Manhattan has a rich cocktail culture that dates back to the post-Prohibition era, and downtown Manhattan in particular is home to some of the oldest taverns and pubs around. These venerable distilled-spirit institutions have survived for over a century in an industry that can be very fickle, an achievement on its own. But beyond simply surviving, many of these bars have managed to thrive while remaining relatively unchanged. Only a few blocks from these historic watering holes stand the stunning NoMad condos at 88 & 90 Lexington Avenue. Much like the famed pubs nearby, 88 and 90 Lex, which were built in the 1920s and 1950s, respectively, are prime examples of the timeless style that certain NYC landmarks exude. Here are the top three historic bars and taverns located near 88 & 90 Lex.
Pete’s Tavern | 129 East 18th Street
Pete’s Tavern is an official New York historical landmark and – according to its owners – one of the oldest continually operating bars in the entire city. Founded in 1864, the bar was allegedly disguised as a flower shop during Prohibition. Pete’s has the classic pub feel thanks to its long wooden bar along one wall and booths on the other as well as glass display cases that house relics from its early days. It also boasts a classic tin ceiling and walls adorned with framed photos of famous patrons who have visited the pub through the decades. Pete’s is a fully-functioning historical landmark that has stood the test of time without changing much of anything.
Old Town Bar and Restaurant | 45 East 18th Street
Old Town Bar and Restaurant in the Flatiron District served its first cask more than 120 years ago. Owners claim the bar has been in continuous operation since 1892, which would put it right behind Pete’s as one of the oldest in the city. Old Town also possesses a degree of Gilded Age charm that is hard to match. As soon as you enter, you can’t help but notice the tin-tiled ceiling and the absolutely massive mahogany bar lining the wall. A total of 55 feet in length, the bar is undoubtedly the star attraction of the interior. Much like Pete’s, Old Town has that quintessential tavern feel that is at once familiar and welcoming. Thanks to its ambiance, Old Town has been featured in numerous films and was part of the Late Night with David Letterman show’s opening montage for over a decade.
McSorley’s | 15 East 7th Street
Head a few blocks south and you’ll come across one of Manhattan’s most storied ale houses, McSorley’s. Open since 1854, McSorley’s is as disarmingly bare-bones as it gets. You have two options here: McSorley’s Dark Ale or McSorley’s Light Ale. That’s it. Their beers are served two at a time, in small glass mugs, and the bar-backs can carry up to 20 drinks with just their fingers. Various eye-catching antiques line the walls, and there are gas lamps throughout. A collection of wishbones on display are said to have been hung by locals before they went off to fight in World War II. McSorley’s is likely the best option for having a true throwback pub experience in NYC, as a visit here provides a true glimpse into the past.
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