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First Night in New York; A Tour of New York's Oldest Bars

Posted on 2010/05/15 16:38:06 (May 2010).

[Saturday 1st May 2010]
Both Chie and I were getting flights from Heathrow at almost exactly the same time today. However, we were pretty much flying in opposite directions - she was going to visit her family in Japan for a couple of weeks, and I was going to New York for a week's business trip. It occurred to me we had never before been separated at such great speed - her plane travelling 500mph to the East, and mine flying 500mph to the West - so from 2pm onwards, every hour we were getting a thousand miles further apart. Still, although it was something of a downer that we wouldn't be seeing each other for two weeks, it was at least nice that we could go to the airport together.

I didn't have the best of flights - I seemed to get a severe sinusy type of headache which continued relentlessly from pretty much the moment we got up in the air, until the moment we landed. Watched the new Sherlock Holmes film, which was less bad than I had anticipated it would be. Also chatted a bit towards the end of the flight to the woman sitting next to me. I attempted to quiz her for recommendations for good places to eat in New York, and despite having lived there for some time she seemed to have a generally very negative opinion of the food in New York compared to the food in London. I had remembered being generally a bit underwhelmed on my last trip to New York, but I didn't fully realise as I was talking to her that this was a portent for the forthcoming week, which would turn out to be one of the most disappointing trips I've ever had anywhere, culinarily speaking.

Landed around 5 pm, and not wanting to waste a lot of my company's money on a taxi, I took the questionable decision of trying to get to Manhattan by subway. This took bloody ages. I later found out there are faster overground trains, but it seems using communal public transport like this is so alien to most Americans that there is pretty much no information in the airport telling you how to do so.

Some time after 7 I got to my hotel, where conveniently some other people from my company were also staying, which made arrangements for going out that evening much more straightforward. I had done a bit of advanced planning, and decided it might be interesting to try and visit some of the oldest bars in New York. We managed to go to three of these this evening, here are my reviews of each:

Pete's Tavern (1864)
Quite an attractive and presumably fairly old bar room at the front, by New York standards. We sat in the restaurant area at the back, which was less picturesque. Food was pretty average, no complaints about the service. I think I'd probably have enjoyed it more if we'd just stopped in for a drink and stayed in the bar room.

Mc Sorleys Old Ale House (1854)
This has the makings for a very acceptable substitute for the sorts of proper pubs we have back in the UK, but unfortunately tonight being a Saturday seemed to mean it was full of "frat boy" types being loud and boisterous. The staff were characterful and super efficient, the interior was quite attractive - a tongue-in-cheek sprinkling of sawdust on the floor to boot, plus all sorts of nik-naks hanging up on the wals, and the beer was pretty good too. If only all the frat boys weren't there it could have been really good.

White Horse Tavern (1880)
Attractive black and white frontage on this place, which really appealed to me, but other than that it left me feeling a bit cold somehow - hard to put my finger on it - inside it just felt like any other American bar. Perhaps this didn't really get a fair trial - by this time it was pretty late at night, having just got off the plane, and I was starting to fall asleep.

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