McSorley's Old Ale House

Ale House / Historic Bar / Irish Pub
McSorley's Old Ale House As much a historical landmark as it is a tavern, McSorley's Old Ale House has welcomed such illustrious guests as Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt over its 150 years, and only started admitting women in the 1970s. New York United States 40.72869 -73.989744
3.56 21
McSorley's Old Ale House - Ale House | Historic Bar | Irish Pub in New York.
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Lucas
Adriana
Jonah
Emma

Party Earth Review As much a historical landmark as it is a tavern, McSorley’s Old Ale House has welcomed such illustrious guests as Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt over its 150 years, and only started admitting women in the 1970s. Still... ... read full review

  • Subway:

    N, R: 8th Street - NYU; 4, 6: Astor Place

  • Phone:

    212-473-9148

  • Links:

  • Hours:

    M–Sa 11am–1am, Su 1pm–1am

  • Recommended as:

    • Day Spot
    • Night Spot

Party Earth McSorley's Old Ale House Review

The Scene

As much a historical landmark as it is a tavern, McSorley's Old Ale House has welcomed such illustrious guests as Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt over its 150 years, and only started admitting women in the 1970s.

As much a historical landmark as it is a tavern, McSorley’s Old Ale House has welcomed such illustrious guests as Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt over its 150 years, and only started admitting women in the 1970s.

Still in its original location, the bar nowadays is home to a loyal blue-collar crowd joined by a good showing of down-to-earth preppies and Irish natives who gather at the weathered wooden tables and standing room only bar to knock back some famous ale served two ways – light or dark, two mugs per order.

History buffs will have plenty to look at given the impressive collection of black-and-white photos, historical documents, and newspaper clippings that cover the walls, not to mention details like a bar lamp hung with dusty wishbones, each representing a boy who didn’t return from World War I.

A back room accommodates the big groups of boisterous guys’ guys that flock in all week to pound ales and chow down on burgers, while weekends see the place overflowing with bar crawlers and beer fans, with lines stretching out the swinging wooden doors and down the street.

A charming air and satisfying eats makes McSorley’s Old Ale House a true mecca for beer aficionados from all over the NY, though rowdier patrons should keep in mind that the bar’s age-old motto “Be good or be gone” still applies.

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Tip from Jonah:

Along with the cheese plate comes the famous McSorley’s Onion – which is literally just a sliced raw onion. The platter has a historical significance, though – once upon a time women could tell their husbands had been out drinking at McSorley’s by the stench of onion on their breath. Order it for the full experience – you won’t regret it, though your sweetheart might.

  • Crowd

    Laid-back mix of local blue-collar workers, Irish nationals, bar crawlers, history buffs, beer fans, and groups on dudes’ night out, 20s to 50s.

  • Entertainment / Music

    Neighborhood and alehouse history throughout the bar.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    Bar food menu including burgers, bologna sandwiches, and fried fish.

  • Prices

    Bar snacks $4+, sandwiches and burgers $8+. Ale $5/two mugs.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Nice casual: t-shirts and jeans acceptable, but button-downs, slacks, blouses, and skirts are more appropriate.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Friday and Saturday nights for the biggest crowds.

  • Close By

    Down the block is Burp Castle (41 East 7th Street), a laid-back beer bar with an excellent selection.

McSorley's Old Ale House User Reviews

Average rating:
Abraham Lincoln, For God's Sake!
Tyler S. Aug 28, 2013
What makes a good Irish pub? Great beer, lively ambience, old world charm, photographs of JFK? An “Est.” somewhere between 1940 and the invention of alcohol? There are a few things that every bar with a “Mc” on it’s sign must have in order to proudly fly the green, white, and orange. McSorley’s Old Ale House in the East Village has all that and more...even a ceramic bust of Kennedy himself! Established in 1854, McSorley’s is New York’s oldest Irish tavern. But what makes this place stand apart from its peers is its willingness to remain unchanged. From sawdust on the floors, old photographs, and wobbly wooden tables to the refusal to serve liquor, McSorley’s unabashedly flaunts what would come off as kitsch in any other bar. The crowd is diverse and gentile, from hip 20-somethings to graying professors. There is no loud music, no dancing. The lights are barely dimmed. McSorley’s is a place for conversation, a place to relax, to drink, to be merry. No fighting, no bravado, no throwing up in the bathroom. There are only two beers at McSorley’s, a light and a dark. Just walk up to the bar and name the color you want. They are both delicious. There’s also a small food menu for those of you who need to quell those late night, booze-induced hunger pangs. If you’re looking for a place to lose your inhibitions and end up half-naked on a bar top, there are probably better options in the city. But if you want a true taste of “Olde New York,” to cozy up to bar that served Abraham Lincoln, Woody Guthrie, and Hunter S. Thompson, go to McSorley’s.
History and an Easy Beer Choice
Megan M. Aug 20, 2013
McSorley's is dark and dusty old bar chock full of history, sawdust, gruff bartenders and good beer. The place has been open since 1854 (or so they claim), and only started allowing women through it's doors after 1970 (there wasn't even a ladies bathroom until the mid-80s!). There are only two options for beer here: light or dark. You get two small mugs of whatever you order for $5, both are solid options, though I favor the dark ale. Many presidents have drank at McSorley's, including Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, as well as famous authors such as Hunter S. Thompson. The walls are covered with old news stories, artifacts and other interesting things. This is a bar for grabbing a few cheap beers with your buddies and taking in the history of NYC!
Modernists Beware
Giana D. Jul 2, 2013
I checked out McSorley's on a Tuesday evening with a friend who was visting New York. The bar had a decent sized crowd and the atmosphere was low-key (all the obnoxious bros were at 13 Step), giving my friend and I the opportunity to catch up over a couple rounds of lights and darks. The hardly changed interior, infinite collection of 19th and early 20th century photographs/newspaper clippings, sawdust floors and "vintage" aroma sent me back in time, and I loved every minute of it!
McSorely's: "Light or Dark?"
Brent C. Jun 27, 2013
Ah, McSorely's. Neither a clean, nor a well-lit place, but one that shines bright with the gleam of a freshly polished keg tap in my memory. As soon as you walk through the doors of this New York City landmark, you are momentarily stunned by both the antiquity of the place and the tangibility of the vibrant energy that begins to intoxicate you even before your first pint of their homemade brews. Indeed, New York's oldest drinking spot has changed little since its opening in 1854, with framed black and white photographs of famed figures adorning every inch of wall space and a healthy layer of sawdust covering every bit of floor.
Sawdust and throwup
Karen H. Jun 19, 2013
I experienced McSorley's on St. Patrick's Day. Already inebriated New Jersey teenagers were lined up around the block having somehow managed to get from the light rail out of Penn Station to this historic stale smelling ale house. McSorley's is like waiting on line at the Olive Garden at Times Square. Why? It's New York! Old does not always me good. And hey - it's just beer.
Nice place
Gor G. Jun 10, 2013
Look up the history of this place, it goes deep. Upon walking in late one evening, I was greeted with the sour smell of an old ale house, full tables, and sawdust on the floor. We looked around and found no empty tables but the barman came and showed us to a partially empty table. If you don't know what to drink, it's easy here: light or dark. I ordered light, and was promptly served two mugs of it. I didn't stay long, but I could have easily stayed there for hours just soaking in the atmosphere. It seemed like every picture, every photograph, every painting, every odd piece of furniture, each had a really good story that needed telling. Example: there is a row of wishbones hanging over the bar counter. Why is it there? Touted as the only ale house in New York that has operated continuously since the 1800's (even through Prohibition, you figure out how they managed that), this place is rich with history. The walls are decorated with it, the furniture is full of it. If you only stop in to one place for a beer while in NYC, stop here; here you can see the ever-shrinking vestiges of Old New York.
2 darks please?
Dominic D. Mar 5, 2013
As you shuffle into McSorley's saw-dusted floor and squeeze through the crowded, narrow pub, hopefully you'll be fortunate enough to get a table in the back. There's energy in the air, energy of drinking ample amounts of beer. If you're sitting at a table make sure you have your shit together before the rugged Irish waiter approaches you. You get the feeling that the ordering protocol hasn't changed since McSorley's opened in 1854. Order in light and dark, but keep in mind the light isn't your watered down, frat favorite Natty Light, but rather a blonde ale. The experience of the continuous wave of slamming mugs and the occasional pub chant, isn't complete until you stumble out the heavy wooden doors and your eyes meet the "McSorley's 1854" imprint on the iron tree cover. McSorley's is an experience some may love, others will dread, but once you've experienced it, you'll know exactly what to expect every time you push open those doors.
A Must See, if you think you're a man who knows about drinking in bars
Francis L. Feb 12, 2013
If you're visiting New York, like I was, McSorley's, the oldest bar in the city, is a must see. Kate's dad told me the old stories before we went. The bartenders used to shackle un-paying customers to the bar until the police arrived to take them to jail. Women weren't allowed inside until the 1970's (now they're welcomed in like princesses, although there is still only a men's room in the back). Many of the old traditions remained when Kate and I walked in to start off our Saturday night. The food was mostly limited to an order of onions, crackers, and cheese. The only beer available for order was a dark or a light, and when my friend Christian arrived and made the mistake of ordering three blondes, the bartender told him to get his shit together. The bartenders wore thick moustaches and grey shirts like mechanics. We got two beers in small glasses for every beer ordered, five bucks for the two. Wishbones hung over the top of the bar, next to the bar's mantra, "Be good or be gone". Get passed the establishment's rough attitude and find a table or a place to stand if you're looking for a classic spot to start your night in the East Village. Don't go here expecting to pick up, singles: have a few darks with a good group of friends before you get greasy at the stripclub later in the night. You'll leave knowing how it was to drink like a man back in the day.
Awesome Atmosphere!
Katie G. Dec 9, 2012
A group of my friends and I went to McSorley's around Halloween and had a blast! Waiters can around with TONS AND TONS of beers, which was definitely entertainment in and of itself! The menu for food was limited, so only go here to drink, not to dine! It's light or dark beer only! I preferred the dark, and I'm not an avid drinker!
glorious
Dylan W. Dec 2, 2012
The food is crap. The beer is great. Show up for the beer and you'll have a great time! An Irish-American landmark, for sure, I was actually asked to come here for a class, and it was one of the easier homework assignments I've ever had to do, haha. You have to come when it's busy though, because slow this place is just a dirty hole in the wall with sawdust on the floor. Come when there's a crowd, bring a few friends and have a good time!
I love it here!!
Jody P. Dec 1, 2012
McSorley's is not like a neighborhood bar that you go to every weekend, but it is definitely worth a stop in every once in awhile. You just feel like you've taken a step back in time. I am a huge history buff and i think this bar is so much fun. I asked the bartender once about the wishbones, and he said that men leaving for WWI would hang a wishbone for luck at the bar and then take one down when they returned, so the venue left the wishbones up in honor of those who never returned. They look pretty gross since they've been there for about 100 years, but it is still pretty cool. The walls are lined with old newspapers, and when I say old, I mean they are announcing Lincoln's assassination and other historical events. The bar is really musty, only accepts cash, and only has two types of beer - dark or light. It is quite an experience and I just love going there. I would recommend it to anyone who loves American history!
Beer Lovers Only
Jaclyn W. Nov 24, 2012
I'm not a beer person, but I tagged along for a friend's birthday. They were hitting up all the NYU bar staples that they had when they were freshman. So Happy that they no longer hang out here and are not into this place. FIrst, it was packed beyond belief and it is way too small to have that many people, holding that much beer at a bar that accommodates only so many. Naturally I had beer spilled on me from a drunk patron as I was ordering. I guess people come here because it's a New York bar landmark? It's truly not worth it. Also, if my memory serves me right they have some sort of furnace for a heater and it was winter. Needless to say between the mass amount of people and that, it was unbearably stifling. I ordered a vodka soda just to hold something. Can't really mess that order up, so no complaints on the drinks there and I do give the bartenders credit because they were swift and sweet despite the rowdiness. My suggestion for this place is to come during a down time; not during the weekend. Grab a beer to start off with and then walk around the East Village. There are plenty of other bars in the area to experience. If you really like Irish pubs and beer is all you drink, grab a pint buddy and saddle up to the bar on a weekday afternoon.
Light or Dark, Historic and Dusty
Chris M. Nov 5, 2012
McSorley's is old and historic and when you walk in that is immediately evident by the decor, old newspapers on the wall, old furnishings, and the fact that it smells like an attic that hasn't been cleaned. The musty smell is almost overpowering and does not go away. They serve two kinds of beer, light or dark, and you get 2 mugs with your order for $5. They are good at spotting newcomers and reasonably friendly in explaining how things work. The beer is just okay, if that. The place serves as a meeting place for folks working or meeting in the East Village and there was a congenial vibe with all the groups and there were no seats to be found. I was visiting NYC and decided to try the place out while meeting a friend. He advised me that the beer wasn't great but there was a ton of other stuff in the area. He was right, I had my beer and didn't even make him order before we headed out to St. Dymphna's for a better selection. Don't get me wrong, McSorley's is worth checking out and a good spot to meet for a quick drink but I couldn't have stayed much longer than that. The history is really cool as is the old fridge and bar, but there are a ton of other great options nearby after your 2 darks.
Overrated
Alicia B. Nov 3, 2012
For anyone not enamored with McSorley's gruff, old world "charm," it looks like your run-of-the-mill Irish college pub, and in the East Village, college pubs are a dime a dozen. To the untrained eye, it's just another place to wind up at the end of a bender. There are beers on tap. The drinks are pretty cheap. But as I was sipping a pink, artificial-tasting raspberry-flavored beer-- one of many such mixes on the bar's menu-- the historical significance was lost on me. There are definitely worse places to end up in the East Village, but if there's a long line here, you won't miss anything by passing it up.
Like a fat, drunk angel
Chris K. Oct 8, 2012
McSorley's Old Ale House is heaven if you died of fatty liver disease and severe rhinophyma. The beer is delicious, the staff ranges from delightful to surly, and the decor is about as old-school as it comes. Come for the drink, stay for the onion.
A New York classic
Victoria V. Sep 20, 2012
Revel in the simplicity of your drink options: dark beer or light. It costs $5, and mysteriously comes divided into two mugs (read: compulsory double-fisting). Come early, find the least grungy table you can and drink to your heart's content! Just one warning: McSorley's is known to close earlier than many New York bars. You'll want to plan out your next move before you hit the mead too hard.
A Landmark
Jimmy D. Aug 9, 2012
McSorley's is a historical icon. If you had a Mount Rushmore of NYC bars, McSorley's would be on it. Definitely worth stopping in and grabbing some beers with your buddies. Be prepared for saw dust on the floor and old school bartenders.
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