Archive for January, 2011

The Ear Bar

Out of the way, down by the Hudson River, is an old neon sign that’s supposed to read BAR but has been burned out on the curves of the ‘B’ forcing the word EAR.  It’s attached to a small two-story building that looks like a house that at first glance might have been a fisherman’s home, a sailor’s respite or something else entirely.  For all that it might have been, what it certainly is, is old.

I call it the Ear Bar, but the real name is the Ear Inn at the James Brown House of 1817.  Many places in New York, much to a history buff’s chagrin, claim the title of Oldest Bar.  Pete’s Tavern, McSorley’s I’m sure.  One thing is for certain:  Ear Inn can give them a run for their money.  Built in 1817 for a man named James Brown, a black man formerly of General George Washington’s merry band of miscreants, this house has been everything.  An inn, a bar, a restaurant, a home.  Currently, it’s a Bar and Restaurant with the title of Inn on the National Registry of Historic Places.  They do their very best to make you feel right at home.

The ceilings are old slatted wood painted white, the sorts of things you don’t see anymore.  While most bars that try to be “old-fashioned” put the punched tin atop their patrons, this low wooden ceiling gives the comfort and closeness of a neighborhood bar with the sense that sailors sat back there in the corner drinking their rum and cat calling the ladies that dared enter for a libation.  But I’m romanticizing a bit.

Above the well-stocked bar, there are bottles of varying sizes, shapes and colors, things that would have carried wine and rum to Davy Jones’ locker if it came down to it.  They look to have a thin film of dust on the insides that can never be cleaned.  It’s well earned dust from history that rests in there.

Their beer selection is surprisingly good.  You won’t find much in the way of craft beers, but they do have their own house ale, the Ear Inn Ale is well-rounded and just the sort of ale you want to be drinking if you’re in the mood for an ale.  Not too hoppy, but just enough to give you that twinge of bitter.  They rock the Yeungling and the Guinness (which, let’s face it, if you’re in a sailor’s bar that is as old as this one, you’ll probably want either the house ale or a Guinness) along with a couple of other small breweries on tap.

To top it all off, the food ain’t too shabby either.  They make a mean shepherd’s pie, their burgers are pretty spot on; the cheese runs gets a little burned and crispy.  In my book, that makes it. and I can vouch for the Tuna Melt, though there are better options on the menu.  Everything comes with a tiny little pre-bagged salad.  While you wait for your order to come, you can draw on the tables with crayons.  The wait for food is usually a little long, so it’s nice to have something to occupy you.

There are two TVs with sports playing, there’s no jukebox to speak of, just a radio or an iPod behind the bar, but it really doesn’t matter.  This isn’t a jukebox joint.  It’s a working class bar that knows what it is:  We serve beer and burgers to fellas on the job.

It’s a great place.  Do yourself a favor and go.  Take a date to one of the oldest bars in New York.  Show your mom and dad the place that was built for a Revolutionary War veteran.  It’s out of the way, off the Spring Street C/E stop down by the water but it’s most assuredly one of the anonymous places that make New York famous.



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