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NEW YORK CITY | The Travel Empire - Part 4


The Downtown Irish Stroll: Irish Guide to New York City

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COLLECT POND PARK: This park represents the site of the 18th century Collect Pond, a large pool of water fed by an underground spring. However, by the early 19th century the body of water had transformed into an open sewer. Around 1810 the city had filled the pond with land from an adjacent hill. The land began to emit a foul odor, driving it residents away until the eventual settlement of the notorious Five Points slum, named for the five “points” that defined its territory: Mulberry Street, Anthony (present-day Worth) Street, Cross (present-day Musco) Street, Orange (present-day Baxter) Street, and Little Water Street (no longer exists). Leonard Street between Centre and Lafayette Streets

EMIGRANTS SAVINGS BANK: If you are doing the entire walk through the area, you’ll pass this bank, founded by Irish emigrants as a mutual savings bank in 1850. 261 Broadway at Warren Street

THE IRISH HUNGER MEMORIAL: Devoted to raising public awareness of the Great Irish Famine (An Gorta Mór) and migration of 1845-1852, this memorial stands on a half-acre site just off the Hudson River. A platform produced from Kilkenny limestone elevates a mass of lush green grass above the concrete of the city streets. Containing stones from each of Ireland’s 32 counties, fossils from the ancient Irish seabed and numerous quotes etched into frosted glass, the memorial also houses a traditional fieldstone cottage from Carradoogan. Corner of Vesey Street and North End Avenue in Battery Park City

TRINITY PLACE: To enter this Irish pub you’ll step down the bustling downtown sidewalk through a golden 35 ton bank vault door which will lead you into this cavernous restaurant and bar space that occupies a former bank vault dating back to 1904. This pub marries Old World charm with modern indulgence to create an elegant yet relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. 115 Broadway between Pine Street and Thames Street

THE FULL SHILLING: Another convenient downtown watering hole where you’re likely to be greeted by an Irish brogue upon walking through the door. The main backbar and counter are 105 years old, directly transferred by boat from its original home at a bar in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The authenticity of the bar builds upon the Old World charm of the space. 160 Pearl Street between Pine St. and Wall St.

NYC: Finding the Craic

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CRAIC: n. (Gaelic-English slang). Fun, enjoyment or lighthearted mischief. An enjoyable time spent with others.

It’s no secret that the Irish have maintained a long-standing presence in New York City, which, thankfully, means there is also no shortage of Irish-centric activities to enjoy.  Sports, theater, history, culture and Irish pubs, you can’t leave out the Irish pubs.

Gaelic Park: Located in the Bronx, Gaelic Park is the home of weekly Gaelic football and hurling matches hosted by the Gaelic Athletic Association of Greater New York. On first appearance, it does not look like much more than an open pavilion and field enclosed by elevated train tracks, but upon entering the park, it becomes obvious that this is a unique gathering place for Irish immigrants and Irish-Americans alike.

4000 Corlear Avenue, Bronx

Glucksman Ireland House: Located on NYU’s campus in the heart of Greenwich Village, Ireland House serves as the University’s center for Irish Studies. During the academic year, they host a variety of weekly, public events. Former featured guests have included Black 47’s Larry Kirwan, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, Novelist Peter Quinn and former Taoiseach Dr. Garret FitzGerald.

1 Washington Mews

The Irish Repertory Theatre: First opening it doors in 1988 with the goal to bring the works of Irish and Irish-American writers and playwrights to American audiences, the Irish Rep now occupies a renovated warehouse in Chelsea and is the only year-round theater company in the city featuring such plays.

132 West 22nd between 21st and 22nd Street

The American-Irish Historical Society: Founded in 1897, the Society serves as a center for Irish culture and scholarship. Through a series of lectures, concerts, art exhibits and its literary journal, the Society explores the achievements of the Irish in America and the contemporary transatlantic Irish experience.

991 Fifth Avenue between 80th and 81st Street

There are thousands of Irish pubs throughout New York City, you’d have to go out of your way to avoid passing one on the street. As the spirit of Irish comradery extends far off the shores of Ireland, Irish bars throughout the city capture all of the comfort and friendliness of the local pub. Here is a short list to get you going…Sláinte!

The Full Shilling: A genuine piece of Ireland in downtown Manhattan…literally. The interior of the bar is 150 years old, shipped from another bar in Belfast and reassembled upon arrival in New York. The bar provides an intimate atmosphere with limited seating nooks in the front but ample room for larger groups towards the back.

160 Pearl Street between Wall Street and Pine Street

Peter McManus Cafe: One of the oldest family-run bars in the city, McManus is a true relic, as evidenced from the bar’s Tiffany glass front windows and interior wooden phone booth. A diverse, but neighborhood crowd, generally fills the bar.

152 Seventh Avenue at 19th Street

The Dead Poet: A well needed change amid the frat house and 80’s throwback bars lining Amsterdam Avenue. A long narrow bar with billiards and some seating in the back. In living up to its namesake, the bar lends outs the books lining the walls. Don’t worry if you lack the literary prowess to get your work noticed, the bar also offers notoriety in the form of engraved plaques boasting the names of those who reach the 100 Guinness mark.

450 Amsterdam Avenue between 81st Street and 82nd Street

The Emerald Inn: Family run for three generations since the 1940’s, this cozy Irish bar with a wooden interior looks like a rural Irish cottage in the heart of Lincoln Center. Due to a recent lease dispute, the long-term future of this bar remains uncertain, so be sure to sit down for a pint and some traditional Irish fare while you still can.

205 Columbus Avenue at 69th Street (Scheduled to close April 30, 2013 due to rent increase!)

NYC: Bars That Provide Their Own Entertainment

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If you are in the mood for a place that offers more than just a great crowd and strong selection of libations, then you may wish to consider one of these off-beat picks. Indoor bocce ball? An emptied out garage full of classic arcade games? What about an entire bowling alley within a bar? If any of these options sounds enticing then you will be happy to hear that you are just scratching the surface of the city’s offerings of unusually entertaining bars.

Barcade: Only marked by a small lit sign and curbside chalkboard marker, the graffiti covered brick-facade makes the bar easy to miss on first pass. The garage door sized entrance opens into a small outdoor seating area, featuring a bottle cap backdrop and wood stump stools. Once inside, the large, open space is anchored by a concrete top bar featuring an extensive and rotating selection of micro brews. Enclosing the bar are rows of vintage arcade games, such as Tapper, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Frogger and many others.

388 Union Avenue between Powers St & Ainslie St, Brooklyn

The Gutter: By the same creators who brought Barcade to Williamsburg, The Gutter is a vintage style, eight lane bowling alley in a converted factory building. The lanes are equipped, in the loosest sense of the word, with 1970’s Brunswick scoring machines, wooden side tables and table lamps. With only eight lanes, the wait on weekends tends to be long. Fortunately, separated by a glass partition, is a full bar. The vintage theme runs into the wood-paneled bar room, where Tiffany lamps hang over the bar and a random assortment of photos and plaques line the walls. Grab a seat in one of the booths or faux leather captains chairs to partake in the featured selection of local and regional beers.

200 North 14th Street between Wythe Ave & Berry St., Brooklyn

Mason Dixon: Identified by its sliding barn door, this massive open-spaced bar is home to one of Manhattan’s two mechanical bulls. Fashioned after a large wooden barn, this Southern style restaurant and bar boosts a strong selection of bourbon and beer. A can of beer and a shot of any top shelf bourbon earn you a free ride on the bull, although it may take more drinks than that to faces the rowdy crowds encircling the bull ring. Without the drink deal, bull rides are $5.

133 Essex Street between Stanton and Rivington

Brooklyn Bowl: Occupying the 23,000 square foot, former Hecla Iron Works factory, Brooklyn Bowl offers something to keep everyone entertained…a sixteen lane bowling alley, a concert venue, two fully-stocked large bars and food by Blue Ribbon.

61 Wythe Avenue between N. 11th & N.12th Streets, Brooklyn

Manhattan’s Elevated Park: The High Line

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The 1.45 mile long public park sits thirty feet above street level along Manhattan’s west side, stretching from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District north to 34th Street. The elevated train tracks were originally built in the 1930’s as a response to the high number of accidents between freight trains and street traffic that earned 10th Avenue the nickname Death Avenue. Freight traffic ceased using the elevated railway in 1980.

By the mid-1980’s activists and railroad enthusiasts began fighting against demolition of the High Line and in 1999 Friends of the High Line, a non-profit organization, began advocating for its reuse as a public park. The first section of the High Line, from Gansevoort Street to 20th Street, opened to the public in 2009. The open-air, elevated park is designed as an integrated landscape that incorporates the structural features of the original railroad tracks into the new layout. Highlights include movable wooden lounge chairs that roll along the old tracks, stadium style seating overlooking 17th Street, seasonally landscaped gardens and numerous public art works.

Section 1 Entrances: Gansevoort Street, 14th Street (elevator access), 18th Street (elevator access) & 20th Street

Section 2 (extending up to 30th Street) scheduled to open in 2011

NYC Street Food: Takoyaki

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A round ball of diced octopus, covered with piles of fish flakes, mayonnaise, pickled ginger, green onion, okonomiyaki sauce and who knows what else. The chef will prepare them in short order batches, periodically turning them over in the pan until the exterior maintains an even brown. If you’re lucky, the concoction is barely cooked on the inside, keeping the batter moist and gooey.  Loose fish flakes will fly away in the slightest breeze as you attempt to devour these little critters as fast as possible, the hot steam be damned. You will get maybe a half-dozen in an order, and perhaps a toothpick in lieu of a fancy pair of chopsticks.  A word of advice: let the vendors pile on everything they have to offer.

From the picture, you can see that 500 yen (a little more than $5.00) is the going rate for an order. This particular vendor was located near Yoyogi National Stadium in the Shibuya ward of Tokyo.

Possibly the best hole-in-the-wall to pick up takoyaki in New York City: Otafuku at 236 East 9th (between 2nd and 3rd).

Written by Jason Summerfield