reservations. First-come, first-serve.

Our Verdict

In a city filled with more bars than you could count, this one has been open the longest and has stayed true to its original atmosphere. Come for the history, stay for the cheap beer that comes in pairs!

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