Posts Tagged ‘New York City bars’

The Bull’s Head: a rowdy 18th century tavern

August 27, 2012

Chalk it up to the young city’s festive, indulgent vibe—or the fact that the drinking water wasn’t always safe to consume.

But colonial-era New York supported lots of bars. One was the Bull’s Head Tavern, built around 1760 near Canal Street and the Bowery—at the time, the outskirts of the city.

It was a rough-and-tumble place that catered to the livestock industry nearby: butchers, cattle men, and drovers (the guys who marched animals down to this district of stockyards and slaughterhouses).

“Out-of-town drovers and city butchers congregated in the smoky, low-ceilinged rooms of the Bull’s Head Tavern, which stood just below modern Canal Street amid a jumble of stables, cattle pens, and slaughterhouses,” states Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898.

Besides boozing, gambling, and carousing, Bull’s Head patrons enjoyed another attraction: bear-baiting, a not uncommon colonial pastime.

There was a celebrity patron too: George Washington. He and his staff met here on Evacuation Day in 1783, after British troops left the city.

The Bull’s Head thrived here as late as the 1820s, until the neighborhood became more genteel and residents drove the tavern and the slaughterhouse industry uptown—to about today’s Third Avenue and 24th Street.

[Bottom sketch: NYPL Digital Collection]

How New York’s Blarney Stones got their start

March 12, 2012

Dimly lit, very smoky, and smelling like cheap beer, Blarney Stones used to be all over New York City—hideaways for working men who wanted to drink, and maybe catch a ball game and have a corned beef sandwich.

They were the brainchild of Irish immigrant Daniel Flanagan, whose first Blarney Stone opened on Third Avenue and 44th Street in 1952.

“Mr. Flanagan would generally bring in a new partner in each bar and grill, share in the development, and then move on to another,” reported The New York Times in Flanagan’s 1991 obituary. “At his death, he was directly involved in the ownership and management of three Blarney Stone restaurants.”

At one time, there were 34 Blarney Stones in Manhattan, according to this AMNY article.

“Generally blue-collar, working man’s bars, the Blarneys were known for their traditional Irish food, cheap prices and tight-knit community,” writes Tim Herrera. “Most patrons were tradesmen, and few women entered.”

“But as the leases on the original Stones ended in the 1980s and ’90s, the owners sold them off, and today there are about five left in the city,” he adds.

This one, on Ninth Avenue in the 20s, appears to be going strong, as is the Blarney Stone on Eighth Avenue near Madison Square Garden, sporting the neon sign at the top.

And a few of its imitators—Blarney Cove on East 14th Street, I’m looking at you—are also still pulling in drinkers.

New York’s iconic neon bar signs

July 13, 2010

I’m not much of a drinker, but the incandescent glow from those three little letters can really cast a spell, especially on a quiet dark night.

At right is the rosy-glow sign at Campanile, an old-school Italian restaurant on 29th Street between Madison and Park Avenues.

Smith’s, on 44th Street and Eighth Avenue, emphasizes their bar, not the grill. 

I wish the Fedora sign, on West Fourth Street for the past 60-plus years, had its lights on.

But that might be asking too much of this West Village survivor still hanging in there, not yet Marc Jacobs-ized or turned into a cupcake shop.

 Jeremiah can you fill you in.

Drinks and then some jazz on 52nd Street

March 19, 2010

Based on this vintage menu from The Hickory House, I’d guess it was a swinging little place to have cocktails and dinner and then catch a show on West 52nd Street.

That stretch of midtown used to be crowded with jazz clubs in the 1940s and 1950s.

Turns out The Hickory House, opened in 1933, was known for its steaks and jazz lineups.

But The Hickory House couldn’t have been too cool; according to the menu, they had a branch in Miami Beach. 

Still, check out these cheapo drink prices. Post-Prohibition New York City was a hard-drinking town.