The Old House at Home
150 years old last year, and still going strong. I’ve put a bit more information in my blog, although I’ve kept it pretty obscure. McSorley’s is very famous, you can find out all you need to know about it on the web.
To a devoted McSorley customer, most other New York City saloons are tense and disquieting. It is possible to relax in McSorley’s. For one thing, it is dark and gloomy, and repose comes easy in a gloomy place. also, the barely audible heartbeatlike ticking of the old clocks is soothing. Also, there is a thick, musty smell that acts as a balm to jerky nerves; it is really a rich compound of the smells of pine sawdust, tap drippings, pipe tobacco, coal smoke, and onions. A bellevue intern once remarked that for some mental states the smell in McSorely%u2019s would be a lot more beneficial than psychoanalysis or sedative pills or prayer. – The Old House at Home from McSorely’s Wonderful Saloon collected in Up in the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell. Pantheon, New York, 1992.
Until the 1970’s (when, conincidently, the Swiss finally allowed women to vote) McSorely’s refused to serve women their ale. Such is the way of small landlocked nations. It’s probably Joseph Mitchell’s fault as much as anybodys, but the peaceful bar he describes no longer exists. It looks the same, to be sure, but, on weekends, it full of loud beer enthusiasts obliterating history with their weird slogans (i.e. “fucking A!”). But go during the week, early in the day, and you’ll get a sense of what made the place special. Of course, you’ll be drinking—early in the day, and in the middle of the week. Thats an excellent way to feel special in itself. Order ale two mugs at a time, but go easy on the cheese, onion and saltine platters.