The Emerald Inn
The Emerald Inn had its home on Columbus Avenue and 69th Street since 1943, but in 2013, the family was unable to renew their lease. Charlie, the current owner, pointed out the “Emerald Inn” sign on the wall that came from the original bar. Although a third generation American citizen, we found Charlie to be Irish through and through. He explained that his great-grandparents, who started the Emerald Inn, grew up in the same town in the county of Galway, but that they magically met here, in the Bronx. Every May, Charlie does his best to travel to Ireland, and in return, his Irish relatives have visited him and his bar in Manhattan. He announced, “They have liked what they’ve seen.”
Charlie has tried to maintain the Gaelic charm that his father, grandfather and great grandfather brought to the Inn. The menu continues to include Irish favorites like corned beef, fish and chips, and bangers and mash, but also offers some American classics like burgers and Reubens. “We do a solid lunch – everything is good here,” Charlie said proudly. As he poured a pint of Guinness like a pro, waiting for “the black stuff” to settle before filling the glass, I asked him a bit more about his family. I learned that his grandfather is still alive, in his eighties. Charlie told me that his grandfather used to be chummy with Hugh Downs, a former 20/20 ABC TV news magazine host who frequented the bar, along with many other ABC celebrities. Charlie remembers coming to the bar when he was as young as three years old. Once he hit working age, he slowly rose from dishwasher to waiter and then to bartender before taking over the bar from his father, who is now in semi-retirement.
On a subsequent visit to the Emerald Inn, I was able to see all three generations together. Each man shares the same sense of humor and geniality. An excellent sense of hospitality clearly runs in the family, since all three men showed the same amount of friendliness and humor towards the Manhattan Sideways team, offering them plates of “Irish lasagna” and chicken marsala, which warmed the team’s stomachs (along with the generous pitchers of beer!).
Charlie confided that he was worried when the rent on the previous location doubled, causing him to have to search for a new home. “We were very beloved in the neighborhood,” he informed me. They found the current location entirely by chance – Charlie’s father was driving by as the previous owner was clearing out. He noticed a commotion, recognized that the space had been a bar, and immediately snagged it. Charlie was pleased to say that two years later, the bar has both gained new customers and retained many of their old ones. “There’s a mix of everybody,” Charlie said matter-of-factly. “People are still finding us two years later.” One group that keeps coming back is the New York Ballet. They use Emerald Inn as their neighborhood hangout, but are a little disappointed with the low ceilings in the new location. “They used to be able to dance on the bar,” Charlie laughed. He then admitted that many of the dancers have known him since he was very little. “They still call me ‘Baby Charlie,'” he said with a grin.