Houses built by jalapeño poppers like Cracker Barrel and Applebee’s have been capitalizing on some very vanilla notion of collective nostalgia for decades by nailing chamber pots and Elvis records above their sizzling plates of corn starch. What they may lack in authenticity they make up for with Kenny Chesney mumus in the gift shop. We felt a reversal of the equation was in order and so for your dining pleasure please consider these five actual old time New York saloons, dives, and houses of ill repute that deserve a second life as chain restaurants.
McGurk’s Suicide Hall
So named for the disturbing number of hobos and ladies of the night who decided to end it all with dosed shots under the impassive gaze of Mr. McGurk, this 14th St. dive is now an all-you-can-eat pan-Asian buffet. Eat til you keel or just go straight for the Suicide Platter: an entire tray of steamed pork buns washed down with a Scorpion Bowl.
The Burnt Rag
Contrary to its name you can still have your rag — rather, steak –medium rare at this nouveau rustic barbeque spot. Sawdust covered floors, consumptive child waiters and generous sides of hard tack will take you back to a simpler time. Green diners will also rejoice to note that all slaughtering and glue-making is done on the premises–often in view of your table.
Kit Burns’ Rat Pit
Perfect for rolling that dinner and a movie into one, Kit has kept the nightly rat fighting (two score or so rats vs. a single pit bull) but added a full tapas menu. Cheer on your favorite beady eyed gladiator as you sup on gambas, papas bravas, and a dry Cava.
Owney Geoghegan’s Hurdy Gurdy
At one time known as the bloodiest bucket of blood on the isle of Manhattan, this den of iniquity now offers skee ball, a full video game arcade, and deep-fried Snickers bars. One hundred tickets will earn you a year’s prepaid services of a comely serving lass so long as Owney’s house crew of mountebanks, card sharks, and short confidence men don’t get them from you first.
Arguably New York’s first gay bar, journalists of the era did not deign to discuss what happened behind closed doors at this downtown tavern. Now it’s nigh impossible to find the high society lady who is able to hold her tongue long when praising the banana parfaits and flirtinis on offer at this roadhouse with an all-male, all shirtless, crew of servers. Take The Slide for your next bachelorette party or Mother’s Day brunch.
Now that you have a destination in mind, prepare for the killjoys with The Four Horsemen of a Crappy Night Out.