I rarely every make it to downtown Manhattan. Like…ever. Now that I live in Astoria, Queens (the best NYC neighborhood, don’t argue with me on this) I find it hard to find the motivation to go anywhere outside of the five block radius around my house except to go to work in Midtown.
But one weekend in September, my brother finally came to visit me for the first time, I had to take him on the tour of my old stomping grounds.
My first apartment was in Alphabet City. It was tiny, overcrowded, and overpriced. And I loved almost every second of living there. For those of you who’ve never been to New York, Alphabet City is a sub-neighborhood of the East Village. It is a place where the musical, Rent, is set. Back in the 1980s, most of the people who voluntarily visited Alphabet City were after one thing: drugs. The little park in the middle of the neighborhood used to be filled with junkies.
Now, the junkies have been replaced by hipsters and NYU and Columbia students. It is home to tiny boutiques and some of my favorite bars.
My brother, Shawn, never had the chance to visit me while I lived in Alphabet City, so I wanted to show him around by taking him to my favorite places (read: bars) in the area.
But first thing was first. Before we could visit my old neighborhood and start drinking, my brother wanted to see One World Trade Center up close.
The new World Trade Center tower is not finished yet. There is still construction going on inside, but the outside looks almost complete. Pictures do not describe how enormous this building is. The base of the building is a large construction site that is hectic with tourists, workers, and people coming in and out of the surrounding office buildings.
While we were in the area, we passed through the Irish Famine Memorial and walked along the Hudson River until we reached one of my favorite pizza joints in New York: John’s Pizzeria of Bleeker Street.
Then, it was on to his request (and his primary motivation for visiting NYC), McSorley’s. S
hawn had talked about visiting the oldest bar in New York for FOREVER. He read a lot about it. Every conversation we had leading up to his big weekend in NYC somehow led to McSorley’s.
Shawn: Do you know McSorley’s have sawdust floors?
Me: Yes, I’ve been there.
Shawn: Do you know McSorley’s only sells 2 types of beer: light and dark?
Me: Yes, I’ve been there.
McSorley’s is dark and old. The bar’s walls are lined with old pictures and articles, some of which are now falling apart, and the floors are covered in sawdust to absorb any spills. Most importantly, the beer is delicious.
I’m pretty sure my brother would have stayed at McSorley’s all day if I let him, but it was time to move on. We had already broken our one-drink-per-bar rule because McSorley’s serves their beer two at a time. Sure, the mugs are small, but it is still two beers.
It is after this that the day gets kind of fuzzy. A lot of beer was consumed. We stopped by all of my old favorites including Common Ground on Avenue A, which is stocked with boardgames that can easily keep you in there all night; Against the Grain on 6th Street, a tiny cubby of a bar with an interesting beer selection; PDT on Saint Mark’s Place, a speakeasy which you can access through a pay phone in the fabulous hot dog restaurant, Crif Dogs; and Burp Castle on 7th Street, a monk-themed bar in which the bartenders will shush you if you begin talking too loud.
It is at this point that our livers both call it quits and we catch a cab back to Astoria.
The next morning it is time for a little hair of the dog. We head to the Beer Garden and people watch until it is time for him to head to the airport.
Weekend in summary: Beer.