You’ve probably seen us somewhere before; McManus has been featured in many movies and television shows: Highlander (1986), starring Sean Connery; Radio Days (1987), directed by Woody Allen and starring Mia Farrow; Keeping the Faith (2000), directed by Edward Norton; The Other Guys (2010) starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg; Seinfeld, Law and Order, Saturday Night Live, and Broad City.
Peter McManus Café is a port in the storm in a rapidly
changing city. Holding fast on the northwest corner of 19th Street and 7th Avenue since 1936, McManus is one of the oldest and best bars in New York City, providing great food, drinks and memories to generations of New Yorkers. Wander in on any given day and you will find yourself at home. McManus is that rare neighborhood bar with universal appeal—a microcosm of all that makes New York City great. Pull up a stool and order a pint, the conversation and laughs flow as easily as the Guinness on tap! There is also a dining room in the back with plenty of seating to enjoy lunch, dinner, drinks and laughter.
If these walls could talk, there wouldn’t be a dry seat in the house! As the oldest family-run bar in New York City, McManus has seen its fair share of triumph and tragedy through the years. We were here when the Yankees were known as the Highlanders and the Met Life Tower was the tallest building in the world! (And yes—that is a bullet hole in the stained glass cabinet behind the bar. Come in and ask Jamo McManus what happened there—he’d rather not commit it to print!)
I rish pubs are a dime a dozen, but very few possess a history
as star-studded as this one. The family-owned saloon, among the city’s oldest, has been at its present location since 1936 and appeared on classic NYC shows like "Seinfeld" and "Law & Order." Sidle up to the oak bar for a few shots chased with the house’s own McManus Ale; if you get lonesome, slip into one of the two old-school telephone booths and drunk-dial.
M any bars and restaurants are open
everyday of the week, but how many are open every single day of the year? McManus has been in operation since 1911 and moved to this location in 1936. Four generations of the family have continued to operate the warm and welcoming Irish tavern. Today it is Peter McManus’s grandson and great grandson who stand side by side serving beer. There is a real neighborhood feel with regulars stopping in at all hours to watch sports on the several TVs, listen to music on the juke box or play video games. For those who would like to grab a bite from their simple American menu, there is another room where meals are served on red and white checked tablecloths, while sitting around bright green shiny vinyl circular booths. For me, it is the original surroundings that caught my attention the most, especially the Tiffany stained glass windows and the two classic wooden telephone booths.
I t’s an inviting place in a rough-and-tumble sort of way,
with a well-worn tile floor, lead-paned windows and a splendid carved mahogany bar. A back room has eerie green and blue banquettes and cocktail tables.
The owner, Jim McManus, is a slow-moving, cocky Irishman with a 60-megabyte memory of anecdotes. “I started with my father and my brother 56 years ago,” says the thick-set, silver-haired owner with obvious pride. “This place was a drugstore before that.” In the middle of a chat, Mr. McManus launches into a discourse on how to make a perfect rob roy. “Swirl the shaker with the scotch and vermouth very gently,” he admonishes. “You don’t want to bruise the vermouth; it’s delicate. Like wine.”
At 7 P.M. on this day, the bar is filled with a casually clad, risible crowd ranging from business suits to blue jeans and flannels. Mr. McManus’s son, Jamo, who is 38 years old, works here. He represents the third generation in the business and heads the kitchen, where generally satisfying pub fare like sandwiches, steaks and casseroles is prepared.
Jim McManus can spin tales taller than the head on a fresh draft beer. “One day Errol Flynn walked in here and was looking pretty gone,” he recalls. “He said, ‘I’ll have a double vodka on the rocks.’ I said, ‘You’re not gonna get it from me,’ and I showed him the door.”
Then there was the time that Burt Lancaster came in with Leonard Bernstein. “It was during the Vietnam War, and Lancaster made some remark about the American flag,” Mr. McManus remembers.
—Bryan Miller, New York Times (1992)
Twice a year on a Sunday, 19th Street is closed to
traffic so that the regulars and their families can engage in a . Beer, soda and hotdogs are provided free of charge by McManus’s. Every Thanksgiving the bar serves turkey dinners at no cost to those patrons that do not have the advantage of a traditional family gathering.
Like a lot of other watering holes in New York City, Peter McManus Café has all the key ingredients that would garner it a prime position in anyone’s directory of great places to imbibe. The punch list of expected physical attributes is complete. There is of course the classic wood bar, tin ceilings, tiled floors, black and white photos, a fish tank, old phone booths and a smattering of Tiffany glass. There are rumors of a sordid past that include talk of a speakeasy and an illicit business relationship with the gangster, Dutch Shultz. Then, there are those continued sightings of Hollywood elite coupled to the fact that the place remains a favored location for both film and television.
But what truly makes McManus’s one of the greatest bars in New York City and well beyond the five boroughs are those acts of generosity and kindness by the family and staff: stickball on a Sunday, turkey on a Thursday and a good time on any day!
—Chris Poh, American Public House Review
One of the best places in the city for a
beer and a burger is Pete McManus. The place has all the things that are good about a bar: wood worn smooth by countless elbows, a warm amber glow, crazy but friendly barflies who look as if they’ve been pickled in the place, which they have. It even has a lovely pair of wooden phone booths that light up when you open their doors as if welcoming you into them.
— Jeremiah Moss, Vanishing New York
N ew York is the most expensive city in the US
but our guide to cheap and even free sightseeing, ferry trips and world-class museums, plus affordable accommodation, make it possible to visit on a budget . . . For a cheap drink go to Peter McManus, a friendly Irish pub . . .
The newspaper clipping on the wall is
headlined “Peter McManus And Sons: Tavernmen For Many Years.” The date? August 23, 1948—when the bar had already been in business for 12 years. This explains McManus’s Tiffany glass, wooden phone booths, and overall time-capsule atmosphere. These days, neighborhood workers from firemen and electricians to lawyers and musicians drop in to chat with James “Jamo” McManus, the founder’s grandson, who is on hand nearly every night.
— Alexandra Ringe, New York Magazine
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E very summer McManus gives back to the city by hosting a day
of stickball. In the 1950's, the game was a national pastime for urban kids who improvised a baseball game with a broom handle bat, rubber ball, and (if you were lucky) chalk to draw the strike zone on an empty lot wall. Most often kids would play in the middle of the street, dodging passing cars and using whatever marker they could as bases. Back in the day, NY Giants' slugger Willie Mays was a three-sewer hitter!
On "Stickball Sunday", the street is closed to traffic, free beer flows from a keg on the sidewalk, and hot dogs, chicken, and ribs are given away from the kitchen. (Although everything's free, voluntary donations go to pediatric cancer research.)
Players of all ages "swing for the fences", or in this case, apartment buildings towards the 8th Avenue end. Sightseers atop 7th Avenue double decker tour buses can be seen snapping photos of locals enjoying this quintessential NYC tradition. A good time is had by all—PLAY BALL!
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