The oldest bars in NYC are icons for a reason, and if their walls could talk, things would get interesting. From the best-looking bars to rooftop bars to the most romantic bars, the stories they’d tell would be nothing less than riveting. While NYC’s bar and restaurant scene is notorious for a short shelf life, there’s a small handful of drinking establishments that have withstood an unbelievable test of time, several of which have welcomed patrons for over two centuries and counting— and while we don’t anticipate them going anywhere soon, you’ll want to start checking them off your list pronto.
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Oldest bars in NYC
This Revolutionary-era tavern now operates as the first stateside outpost of Dublin’s Porterhouse Brewing Company. Tangles of filament bulbs above the bar and distressed mirrors on the walls smack of artificial ye-oldeness, but the real pedigree of the place still holds appeal for beer-swilling history buffs, who can geek out over the thought of George Washington drinking here in the 1700s.
When it opened in 1817, the historic Ear Inn was popular with colorful characters ambling in from the docks of the Hudson. The basic decor (dark-wood bar, wobbly tables and chairs, lots of retro ephemera) hasn’t changed much since, but locals continue to pack the place thanks to its relaxed vibe and historical charm.
Neir’s Tavern in Queens has been a favorite of both patrons and filmmakers alike, having served the former since 1829 and the latter in a little production by the name of Goodfellas. It’s also said that Mae West got her start under this very roof—you can even honor her memory with an eponymous burger.
McSorley’s is New York City’s oldest continuously operated saloon, and if there’s one thing they’ll never let you forget, that’s it. Established in 1854, the Irish pub and its sawdust-covered floors have welcomed the likes of Abe Lincoln, John Lennon and more.
A centuries-old slice of Germany in Staten Island is exactly what the history books intended, and Killmeyer’s most recent proprietors have done an excellent job of honoring the 1859 bar as such. If ever there were a wurst worth traveling for, this is it.
Just 10 years after McSorley’s opened its doors, Pete’s Tavern followed suit in the throes of the Civil War and has since enjoyed the same longevity as its predecessor. Perhaps it’s the luck of the Irish (although the fare itself is Italian-American), or maybe it’s the clever nature of its DNA—throughout Prohibition, Pete’s disguised itself as a flower shop while still keeping its imbibing clientele satiated behind the scenes.
Even though it opened in 1880, popular lore tells us that in 1953, Dylan Thomas pounded 18 straight whiskeys here before expiring in his Chelsea Hotel residence. Now the old-school bar and its adjacent outdoor patio play host to a yuppie crowd and clutches of tourists, drawn by the outdoor seating, a fine selection of beers—and the legend.
It’s long been said that Frank Sinatra and Jackie Kennedy favored this NYC classic’s original location, and it’s easy to see why. The old New York charm is as much of a draw as the iconic burgers that circulate the floor en masse on a daily and nightly basis.
This Boerum Hill mainstay has two claims to fame: its historic roots (it opened in 1885) and an ornate wooden bar imported from Germany. And for those seeking a true old New York feel and atmosphere with reliable drinks, the Brooklyn Inn is nothing short of perfect.
Amid the swank food sanctums sprouting around Park Avenue South, this classic tavern remains a shrine to unchanging values. Most old-time Old-Towners go for the much-praised burger, but for lightweights, there’s a smattering of salads and other sandwiches. Some things, however, do change. Antismoking legislation has made the once befogged booths and long mahogany bar strangely haze-free.