The Literary Pub Crawl: A Guide To New York City's Best Spots

The Literary Pub Crawl: A Guide To New York City's Best Spots

Have a drink where your favorite authors did.


As an introverted, book-loving, vaguely anxious twenty-something, it should come as no shock that I'm not a fan of going out of a Saturday evening. Generally speaking, my Saturday evenings consist of homework or, if I'm feeling adventurous, some Netflix. All that said, there are several exceptions to my dislike of rubbing shoulders with strangers and socializing; I'm a fan of bookstores, farmer's markets, Washington Square Park and literary bars.

Now by the literary bar, I am also referring to establishments with a literary slant, but mostly I'm talking about bars famous authors and literary personalities used to frequent. I'm not a big drinker, but I am a big reader, and getting to spend time in the very same place a favorite author did is an opportunity too great to pass up. New York City happens to be packed wall to wall with old haunts of authors, so it's a great place to undertake the ambitious literary pub crawl.

Start your evening at Kettle of Fish in Greenwich Village.

The basement bar gives off a definite Eric Forman's basement vibe, with cozy couches and vintage arcade games like pinball and Ms. Pac-Man. Today an enclave for Packers fans, it was once the favorite hideaway of Jack Kerouac. Late one night, he had his arm and nose broken in a knockdown fight on the pavement outside the establishment. Bring your battered and annotated copy of "On The Road" with you, or your own notebook to jot down thoughts in. You'll want to look the part of a Beatnik, so invest in a black turtleneck or a striped shirt and adopt a bored expression. If you're particularly brave, try out a black beret.

Order: A margarita, Kerouac's personal favorite.

From Kettle of Fish, head over to White Horse Tavern, also in the Village.

Literary patrons of this bar are too numerous to list in completion--a veritable who's who of bookish genius. Norman Mailer, Jim Morrison (yes, I know he was in The Doors, but he was also a poet), Hunter S. Thompson, Anais Nin, and Allen Ginsberg all spent time at the bar, as did Kerouac--who apparently got thrown out so many times that someone scribbled, "Jack, go home," on the wall of the men's bathroom. The most famous patron though, is Dylan Thomas, the Welsh author and poet who wrote "Do not go gently into that good night," among others. Thomas and the pub passed into legend when, on November 3, 1953, he drank 18 straight shots of whiskey at the bar, staggered back to his hotel, and died several days later, albeit from unrelated causes. Thomas favored flamboyant neck-wear, so rock a bow tie and a pipe--one of his other vices--while perusing your copy of "Under Milk Wood" at the bar.

Order: What else? Thomas' poison of choice: a whiskey, neat.

Now, on to the Flatiron District and Old Town Bar.

This bar is a New York City fixture, operating in the same spot since 1892. Prohibition, which sounded the death knell for many other establishments, didn't affect Old Town--it simply renamed itself Craig's Restaurant and began to function as a speakeasy, providing alcohol for the thirsty city dwellers under the noses of the cops. The bar also has a literary connection, as the favorite watering hole of Nick Hornby, Seamus Heaney, and Frank McCourt. A signed copy of "Angela's Ashes" even hangs above one of the booths. Rock a button down like Mr. McCourt while re-reading your own copy of "Angela's Ashes" and trying not to cry in public.

Order: A pint of Guinness.

Next up is the East Village and McSorley's Old Ale House.

This bar has a somewhat checkered history, as a "Men's Only" institution since its founding, only admitting women from 1970 and on--and then only due to a court order. That aside, the bar has hosted many influential figures, serving Presidents Lincoln, Grant and Roosevelt. Hunter S. Thompson and e. e. cummings were also frequent patrons here, and cummings wrote "I was sitting in McSorley's" in 1923 about the bar, in which he spoke of "the ale which never lets you grow old." Grab your collapsible top hat and Harris tweed jacket and your copy of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" for this outing to make for the perfect Cummings-Thompson hybrid.

Order: The house-brewed ale, which comes in pairs, one brew light and one dark.

Your final stop is the Blue Bar at the Algonquin Hotel in Midtown West.

Home to the famed Algonquin Round Table--which started as a practical joke!--which was made up of Dorothy Parker, Alexander Woollcott, George Kaufman, Robert Benchley, and Robert Sherwood, among others. These literary minds met at the hotel for lunch each day from 1919 until around 1929, playing poker there in the evenings as well. Later, they would incorporate new members like Tallulah Bankhead, Noel Coward, and even Harpo Marx. His brother Groucho didn't think much of the gang--he said that "the price of admission is a serpent's tongue and a half-concealed stiletto." It's certainly true that biting witticisms were thrown around often--the group even called themselves "The Vicious Circle," and loved to play practical jokes on each other. However, they were no slouches, and four of them would go on to win Pulitzer Prizes for their writing. For this location, pull out all the stops--break out your finest Roaring Twenties inspired attire and grab your copy of "The Portable Dorothy Parker." Best to keep a witty rejoinder or two in the bank as well.

Order: A whiskey sour, Dorothy's favorite.

Just to be clear, I am not advocating getting smashed--even though many of these authors did. The more responsibly you drink, the more brain cells you'll have left to write the next great American novel.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Disney Plus

Millions of musical-lovers around the world rejoiced when "Hamilton," the hip-hop-mixtape-turned-musical harder to get in to than Studio 54, came to Disney Plus.

For those who had the luxury of being able to watch it in person and rewatch it with us mere mortals on our screens, the experience was almost as gripping as sitting feet from Lin-Manuel Miranda himself. From the stunning sets, graceful choreography, witty dialogue, and hauntingly beautiful singing, the experience was one even my musical-averse family felt moved by.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

We Asked You How You Felt About Resuming 'Normal' Activities, And Some Of Your Answers Shocked Us

The New York Times asked 511 epidemiologists when they'd feel comfortable doing "normal" activities again, considering COVID-19. We asked our peers the same thing, for science.

Last month, the New York Times surveyed about 500 epidemiologists asking about their comfort level with certain activities once deemed normal — socializing with friends, going to the doctor, bringing in the mail. That's all well and good for the experts, but they are a very niche group, not the majority of the population. What do "normal" people feel safe doing? In certain states, we've seen how comfortable everyone is with everything (looking at you, Florida), but we wanted to know where Odyssey's readers fell on the comfort scale. Are they sticking with the epidemiologists who won't be attending a wedding for another year, or are they storming the sunny beaches as soon as possible?

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Keto Is All Fun And Games Until You're Undernourished And Almost Pass Out

Keto is just another extension of diet culture that boasts rapid weight loss, but at a steep price.

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

There has been a Keto diet craze going around in the past couple of years, with many of its followers claiming significant weight loss. With any new, trendy diet claiming miraculous weight-loss, one starts to wonder what exactly is happening behind the curtain. The keto, or ketogenic, diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet that claims to help the body shift its fuel source from carbs to fat. In the medical community it has been prescribed to patients with uncontrolled epilepsy to reduce the frequency of seizures, but other than that there is little conclusive evidence to other potential benefits.

Keep Reading... Show less

Jennifer Kustanovich is not only the president of the Odyssey at Stony Brook University but is also an illuminating yoga instructor. She's an inspiring proactive leader in the wellness industry. Her expertise in movement expands onto Zumba and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

On the last day of her in-person class, she gave everyone a way of contacting her and made sure to check up on all her clients. She wanted to ensure that they were doing okay and to remind them that she is always there.

Keep Reading... Show less

These 5 Black Female-Owned Swimwear Brands Are Must-Haves For Your HOTTEST Summer Yet

To all the woman who put their money where their mouth is, lets do two things for the price of one.

The start of summer is always exciting,(especially after an unprecedented pandemic) and people are itching to make this particular summer count. Correction: with the amount gratefulness I have for life at this moment in time I am itching to make this summer count.

But at the same time, in the midst of social justice issues, activism is something that is at the forefront of many people's minds, including mine. With money comes power and buying Black is a way to directly help the marginalized and oppressed while getting something in return.

Keep Reading... Show less

These Are The Black-Owned Restaurants In Chicago You Should Absolutely Be Supporting

Support the movement and your appetite at the same time with these amazing spots.

The Black Lives Matter movement is taking the country by storm to crash down systematic racism and liberate people of color. However, during these changing it can be hard to determine what you can do to make an impact besides reposting Instagram stories and texting petition numbers. Instead, support Black-owned businesses or, more specifically, Black-owned restaurants. Here are some outstanding and underrated Black-owned restaurants in Chicago that can help you support the movement.
Keep Reading... Show less

10 Things To Know About LDRs, From A Couple Separated By The Atlantic Ocean AND A Pandemic

There will be challenges, but more often than not, it's worth it.

Most individuals in relationships have not been able to go on romantic dates in quite a while due to business closures in the wake of the pandemic. Other couples have encountered challenges while seeing each other face to face in the past three months due to coronavirus regulations. Long-distance relationships have unfortunately become a reality for many in this era of global health crises. Western New York native and travel journalist, Chelsea Baron, knows this all too well.

Keep Reading... Show less

5 Easy Summer Mocktail Recipes You Can Make With Items You Probably Already Have On-Hand

Keep these drinks in mind next time you're visiting your local farmer's market — you might want to grab some extra mint and limes.

With Summer 2020 in full swing comes the addition of many fresh fruits and vegetables to brighten up your dinner plate, but also your glass! Farmers markets are my personal favorite place to look for produce that is in season to make fun mocktails with.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments