New York City is a drinking city. It’s an eating city too. And a walker’s city. And a city to go after your dreams. It’s an everything city. But for the case of this article, it’s a drinking city. Everyone has a their own neighborhood bar. The list of options is quite substantial.
The best day to drink in the Apple is St. Patrick’s Day. Every bar and club turns into an Irish Pub. There’s something about St. Patrick’s Day in New York that is much more of a drinker’s party delight rather than any other major or minor holiday and sports event. That being said, I don’t go to any pub, bar, or club on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s too crowded and the scene is never a good mix of the civilized and the not-so. I don’t drink every day when in NYC, but when I do I make sure it’s around late September to celebrate Arthur’s Day, the founder of Guinness, because if it wasn’t for him, despite what factual evidence proves, there would have never been a day to celebrate St. Pat.
When it comes to an Irish Pub, I don’t need live music all of the time. I don’t need a place with a rich history. It can be brand new for all I care. I don’t look at what there is to eat. I’m not into the bar food options whether they be Irish themed or just your regular burger and wing selections. The only concern I have when it comes to picking an Irish pub is how fresh the Guinness keg is and how often it has been used. Luckily, New York is a place that offers an Irish Pub even for the pickiest of drinkers like myself. That place is MacLaren’s.
I found out about MacLaren’s from always hanging around the cast and crew of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. After September 11, they wanted to pay their respects to the fallen men and women of Hell’s Kitchen by the only proper way, raising a pint in their honor.
MacLaren’s is a fledgling pub among the new backdrop of the gentrified Hell’s Kitchen. A place that used to house the poor now houses the rich, trust fund kids, and name brand theatre actors and actresses. Instead of porn shops on every street corner, now there’s some chef driven concept pop up with a patio. MacLaren’s lies below street level of an apartment complex that appears to be off the beaten path. Inside is just as no-frills as the outside. There aren’t pictures of celebrities who’ve visited with their autographs or Polaroids from parties of years past. It’s not an extended version of some sort of Guinness marketing machine. It’s just a bar that happens to serve the stuff. It houses about 40 people at most with a few booths by the bar, a couple in the back, some free standing tables and five bar stools. It pays homage to the land it’s on by showcasing a mural one might find in Rockefeller Center. There are black and white pictures of the men who built the city and a sign that reads, “On the year of 1897, nothing happened.” That pretty much sums up the style of MacLaren’s.
There aren’t any TV’s, so the sports crowd doesn’t go. There isn’t a stage so the people looking for music don’t step in. It doesn’t pride itself on craft beers and gourmet bites so the IPA lovers and Yelp Eliters don’t waste their time at MacLaren’s either. It doesn’t have any sort of old history, so the clientele are relatively in their 30s who are just starting to set up their New York drinking traditions. There is a good mix of natives and people who now consider themselves locals in the city. One half of the place appears to house civilized new money hipsters and good looking cats, but when you get to know them, they’re as Midwestern as one can get with a strong blue collar mentality who are only looking for a quiet place to have a good but cheap drink. They’re just as real as the other side, the service men and women who help keep the city safe. They’re off duty, of course, and quite young. Seeing the sight of the new Boots and Probies proves the point that many of the old timers have collected their pensions and the city is starting to hire many new recruits. There’s a food menu, but it’s hardly used and for good reason. People come here to drink. With the eclectic mix, MacLaren’s has turned out to be the city’s most desirable pick up place where men actually go up to women to try their luck instead of just swiping right and left.
MacLaren’s keeps the elitists, snobs, smugs, bros, douches, and prima donnas out by not having any IPA’s. If you want your hops, go somewhere else. They don’t advertise that they pour a great Guinness, but they do. Nothing will ever come close to the stuff one drinks in the Emerald City but at MacLaren’s, it’s a good distant cousin which by today’s standards, is pretty darn close. A fresh keg with clean draft lines always pours day in and day out and at the right temperature too in the perfect 20 ounce tulip glass. I’ve never had to wonder, how long has the keg been sitting unused. They offer a couple of other no-named brews on tap and bottled beer including Coney Island Lager. They have your usual other liquors too, but nothing too highbrow. Their top shelf vodka is Tito’s and their top shelf tequila is Milagro. They keep the prices down to $4-$8 a drink for this reason and if you are a frequent flyer you are able to keep a tab. The bartenders know how to make cocktails too, but whether or not they want to is a whole different matter. I’ve had my fair share of Old Fashions, Negronis, Manhattans, Moscow Mules, and even Zombies at MacLaren’s. They’re just not as special as their Guinness, plus in New York, there are better bars that serve them. Don’t expect anything fruity or frozen, this is not the place for that.
One gets what they pay for when going to MacLaren’s, a place with no expectations or pomp and circumstance filled with people who truly feel proud to live in the city and call it their own. For the fallen firefighters and police officers of this city, I think that’s the best tip-of-the-hat a person can do, as long as theirs a Guinness in their right hand.
ATMOSPHERE: Stylish 30 something’s swap the days highs and lows of city life while sipping a Guinness or cheap drink and surveillancing the immediate area for a possible new love interest.
SERVICE: Adequate. The bartenders know how to stand behind the bar and get you what you want in a timely fashion, but other than that, don’t expect anything more.
SOUND LEVEL: At a medium. Loud enough that you don’t have to hear other’s conversations but not too loud where you are screaming.
RECOMMENDED: Just get street food afterwards.
DRINKS: Guinness and a fully stocked bar.
PRICES: Drinks $4-$8
OPEN: 7 days a week from 9am-4am
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No