Thursday, August 11, 2005

Seventh Heaven

I took a short stroll on 7th Street this evening for a bit of nostalgia. One bar in particular was the scene of many long, very long lunches back when Bar Man had a real job. Drinking four, six, and even more beers at a time, cascading the beer from one mug to another, was one of our favorite pastimes. And ordering sixty beers at a time wasn’t at all uncommon.

733) McSorley’s



Ah, what can you say about this place that hasn’t been said before. The place is over 150 years old and a lot of the stuff in here dates from the day the doors opened. You can only get two kinds of beer in here, McSorley’s light and McSorley’s dark, and don’t even thing about buying them one at a time, it just isn’t done. Even ordering just two at a time is a bit suspect. The bartenders and waiters all wear gray smocks and have a faux brusque attitude that quickly fades if you can engage them in a conversation. That isn’t too easy to do however because this place is usually jammed and everyone is busy, schlepping twenty beers at a time, ten mugs in each hand, to the well warn and carved up tables and then scooping up the empties and carting them off. And nothing goes better with the beers than soda crackers, cheese, and raw onions. They have pretty decent hamburgers as well and their hash with red cabbage is a favorite of mine.

The current proprietor, Matty Maher, is only the sixth owner of this place and he started here as a dishwasher before buying it. I used to drink with Matty at Molly Malone (now Molly’s) when I used to live right around the corner from the place. He is a great guy and his daughter now tends bar at McSorley’s (the first female bartender ever). Actually, until 1970 they didn’t even allow women customers and they only had a single bathroom much after that. They finally had to add a second one because too many altercations broke out when some bloke with a lady-friend using the facilities tried to keep guys from entering. Doesn’t work too well when everyone has been pounding down beers all night.

Back when I was but a wee Bar Boy in Minneapolis I remember reading about this old bar in New York in a Readers Digest. Many years later when I walked into McSorley’s I instantly recognized the place. It was the dust covered turkey wishbones hanging over the bar that did it. The article said they spray them with hairspray to keep the dust from falling off. The wishbones have a story behind them too, as does everything in here. Before local lads went off to fight in World War I (called The Great War at the time) they would stop in here for a turkey dinner and hang the wishbone above the bar. Those that returned retrieved them. The ones that are left are all mementos to those who lost their life.

Despite rumors to the contrary, no American President ever drank here but Abraham Lincoln once did before he became president. Peter Cooper was a supporter of Lincoln and let him use the hall in his school to give a speech. Cooper Union still sits only a block away and many of the students make McSorley’s their second home.

I could write pages trying to describe the décor here but suffice it to say there is not an inch of wall space that isn’t covered with something, from old campaign buttons, newspaper articles, pictures, just about anything you can think of. I am sure you could write a dissertation for your Doctorate in History using just this place as your reference material.

I got pulled down here today by a reader of my blog, Terry, and then met a friend of his, George.

George and Terry and Me


I downed a few beers and then parted company with them as I headed down the street.

I had four McSorley’s Dark Ales

734) Standings



This place used to be Brewski’s and they had about 500 beers available. The beers were stored in the basement and someone handed them up through a hatch in the floor. I always envisioned a dwarf down there with an enormous right arm developed from continually handing up beers. Alas, they have now rented out the basement for other purposes and the beer menu, although still extensive, was a bit more limited.

Brewski’s, and now Standings (as of six weeks ago, and still the same owners), was built to look old and to, I guess, compete with McSorley’s. Everything in the place, except for the televisions, a recent addition, is, in fact, old, but it was all bought somewhere else and then installed here. Even the flooring came from someplace else. The bar is a nicely carved old bar with a brass rail. The chairs are wooden with black vinyl seats. Because they do not serve anything but beer and inexpensive wine here there really isn’t much behind the bar. There are four brass beer stations on the bar with three spigots each that pour a great selection of beers. They still have a fairly extensive bottled beer menu.

An enormous collection of beer cans ring the walls above the tracks for a model railroad. The train must have been in for maintenance though.

Standings has become a sports bar, hence its name. A large chalkboard does, indeed, have the latest MLB standings posted. They have four televisions but the Mets game had just ended so two of them were showing the races at Saratoga and two were showing ESPN. This place isn’t real big but there are small tables and chairs that ring the walls and the ones by the windows are separated by low partitions affording a modicum of privacy.

The bartender, Rachel, lives in Williamsburg where I am celebrating bar number 750 at Duff’s.

Helpful Rachel


She was familiar with the place and said she would try to drop by but she works later that evening. She also gave me a list of a lot of other bars in Williamsburg that I should visit. Bar Man is always grateful for this kind of information.

Terry’s friend George had run off so he tracked me down and we headed next door.

I had a draft Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale from the Sea Dog Brewery. It was quite good, not sweet and with just enough blueberry flavor to make it different.

735) Burp Castle



This place, too, has undergone a bit of a change. The bartender and waiters no longer where monk habits. They do have a couple hanging on a hook so if a customer wants to wear one I guess they will let them. As you might imagine, they specialize in Belgian Abbey style beers and ales. Again, no hard liquor so the behind the bar setup is non-existent, just a large picture. And their pictures are most interesting, one large one on each wall other than the front wall which has windows.

Bar Man, Bartender, And Fellow Travelers


A Party I Would Like To Attend


It is dark in here and meant to look a bit like a monastery with pew like seating and dark orange lights. A dark wood bar and bar stools. The bar is covered with beer stations that pour a large selection of beers and they also have a lot in bottles as well. When you order a beer the bartender calls it into a little walkie talkie and then it mysteriously appears. Probably that dwarf dug a tunnel over here.

Anyway, Terry and I kind of settled in here and I made this the last bar for the night so I tried a few different beers.

Terry and Bar Man Settling In


The bartender, Christian, was a most pleasant fellow and also provided me with an extensive list of bars to add to my intinerary.

Christian, Another Helpful Bartender


I had a Delirium Nocturnum, a St. Feuillien Triple, and a Franziskaner Hefe Weiss Hell. (their light version) The Delirium Nocturnum is a 9% beer that comes in a 20 ounce bottle and the Freuillien Triple is 8.5%. The Hefe Weiss Hell was a reasonable 5%. Anyway, Barman was a happy man when he toddled off to the subway.

I hit a nice three bars today and had a most enjoyable time moving up to 735 for the year and leaving 265 more to go.

9 comments:

brianharto said...

I've been waiting for your notes on McSorley's!! Every trip (from NJ) to the City must involve a stop for 10 or 12 beers! I know you could have filled a page of photos with this place, but a picture of the HUGE urinals would have been cool! The homemade mustard is a treat also! Good Luck!

1000 Bars said...

Ooh, I forgot about the mustard. And maybe next time I will take a picture of the urinals. You could take a shower in them.

tom said...

I used to go to Brewskis until the bartender I knew there ran off with a few hundred dollars to Florida. He said he hadn't been paid in a while and wanted a change anyway.

I recall when Burp Castle opened - if I remember right one of the monks in the mural (could have been one of the servers instead) is modeled on Pat who used to work there, the Grassroots around the corner, Brewski's occasionally, and any other place that would let him. He was more of a work the floor and tables type guy than a bartender and we had many nights conversation about all the big issues. You know, beer, the Yankees, corrupt politicians and the like.

Lots of memories of these places and it's nice to see pictures of the old places now that I live so far away.

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