A look at Manhattan’s most long-standing bars would be lacking without McSorley’s, which is hailed as the oldest Irish saloon in the city. It was founded by Irish immigrant John McSorley as a working-class pub named The Old House at Home. Known for serving beer for the price of pennies and free plates of cheese and crackers, the bar stayed alive during Prohibition by selling “Near Beer” to its loyal patrons. Throughout its long history, McSorley’s has preserved its famous golden rule, ordering customers to “Be Good or Be Gone.” Its previous slogan of “Good Ale, Raw Onions, and No Ladies” remains true on the first two counts. As for the latter, although McSorley’s was indeed one of the last men-only bars in the city, a court ruling forced it to admit women in the 1970s. It was eventually purchased by a night manager, Matthew Maher, who then passed it on to his daughter, Teresa. She has made history at this well-loved institution by becoming the first woman to work behind the bar. Aside from this, little has changed. The memorabilia on the walls and the sawdust-covered floor speak to McSorley’s storied past. There is even a chair that Abraham Lincoln sat in when he stopped by for a drink in 1859. A more somber memento can be found hanging from the electric lamps along the bar. Soldiers leaving to fight in World War I were given a turkey and ale dinner, and the wishbones were then placed on the lamps with the hope the men would come back, collect them, and celebrate their safe journey home. Dozens of aged wishbones remain there today, in remembrance to the soldiers who were unable to return. Unsurprisingly, given its enduring popularity, McSorley’s has been featured in numerous works of art, literature, and media. Most notably, it was immortalized in E.E. Cummings’ poem “Sitting in McSorley’s” and by New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell, who was so taken with the bar as a microcosm of old New York that he published an anthology of essays in its honor.
The East Village has notoriously been New York’s counterculture epicenter. It has become synonymous with art, music, grit, and grunge: a good place to let your freak flag fly. It comes as no surprise, then, that this beloved East Village dive bar, built in 1835, was a haunt for people like Frank Sinatra, Allen Ginsberg, The Ramones, W. H. Auden, and legend has it, even Leon Trotsky. It closed its doors in 2012, but resurfaced in the spring of 2015, new and improved and ready to welcome a new generation of creatives over its dimly lit threshold. Pirate Booty’s founder Robert Ehrlich and La Palapa owner Barbara Sibley teamed up to restore the old neighborhood staple. They cleaned the place up, but still aimed to keep some of the grungy charm that kept people coming back; A mural dating back to the 1920s still remains, as well as a wooden phone booth and classic horseshoe bar. Holiday Cocktail Lounge has all the eccentricity of the East Village that people have come to expect from time-honored St Marks Place establishments with just a touch of contemporary chic.
Serving an interesting but decadent assortment of coffees, hot cakes, desserts, Japanese tapas, sandwiches, pasta, and more, Hi-Collar functions as many things. In the morning the atmosphere is subdued and relaxed like a coffee shop, as customers come to enjoy “kissaten” – a term to describe Japanese-style coffee shops. The lady we spoke to at Hi-Collar told us their coffee selection is extensive and that there are a variety of beans to choose from. Not only is there the opportunity to select the bean varietal, but one can also choose how the coffee is made as well: pour over, aeropress, or siphon—each method drawing out a distinct flavor. For the non-coffee drinker, there are teas and even a fruit milkshake. As the afternoon wears on and evening approaches, Hi-Collar becomes a bar complete with wine, sake, and beer. Inquiring about the name, we found that Hi-Collar is in fact a term that came to be during the Japanese Jazz Age, when Western culture infiltrated Japan and many men were seen wearing Western style high collars. The only seating available is at the long bar, and the beautiful flowers and lamps that hang from the ceiling add to the allure of this multifaceted nook on 10th.
By the time I arrived at Fish Bar on a Friday afternoon, a few regulars had already settled in. They chatted quietly as I explored the bar, which - true to its name - is decorated with fish and undersea creatures of all kinds. As I checked out Fish Bar’s reasonably priced drinks, which attract a diverse group of young people and locals, I wondered why the owner had decided on a nautical theme… and why there were so many dollar bills stuck to the ceiling. Fortunately, John, the owner, was happy to answer my questions. In the mid-nineties, he said, he frequented a bar called the Castro Lounge, which was unofficially known as “Fish Bar. ” When the owner put the bar on the market, John bought it and made the unofficial name official. Fish Bar opened on January 1st, 2000, and regulars immediately began bringing fish back from vacations to decorate the ocean-blue walls. “It escalated quickly, ” John said with a sigh. That explained Fish Bar’s origins, but not the money on the ceiling. According to John, it is a game invented by the regulars, who have a special technique to get the dollar bills to stick. But he refused to tell me anything else. “I guess you’ll just have to come by and check it out, ” he said, and I assured him that I would visit Fish Bar soon - with a wallet full of dollar bills.
"The Two Faces of Italian Food" is the tagline at this restaurant and wine bar. The perfect blend they are referring to is tradition and innovation. The menu boasts homemade and traditional options - the wine list is not limited to Italian varieties, though the beer is. We stopped in briefly and relaxed with a glass of wine in their quiet back garden and spoke with one of the restaurant's partners as waiters set up for that evening's meal. When we asked him to describe the food that Giano served in a short sentence he told us humbly: "Italian food. No big deal. " Can't wait to try it!
Most business owners know how difficult it is to bounce back after being robbed. Makoto Wantanabe has done it twice and, ironically, has a thief to thank for the very birth of Tokio 7. Makoto was globetrotting in the early 1990s when he arrived in Southern California on what was supposed to be the penultimate stop on his tour. He befriended a homeless man and let him stay in his hotel room for the night, but Makoto awoke to find everything except for his passport was stolen. Stranded with no money and far from his home in the Japanese countryside, Makoto called one of his only contacts in the U. S., who worked at a Japanese restaurant in Manhattan. He scrounged up enough money for a bus ticket and was off. While in New York, Makoto felt that men’s clothing suffered from a lack of style. Having always had a knack for fashion, he knew he could change that but lacked the funds to open a store with brand new clothing. So, after several years of saving his wages as a waiter, he founded one of the first consignment shops in New York City. Tokio 7 now carries men’s and women’s clothes, with the overarching theme being, as Makoto says, that they are simply “cool. ” The clothes are mostly from Japanese designers and name brands with unique twists. In the store, clothing that has been donated with a lot of wear is labeled “well loved. ”Despite its importance in the community, the shop fell on tough times during the COVID-19 pandemic. To make matters worse, Tokio 7 was looted in the summer of 2020 and had 300 items stolen. When Makoto contemplated closing his doors permanently, longtime customers begged him to reconsider. Resilient as ever, he set up a small photography area in the back of the shop and sold a portion of his clothes online to compensate for the decline of in-person purchases. Reflecting on his journey, Makoto marveled at the whims of fate. Had he not been robbed all of those decades ago in California, he had planned to start a life in the Amazon rainforest
This small, old-world neighborhood barbershop is loaded with personality. Everything about Barbiere is unique: the whimsical wrought-iron gate out front, the retro hair and shaving products along the walls, and the high-quality, old-fashioned service. When we poked our heads in to chat with the barbers and their clients—all seated in vintage leather chairs—they were proud to tell us that James Franco is among the celebrities that drop by for a haircut or a classic shave.
62 East 4th Street has had a fascinating history. At its inception in 1889, it served as a social hall housing a musician's union known as Astoria Hall, as well as hosting meetings of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In the 1930's, the ballroom was revamped as a theater and television studio and renamed Fortune Theater until Andy Warhol discovered it and left his legendary stamp here. In 1969, he rented it out to showcase a series of infamous porn films and called it Andy Warhol's Theater: Boys to Adore Galore. Over the years, the Yiddish theater had performances here, and many well known television shows used the space to film. Since 1987, the Duo Center has been here having raised the funds for renovations, and then remaining throughout construction to become home to what is now Duo Multicultural Arts Center and Rod Rogers Dance Company and Studio. Today the building is part of Fourth Arts Block (FAB) and operates as a center for film, dance, art, theater and music and is among New York's designated cultural districts.
Dating back to pre-Civil War days and formerly the St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran church, this stately red brick structure has been a synagogue since 1940. A devastating piece of New York history happened in 1904 when a boat filled with 1200 German immigrant women and children from the original church perished in a fire on the East River. Today, it has a modern Orthodox congregation that offers services every day of the year.
A National Historic Landmark since 1966, Grace Church is both massive and splendid at the same time. Completed in 1846, it is famous for its beautiful arches, stained glass windows, spire, carvings, and mosaics, all created in the Gothic Revival style by James Renwick, Jr. Although only in his twenties when he was commissioned as the architect, Renwick later went on to design many other notable buildings, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. Tours of this most impressive structure are given on Sundays at 1: 00pm.
There is a plaque here that marks the residence of English-born poet, Wystan Hugh Auden, an East Villager from 1953 to 1972, a year before he died. Take a dip into a line from his poem "As I Walked Out One Evening"... that struck us as rather fitting for our own endeavor... As I walked out one evening, Walking down Bristol Street, The crowds upon the pavement Were fields of harvest wheat. Though best known for this elegant and tragic meditation on the nature of time, he published more than 400 poems during his lifetime, and also wrote many essays and reviews. Interestingly, the basement of the building where he lived once housed Russian left-wing newspaper Novy Mir, where Leon Trotsky spent time working in the years leading up to the Russian Revolution.
Built and consecrated in 1799, St Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery is Manhattan’s oldest site of continuous worship and the second oldest church building. It inspired the naming of nearby St. Mark’s Place and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, however, it might be better known as a community gathering place, thanks to the many plays, dances, poetry readings, avant-garde films and political events that have been taking place on the premises for decades. St. Mark’s Church also has a significant burial ground, housing the vault of Peter Stuyvesant along with other prominent founders of New York City. When visiting the Minthorne House on 1st Street, we learned that several members of the Minthorne family were also buried here.
Do not be deterred by the bottleneck entrance, just continue walking toward the back where there is a welcoming outdoor courtyard that is always open, and heated in winter. The coat of warm, red paint on the walls, the rock and jazz music playing in the background, and the fireplace make this a cozy place to settle in with friends. The steaming cup of coffee, heaping with frothed milk, is smooth and light, exceeding all expectations. If you are as taken with their blend as we are, they package and sell their own beans. When we dined here our brunch was fresh and delicious, served with hearty bread, rice and beans.
Blue Ribbon was off to a terrific start when I visited the first weekend after it opened in 2013. There was good music and a lively crowd enjoying the offerings in this brightly lit space with large picture windows. The manager stopped by our table and remarked that the “young cool people” frequenting Blue Ribbon seemed to have perpetual smiles on their faces as they indulged themselves at the tables furnished with an array of honeys (mustard, wildflower, and chipotle) and habanero hot sauces. Whether people are munching on the menu staple of crisp-skinned moist chicken breast or the “chicken on the edge” choice of Beak to Butt (crispy necks and backs with hot sauce and pickled peppers), the chicken is cooked to perfection. Any chicken dish paired with a side of potato wedges dusted with chilli powder certainly makes for an excellent quick meal – and all of this can be washed down with a beer. The restaurant is a venture of the Bromberg brothers who have been exciting New Yorkers with their excellent food since 1992. This is their first “fast food” endeavor, and it appears to already be flying high.
Vicki Freeman and Mark Meyer are an accomplished couple in the New York restaurant business. They are the creators behind Cookshop, Hundred Acres, and the latest addition to the family, Rosie’s. Their story as restaurateurs goes back to 1993, when Freeman opened her first restaurant, VIX Café, in SoHo. She hired Meyer as her head chef, and as they say, the rest is history. Vic’s opened in 2014 in the space that used to house Five Points, another restaurant by Freeman and Meyer. While the owners emphasized that Five Points was not struggling, they felt it was time for a change. Opening Vic’s allowed Freeman and Meyer to bring their restaurant group full circle, its name a nod to those early beginnings with VIX Café in 1993. When I visited Vic’s, I was struck by the bright, open décor. Sitting in the back dining area, with natural light spilling in from the skylight overhead, I was allowed my favorite view - that of the kitchen. Chatting with general manager, Hely, I learned that Freeman and Meyer used to live in an apartment just upstairs, and that their son works for the restaurant group. In addition to speaking with Hely, I also had the pleasure of spending some time with Hillary Sterling - the head chef of Vic’s. “Hillary’s food is the easiest thing in the world to sell, ” said Hely, and then Chef Sterling went on to elaborate about her inspiration for the restaurant’s culinary concept and menu. “It’s all about history and honoring tradition, ” she told me. She prepares the restaurant’s traditional Italian and Mediterranean cuisine using food sourced from American farms, and admits that it is a challenge to create authentic flavors with local ingredients - It is a challenge, however, that she proudly declared that she has met with the exceptions being seven imported ingredients: 00 flour (for their famous Borsa), capers, anchovies, pecorino, calabrian chilies, and balsamic vinegar. As Hillary presented a few of her favorite dishes, she went on to say that traditional Italian and Mediterranean cuisine requires “a lot of herbs and acid, ” adding that it is all about achieving the perfect balance and appreciating the ingredients themselves. The heirloom carrots, served with dill, capers, and roasted shallots, were tangy and bright, with a complexity of flavor. As she set the "cheeseless" anchovy pizza with tomato, spring garlic, oregano, and fresh orange zest, Hillary told me that making good pizza dough is just as demanding as making homemade pasta, but it is clear that she has mastered it. The crust was perfect – thin, but bubbling up around the edges, and ever so slightly charred. Finally, I tasted the famous Borsa, the homemade pasta served al dente, with a lemon ricotta filling. The soft and creamy center of these amazing "little purses" with hazelnuts sprinkled on top is definitely the signature dish at Vic's. Chef Sterling said that the Borsa and the bathrooms are the most instagrammed things in the restaurant, and joked that her food has to "compete with the lavatories. " The facilities are whimsical and fun with pink flamingoes decorating the room for the ladies, while the men's room is wallpapered in zebras. In my mind, however, there is no competition: Chef Sterling’s food is what truly stands out.
“By 1958, it was a social club. My grandfather's friends from Ukraine — everyone who had survived WWII — were spending time here. ” Mike’s grandfather, Michael Roscishewsky Sr., was very strict. He had a set of rules by which he ran Blue & Gold, named for the colors of his country’s flag. He wore a three-piece suit and tie topped with an apron every day. He also would not allow in anyone wearing denim, and women could not come in unaccompanied. “When he ultimately let women come in on their own, as well as people wearing jeans, he thought it was the end of the world, ” Mike shared. Mike’s grandfather traveled through Germany in the 1940s, then to England, and eventually landed in the East Village. He owned a grocery store on 10th Street, saved up enough money, and opened Blue & Gold. He ran the bar until he retired in 1981, and his daughter, Julia, Mike’s mom, took over. On Christmas Eve of 1989, when Mike was only seventeen, the bartender took the evening off. “I covered her shift, and since then I have worked behind the bar, here and there, while running the whole place. My mom retired in full in 2002. ” Back in the day, Blue & Gold opened at 9 a. m. as they welcomed the retired firemen, police officers, and other members of the community. “We were a family. If I was five minutes late, there was always a line of retired guys waiting for me. ” In the 1970s, Mike’s grandfather was one of the first to have a color TV, allowing people to come in to watch the Yankees. He also had an air conditioner, making it the place that everyone wanted to spend time. The flow of clientele was slow and steady: they would come in from opening until noon, have two or three drinks, and leave, and then the next shift would arrive to occupy the barstools between noon and 6 p. m. “They had their quotas of what they could drink and afford. Nobody drinks like that anymore. ”As the scene in the East Village began to change, Mike witnessed Blue & Gold transform from a place for old Ukrainians, to a hangout for musicians, poets, and artists, to becoming a college bar. During the week, they would greet the older clientele and on the weekends the younger folk. More recently, Mike found there is a switch where the regulars change up every five years or so. “Most come to New York with a hope and a dream and it takes them about this amount of time to realize it isn't, necessarily, going to work. However, all roads continue to lead to Blue & Gold. If you come to New York, you find your way to us. ”
An Irish pub right in the middle of St. Marks, Bull McCabe's is the epitome of a dive bar. Serving up alcohol since 1959, the interior is permanently laced with the scent of beer. The location is adorned with a pool table, a TV, and, for those of us with a certain inclination, the most exciting thing about this bar is that it features a Ms. Pac Man machine.
A unique hybrid between a bar and an arcade, this space attracts gamers and beer enthusiasts alike. Among all the Barcade locations, there are 300 games. The gaming selection is balanced between standards, such as Asteroids and all three original Star Wars games, and more oddball finds like a maze game called Anteater and the desert-themed adventure Slither. Patrons compete for a hallowed place on Barcade’s high score board, which keeps track of the best of the best for each game. While many come for the games, they stay for the beer. Barcade features twenty-five rotating taps of all-American craft beer. Their selection is all draft with no cans of Bud Light to be found. Each day, a new beer menu is printed, complete with in-depth descriptions of each brew, encouraging everyone to try something new.
Pageant Print Shop’s entirely glass storefront bordered by light blue is instantly eye-catching and proudly displays the treasure within. Inside its bright, buttercream interior, an immense assortment of old prints and maps line every wall and fill neatly-labeled display racks. This sanctuary of beautiful historical pieces was created by Sidney Solomon and Henry Chafetz in 1946. It was originally one of the many second-hand book stores on Fourth Avenue, an area that was then known as “Book Row. ” Now under the leadership of Sidney’s daughters, Shirley and Rebecca, Pageant Print Shop primarily sells old prints and is thriving at its current 4th Street location. Having worked with historic pieces her whole life, Shirley knows how to get the best prints. She has amassed her impressive collection from antique book auctions as well as other various sources that she has built up over the years. Roger, who has been working at Pageant Print Shop for over a decade, told Manhattan Sideways that “what we are looking for are old books with the bindings broken that are really not in very good shape on the outside, but still have good quality prints, maps, or illustrations on the inside. ” Although they search for old books based on the contents within, the shop also sells the old bindings for creatives looking to make decoupage and other fun art projects. Pageant Print Shop is definitely a fixture in the East Village, and in the words of Roger, is “one of those neighborhood jams. ” They enjoy “a loyal group of people that have been coming here for eons, " tourists looking for something authentically New York City, and neighborhood people walking by. He told us that newcomers are often “surprised that they are able to buy a piece of history, ” and return for more of their authentic, beautiful, and historic prints. Pageant Print Shop is unique in its extensive, high quality, and affordable selection. Roger affirmed that “It’s going to be hard for you to find someone who has this kind of a collection at these kinds of prices — it’s just true. ”
Founded by Antonio Veniero, who emigrated to New York as a teenager from a small town outside Sorrento on Italy’s Amalfi coast, Veniero’s has been an East Village mainstay since the turn of the twentieth century. Initially a confectionery shop, it later evolved into a cafe and then a full-fledged pastry shop, with culinary creations by some of Italy’s finest bakers. Along with his wife, Pasqulina, and their seven children, Antonio followed the Italian custom of keeping business in the family. Veniero’s passed through four generations until reaching its current owner, Antonio's great-nephew Robert Zerilli, who had worked at the cafe alongside his father, Frank, for decades before taking over. Beyond the business legacy he left behind, Antonio also birthed an extensive family tree. “The Venieros are every-where, ” Robert quipped, adding that the legendary Bruce Springsteen is his second cousin. The business savvy of the extended Veniero family has helped keep the shop alive. Tales of Antonio’s relentless determination to succeed are still retold with pride by his relatives. He is also credited with bringing electricity to the neighborhood, home to mostly poor immigrants at the time, by rallying local support and collecting signatures to sway the reluctant energy company. In another bit of local lore, Antonio is said to have ushered in the entry of Italian espresso to the city, as he started roasting his own beans right in the shop’s backyard. Fittingly, Robert has Veniero’s to thank for meeting his wife, whose love for their iced cappuccinos made her a regular customer until he found the courage to ask her out on a date.
When Paul first opened his business in 1973, he did not sell or repair a single watch; he did not even know how. Paul started out in the East Village doing picture framing, and eventually expanded to selling antiques. But one day, a passerby changed Paul’s business entirely. An old Jewish man - broke from gambling too much - walked into Paul’s shop, claiming to be skilled at fixing watches, and proposed that the two do business together. Paul agreed, designating a small bench in his shop for the man to work on one condition: that he teach Paul the trade. Gradually, the business shifted from picture framing to mainly watch repair. Paul’s son, Philip, who had been instructed in watch repair since the age of eleven, took over in the 1990s and currently owns their latest location, which is shared with a furniture restorer. The pairing is a good one, according to Philip, who explained, “Everything matches up because we both sell antiques and brick-a-brack. ”The space is modest in size, the walls adorned with select antiques that Philip continues to sell. Large glass cases display hundreds of timepieces, ranging from pocket watches to wristwatches. Many of these carry significant history, passing from owner to owner since the 1890s until battery watches became trendy in the 1960s, while others are more modern and recently manufactured.