"Old school" has become such a universal kudo that far too many bars exaggerate their fogeyism -- or worse yet put on antiquarian drag. Here are a few that truly hearken back to old New York.
It looks too modern to be old, but in fact this is one of the oldest bars in New York; it's been refurbished, but the ghosts are still there, along with the steak and shrimp cocktail.
Old, dank, crowded, and occasionally rowdy, this is one of the oldest bars in New York -- and it both looks and smells like it. That said, it has the virtue of still being a working, relevant bar, and not a parody of itself. The food quality is mediocre at best but I can't think of anywhere I'd rather drink a highball.
Ancient, rowdy, and run by a truculent old right-winger, this old-school bar is home to whiskey straight up and one of the city's best chili dogs.
The last thing you expect a German restaurant to be is gay, wildly festooned with fake leaves, and a rollicking spot for pork chops and pickup lines. And yet that's just what Rolf's is.
This place isn't just old to the point of venerability; it's downright strange. Set in a remote location and catering to a crew of oddballs and misfits, it's one of the few Manhattan bars left that truly has its own personality.
Just an absolute rathole, filthy and teeming with end-of-the-road drunks with one foot on a barstool and one in potter's field. New York used to have a million of these, but nowadays true dive bars are few and far between. This is one of them.
The food, like the room, is somewhat austere here, but if you are a serious student of gastronomy, you probably can't afford not to see what chef Paul Liebrandt is up to -- such is his influence and reputation among New York chefs.
The oldest continually operating bar in New York city, and maybe also the best, Sunny's started by catering to stevedores and now caters to an eclectic bunch of loyal weirdos and non-conformists. There isn't a scintilla of artifice to be found here anywhere.