Pubs are better than bars and beer is better than lager. In America, pubs are called bars and lager is called beer. Confusing. One such bar that is really a pub is Corner Bistro, a grand old drinking tavern dealing in $3 McSorely Ales and $8 burgers. It is the best bar/pub in New York, when it isn’t busy.
Now when somewhere is as brilliant as Corner Bistro it is going to be popular, a bit too popular. You can find it in all the tourist guides nowadays so you will witness people from all over the world, hovering by the entrance, trying to pay with 5 credit cards and eating a burger with a knife and fork. This can often put people off going, and that is a big mistake.
See, Corner Bistro is best when the tourists are gone. Noon on a Saturday, when they show Premier League games on the main telly. When there are just a few other people in the place. When you can hear the jazz being played through the age-old speakers. Three o’clock in the afternoon on a weekday, when you get a burger that wasn’t pre-cooked. When you can just sit at the old wooden bar and feel as comfortable as you would at home. When you can stay long enough to get hungry for a second burger.
There is a lovely elder statesman bartender too. The kind of granddad figure you wish could tuck you in at night. Despite how busy it can get, how many old glasses pile up on the side he goes about his business with a steady hand. Always keen to cover a round or two if you hang about.
Corner Bistro has been a West Village institution since the early 1900s. There are a few other ace old bars in Downtown Manhattan. Top places such as Fanelli Café where you can still see the hidden Prohibition doorway. Or Ear Inn, formerly known as James Brown House, named after George Washington’s slave who owned the building after being freed. Then there is White Horse Tavern where Dylan Thomas had his last ever drink and uttered his final words of "I've had 18 straight whiskies...I think that's the record.”
These are all excellent places, with great bartenders, burgers and ambience but Corner Bistro is the best of the old crowd.