Grab your shamrocks and put on some green—it’s time for St. Patty’s Day. In New York City, the holiday by and large translates to—Irish or not, for better or worse—tying one on at one of this fine city’s many wood-walled pubs. Below, you’ll find some of our favorite watering holes for the occasion. And, if you’d like to keep it on the traditional (and kid-friendlier side), the St. Patrick’s Day Parade will march along 5th Avenue between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. this Saturday, March 16. Think more bagpipes, less beer. But speaking of beer, let’s get back to these Irish pubs, shall we?
McSorley’s Old Ale House
McSorley’s, which opened in 1854, is reportedly New York City’s oldest bar, and, as such, it has a long and storied history. It was founded by one John McSorley, who fled his native Ireland in 1851 after the devastating potato famine reached the northern stretches of his country. Three years after his arrival, he opened McSorley’s on East 7th Street as a saloon for working class Irish males. (Women were only let in the door after a lawsuit in 1970 forced their hand. A women’s bathroom was installed 16 long years later.) Over the years, the pub has hosted a range of luminaries that include everyone from Lincoln to Lennon—and now you.
15 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003
The Late Late Bar
The Late Late Bar is a new newcomer, and a bit of a black sheep. Unlike a lot of other spots you’ll find on this list, The Late Late Bar goes atypical on its Irish influences. The interior, inspired by private residences in Ireland during the 1960s, is lighter, brighter, and more modern than its peers—albeit just by a smidge; the mid-century is still retro, after all. And if you thought the space itself was different, the drinks are even more so. Their take on Guinness, seen above, gets a cocktail makeover and is—gasp—served with a sprig of mint.
159 E Houston St, New York, NY 10002
Paddy Reilly’s Music Bar
While not nearly as old as McSorley’s, Paddy Reilly’s has been around the block once or twice. The bar was opened in 1986 by Irish folk singer Paddy Reilly, later of The Dubliners. Reilly soon hired the long-enduring Steve Duggan to run the show. Early on, Steve tasked himself with giving the pub an authentic Irish feel, going as far as importing flooring from his home country and installing bonafide Irish lanterns inside. Today, Paddy Reilly’s serves all the hops and spirits an imbiber could ask for, and live music graces their small stage seven days a week.
519 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10016
Choosing a favorite pub in New York City is a deep and personal choice, but if you’re looking for something traditional, Molly’s Shebeen is probably your best bet. The ceilings are low and plastered. Sawdust lines the floor. The snug booths, one could argue, are built for 19th century bodies. While this writer has only been to Ireland once, she can assure you it feels more than a wee transportive. The pub opened in 1895, though under a different name, the specifics of which have been lost unto history. Prohibition shut things down for a tick, but in the mid-1930s, the bar reopened in all its glory—all of which is still intact today.
287 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10010
If you’re looking to skip this weekend’s crowds, you’d be well served to head to another borough entirely. Might we suggest saddling up to the bar of Hartley’s, a new (and uncommon) addition to the pub scene. Owners Mike O’Sullivan and Jim Dunn have created a classy shebeen in Clinton Hill, which favors driftwood and subway tiles. The bar’s food menu here is short and sweet, with nary a fried dish in sight. Soak up the sin with a spiced beef sandwich with Irish cheddar on soda bread, or keep it light with local radishes served with Irish butter and sea salt.
14 Putnam Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
Located in the still-sleepy stretches of Brooklyn’s Red Hook, Rocky Sullivan provides a removed atmosphere that harkens back to a time when people used to grab a cold pint after working the nearby docks all day. (In truth, Rocky Sullivan’s hasn’t been in the neighborhood for the entirety of its semi-long life; it moved here from Manhattan in 2007.) In addition to drinks, the bar serves up programming like pub quizzes, language classes, author readings, and live music. We’ll drink to that.
46 Beard St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Header photo courtesy of Hartley’s