St. Patrick’s Day: NYC Irish Pubs

By Sandy Nesoff

On March 17 of every year the Charles River in Boston turns green for the day. As with their respective baseball teams, New York outdoes Boston on that day…in New York everything is green for St. Patrick’s Day.

If you disagree, check out the thousands and thousands of people lining Fifth Avenue to watch as thousands of marchers strut their stuff. Everyone is wearing some degree of green-from clothing to painted faces.

New York does “not need a green river” to let the world know what day it is.

Politicians to preachers, no matter their ethnic heritage, all suddenly become Irish. Cardinal James Dolan can stand on the steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and marvel at how many “ethnic converts for a day” there are.

Stepping along at the head of the parade are such Irishmen as Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Chuck Schumer and Mayor Bill DeBlasio. There are white Irishmen, black Irishmen, and Asian Irishmen, all celebrating their adopted ethnicity for the day.

After the parade many of the revelers (countless numbers who have skipped school and work) will adjourn to the number of Irish pubs located throughout the city. They come from far and near. As mentioned elsewhere in this issue, even the city of Grapevine, Texas, has come up to join the celebration with an invitation-only party.

While in the ordinary course of pub business, brews such as Bud Lite may be the preferred drink, today you’ll be the object of scornful looks if you order anything else but Guinness.

With more than 2,000 Irish pubs in New York City, including the Boroughs, it’s difficult to choose. Herewith we offer seven pubs situated in Manhattan for your enjoyment. This is not to judge the remaining 1,993 pubs. It’s simply that space in this issue does not permit us to write about all of them... although that would have been a terrific assignment.

Our pubs for St. Patrick’s Day are:

Emmett O’ Lunney’s
210 West 50th St.
(212) 957-5100

Emmett O’Lunney’s sits smack in the heart of the theater district and a long stone’s throw from the parade route. They are a pub with more than pub food. Tired revelers and parade marchers can pop in for a wide menu with reasonable prices.

Emmett O’Lunney’s has one of the more extensive Irish menus while not forsaking the American taste for American food. There is bangers & mash, fish & chips, shepherds pie, traditional Irish onion soup and a Jr. Gaelic steak.

Those who would like a whistle-wetting, can check out the drinks at two bars. Alcohol offerings include local and imported beers, a varied wine list and cocktails

O’Lunney’s is family-owned and they invite guests to “...sit and enjoy a drink and come in for lunch or dinner. The pub is open late, so there’s no need to rush right over after the parade.

McSorley’s Old Ale House
15 East 7th Street
(212) 473-9148

McSorley’s lays claim to being the oldest Irish pub in this country and has been in continuous operation since 1854. It has developed a cult-like following despite its lack of Irish-make that “any” serious food.

Step in and a journey back in time begins. The legendary “Back Room” was the place to go during Prohibition for a shot or mug. No worries about being overwhelmed by choices for beer, there are only two kinds: McSorley’s Light and McSorley’s Dark.

For St. Patrick’s Day McSorley’s will roll out its mugs of house ale that is served in pairs. You’ll get one light and one dark. The drinks complement a very limited menu that barely changes from St. Patrick’s Day to Rosh Hashanah.

Food you want? OK, if you insist. The fare for the day will be a three-cheese spread with crackers. It’ll be accompanied by a McSorley’s special horseradish sauce that has been a staple here since anyone can remember.

The lure of the pub is its atmosphere. Their floors are covered in sawdust and one patron commented that it “...looks as though it hasn’t been painted since it first opened.” But that’s what regulars and first-timers alike enjoy about the place. It’s a man’s bar and always has been.

Well, at least until 1970 when the courts said it was time to come into the modern world and ordered that women be admitted. That’s evident by the restrooms. The porcelain accommodations in the men’s room have been compared in size to a sarcophagus, while those in the ladies room are... rather Spartan.

Rosie O’Grady’s
800 7th Avenue
(212) 582-2975

Smack in the heart of Midtown, Rosie O’Grady’s has become a destination for theatergoers and Irish aficionados alike.

The street-level dining room offers a full menu and on this special day you’ll find corned beef and cabbage, shepherd’s pie and any number of traditional Irish dishes.

Interestingly, there is a host of non-Irish dishes that you might find in any other restaurant. There’s French onion soup, hazelnut crusted rack of lamb, chicken Oscar and surf & turf. Well why not? After all Irish immigrants have become assimilated to the culture in the United States. But on St. Patty’s Day?

Walk down to the lower level and the bar is almost like a private club…except that everyone is welcome.

There are tables across from the bar where you can sit down and order a full meal or simply relax with friends and enjoy a pint of Guinness. If you’d like, you can sit there away from the monstrous crowds and watch the parade from beginning to end on the conveniently placed television sets.

Slattery’s Midtown Pub
8 East 36th St.
(212) 683-6444

If you can’t make the parade, head for Slattery’s. This neighborhood and after work pub, offers 25 HD TVs that’ll cover it from start to finish. You won’t have to miss a marching band, step-dancers, or the faux Irish New York politicians stepping off in the lead.

The menu also offers the ever-present pub favorites such as burgers with an Irish flair, wraps, sandwiches, wings, salads and traditional favorites such as pot pies and shepherd’s pies. Don’t miss the fish & chips. Aside from the holiday, on weekends, Slattery’s also offers a full Irish breakfast.

Beer is Murphy’s Stout, a creamy brew from County Cork that uses a 150-year-old recipe. There are three other Irish beers and more than a dozen whiskies. Enjoy!

One of the more popular activities at Slattery’s, putting aside the pints and shots are the schedule of specialty nights. They range from trivia night, West Wing Night, My-so-called-life Night, Harry Potter Night and Friends Night, all paying tribute to classic television programs. To change the pace they sponsor a scavanger hunt that takes participants all over The City.

Connolly’s Pub
21 West 45th St.
(212) 597-5126

Connolly’s is also a family-owned traditional Irish pub. It’s a bit closer to the parade route and is minutes from Grand Central Station and Rockefeller Center for commuters or visitors.

The venue pairs its food with a selection of more than 50 different beers from which to choose. If you think a comprehensive diner menu is difficult when making a choice, try that with more than 50 different beers staring you in the face. While it may be tempting, we don’t recommend sampling all of them in one visit.

Check out the Slammin spinach artichoke dip or the Buffalo wings made just right. There’s also Irish smoked salmon and an eclectic menu that offers American food, Irish pub food and... pizza.

The combination makes Connolly’s attractive to families and especially those with children. While mom and dad are enjoying wings and artichoke dip washed down with a cool brew, the kids can be feasting on their pizza slices.

Can you imagine the happy hour? Or imagine hot and tired marchers and revelers coming in for a brew and food? The homey atmosphere calms the excitement of St. Patrick’s Day and all the guests at Connelly’s Pub can sit back, relax, grab a bite to eat and have a beer.

There are large TV screens covering virtually every major sporting event being broadcast. The pub can accommodate from 15 to 500 people on two floors and is a hot spot for business meetings and functions, school reunions and family gatherings.

To all of you pure Irishmen and women... and those of you who join the clan for the day, Céad Míle Fáilte...Welcome.

Landmark Tavern
626 11th Ave.
(212) 275-8595

Perhaps if this tavern were named the O’Landmark, it would sound more Irish. But make no mistake; this is as Irish as it gets. It is also one of the oldest in New York, having opened in 1868.

Patrick Henry Carley opened the tavern as the “Irish Waterfront Saloon on what is today 11th Ave. It was located on the shore of the Hudson River... right on the shoreline. Along came Prohibition and they turned the third floor into a speakeasy. They couldn’t use the second floor because that’s where they lived with their little children. Today it still retains its classic old New York Charm.

Food is good Irish pub fare. While there is a larger menu if you are intent on sitting down for a full menu, its pub food and bar are what keeps on bringing regulars back for more.

If you can play an instrument, come on in on Monday night and join the band. All are welcome to participate.

Paddy Reilly’s
519 2nd Ave. @ 29th St.
(212) 686-1210

Some patron’s have called Paddy Reilly’s “The best and only real Irish pub left in New York.”

Other pubs and patrons may take issue with that, but Paddy Reilly’s has one distinction none of the others have and it fits right in with the holiday celebration. It claims to be the “First and only all-Guinness draft bar in the world.”

That’s something we’d have to do a lot of research on to confirm, but for the time being, let’s accept it at face value.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrants will enjoy the $5 draft of Guinness. OK, so there’s no other choice because that’s all there is on tap. But who cares?

The staff has earned a reputation for being welcoming to all patrons and many return because of the feeling they have. That seems to be the hallmark of virtually all Irish pubs in New York.

Paddy’s had been serving thirsty patrons for more than 30 years and entertained them with live music. Groups include Irish Seisún’s as well as The Prodigals. Other music genres play during the week as well ranging from Bluegrass to jam sessions.

The flooring comes from an old Irish hotel and there are remnants of a still from County Cavan. How much more authentic can you get?