THE STORIED BARS OF SOHO
History is in plain sight throughout Soho, and what better way to get a taste of the times than through the neighborhood’s staple bars? Dating back as far as 200 years, these reliable watering holes have been sating the thirst of generations of New Yorkers, from Prohibition through to Soho’s artist boom in the 1960s and beyond. Here are three bars where you can raise a glass in a storied space.
One of New York City’s oldest continually-operating bars stands at the edge of Soho. Dating back to 1817, The Ear Inn is listed on the national register of historic buildings. Over the course of its 200+ years in existence, it has remained a popular watering hole in several forms; starting out as a brewery serving thirsty sailors home-brewed beers and crocks of corn whiskey, it slowly morphed into a restaurant and dining room, a speakeasy during the Prohibition, and finally the bar that we now know. Today, the small bar is beloved for its live music lineup, including jazz and bluegrass three nights a week, its outdoor benches for cold beers on a warm day, and its quality burger. You can rub elbows with all kinds of New Yorkers here until 4am daily.
326 Spring Street
Since the 1970s, this unpretentious bar has provided prime people watching at the corner of West Broadway and Broome Street. The bar was founded by WWII Veteran Kenneth Reisdorff, a Seattle-born Marine who moved to NYC as a cabinet maker. After settling in downtown Manhattan, Reisdorff decided to open an unassuming bar in Soho – and the rest is history. There’s a long wood bar, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking West Broadway, and for those looking to tuck away with a pint, there’s a quieter back room away from the action of the main bar. For decades, Kenn’s Broome Street Bar has been a gathering place for the creative locals of Soho, from artists to writers to musicians. In addition to a variety of beers on draught, the simple menu here satisfies munchies with classic burgers and club sandwiches.
363 West Broadway
Fanelli Café is considered to be the second oldest bar in New York City. Since its inception in 1847, New Yorkers have crossed the threshold of Fanelli’s on the corner of Prince Street and Mercer Street for beer, whiskey, conversation, and a haven to escape the bustling city streets. Similar to the Ear Inn, Fanelli’s continued to operate during the Prohibition era as a speakeasy, serving under-cover cocktails and beers to sneaky patrons. When artists began flooding the neighborhood in the 1960’s, the bar became their haunt – a notable favorite of both Bob Dylan and Chuck Close. The original wood bar remains, and the tables topped with red checkered tablecloths are a neighborhood favorite for casual pub fare including chicken wings, club sandwiches, and burgers.
94 Prince Street
Words by Jessica Colley Clarke