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Thursday, August 6, 2009

The 10 Oldest Bars in the United States

10. P.J. Clarke’s
Established in 1868.
915 Third Avenue New York, NY 10022. (212) 317-1616

Red, checkered table cloth and bartenders in shirt and tie are indicative of the style of this New york staple. The bar has been around as long as the building, roughly 125 years, though the exact building date is still disputed. The bar menu features the best burger in town, served with a pickle and a slice of raw onion. Classic.

It was recently renovated, but close attention to detail was paid, returning all the signature features (the “out of order” payphone, the chalkboard, jukebox and the broken Cigarette Machine) to their proper places. To show that they are as loyal to their patrons as their patrons are to them, the ash remains of an old regular are still behind the bar for safekeeping.

9. White Horse Tavern
Established in 1880.
567 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014. (212) 989-3956.

Originally a hangout for longshoremen, it became popular in the bohemian scene of the 50’s and 60’s. The likes of Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison have grabbed a drink at this spot and it was also known to be frequented by a number of famous writers during that period, including Dylan Thomas, Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac.

The words “JACK GO HOME!” are still written on the bathroom wall for his tendency to be bounced from the bar.

8. Ear Inn
Established in 1874.
326 Spring Street, New York, NY 10013. (212) 226-9060.

Built in 1817 as a home for James Brown, an aide to George Washingtone during the time of the Revolution, Ear Inn has gone through many transformations to become what it is today.

It was used as a brewery, bar and restaurant beginning sometime in the mid 19th century and went on to become a speakeasy during Prohibition. The apartment upstairs has been used as a boarding house, smuggler’s den and brothel over the years and is rumored to be home to “Mickey” the ghost of a sailor still waiting for his clipper ship.

The name “EAR” was informally given to the bar as a reference to the musical Ear Magazine that was published upstairs. Part of the “BAR” sign was strategically painted over to avoid the hassle of seeking city approval for new signage.

7. The Little Shamrock
Established in 1863.
807 Lincoln Way, San Francisco, CA 94122. (415) 661-0060.

Belly up to the bar solo in this place and you are guaranteed to leave with some new friends. Or you can settle into the dirty old décor for a game night with friends.

“The Sham” has board games on site and beer cheap enough to make them into drinking games. The spacious and friendly atmosphere makes this a great place to hang out for hours and feel like you are right at home.

6. The Saloon
Established in 1861.
1232 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133. (415) 989-7666.

San Fran’s oldest watering hole boasts live blues bands playing nightly along with the cheapest and stiffest drinks in town. One of the only establishments to survive the earthquake and fire of 1906, it is rumored that the firemen who were loyal patrons diverted water from other sources to hose this place down.

Be sure to bring cash though…this bar made it through the Depression, I wouldn’t expect them to take kindly to the practice of buying on the margin.

5. McGillin’s Olde Ale House
Established in 1860.
1310 Drury Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107. (215) 735-5562

Originally opened as the “Bell in Hand” in 1860, McGillin’s is the oldest continuously operated bar in the City of Brotherly Love. William McGillin, who lived upstairs with his wife and thirteen children until his death in August of 1901, founded this bar. The bar was then run by his wife, “Ma” who prohibited a long list of area citizens from entering, including her own father), until she passed in 1938.

The bar then passed through children’s hands until it was eventually sold by daughter Mercedes in 1958 to two brothers who spell their names differently (Henry Spaniak and Joe Shepaniak), who’s family still manage the bar to this day.

This award winning Irish pub boasts the unique claim of being the only bar in Philly that was established before town hall, and is also perennially listed among America’s leading night clubs. If you are in the area, be sure to stop in an order a Cheesesteak and a Yuengling, in order to take in the full experience.

4. Old Ebbitt Grill
Established in 1856.
675 Fifteenth Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20005. (202) 347-4801.

Founded by William E. Ebbitt, the guest list has included Presidents McKinley, Grant, Johnson, Cleveland, Roosevelt, and Harding. The bar fell into hard times leading up to 1970, when it was purchased by Clyde’s Restaurant Co. (Clyde’s of Georgetown).

Ebbitt’s has had many homes throughout the years, moving and expanding over the generations, but it wasn’t until 1983 that the bar found its current home. Through the years the bar has amassed a rich history and a wealth of antiques from our Nation’s Capital.

Still a haunt of the world’s most powerful profiles, as well as area tourists , Ebbitt’s remains active in many regional events including hosting the World Famous Oyster Riot each year. If you ever visit this bar, you’ll find yourself sitting in the same booth that many famous statesmen, military heroes, and lawmakers have used in years past.

Chances are, if you drink too much, someone more important than you has done the same in just that very seat. Think of “Frank the Tank” in Old School?

3. McSorley’s Old Ale House
Established in 1854.
15 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003. (212) 473-9148.

McSorley’s Old Ale House has been a community gathering place as well as the subject of art, literature and even a Supreme Court controversy. Established in 1854, McSorley’s can boast of being New York City’s oldest continuously operated saloon.

Everyone from Abe Lincoln to John Lennon has passed thru Mcsorley’s swinging doors. Interestingly, women were finally allowed access in 1970, so if you were looking for a place to pick up chicks, this was not high on the list. Also, don’t venture into the bar wanting a girly drink because they only serve two types of beer: light and dark. And you have to order two at a time.

While there are older bars in the US, McSorley’s has remained in its original location. It is widely acknowledged that they also served as a speakeasy during Prohibition, and should you request a tour , maybe you’ll be lucky enough to visit the back room, which serves as a gallery of sorts. Bring cash, and exact change if you are able because McSorley’s has never had a cash register and never plans to.

2. Bell In Hand
Established in 1795.
45 Union Street, Boston, MA 02108. (617) 227-2098.

This bar claims to be America’s oldest tavern. What more can you expect from Boston? More specifically, this is the bar in America with the longest continuous operation. The Bell In Hand has only shut its doors once temporarily: Prohibition.

This bar was established by Jimmy Wilson, Boston’s last known town crier (so it’s not just a clever name), who was among the first to report on such Colonial American milestones as the boston tea party. In the Bar’s early days it was a favorite among politicians, lawyers and students, with a long list of patrons that included such notables as: Paul Revere, Daniel Webster and William McKinley.

Located on Union Street (Boston’s oldest operating street), The Bell In Hand now plays a trendy host to the young crowd of 20 and 30-somethings.

1. Jean Lafittes Blacksmith Shop
Established in 1772.
941 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA 70116. (504) 593-9761.

This tavern is the only known watering hole that pre-dates our nation’s independence. Founded originally (as its name suggests) as part the Lafitte brothers’ Blacksmith Shop, this bar survived a disastrous fire in 1794 that left most New Orleans, specifically the French Quarter, in ruins. Interestingly, much of the bar’s authenticity has been kept in tact, and the bar remains to be mostly lit by candle.

Most nights you can still go in and get a well-priced drink and enjoy the old-world charm and the musings of the century-old piano bar. There has also been a jukebox installed in recent years. Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in or around the Chocolate City.

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