In days of yore when New York was almost solely an Irish-Italian-Jewish influenced city, the Irish were (in HG’s opinion) very unfairly maligned as food-know-nothings — folks who paid undue attention to strong drink and not enough to good eating. Well, HG (in his impecunious college and early journalist days) ate very well in Manhattan’s Irish saloons. These joints either bore the name of the proprietor (Kelly, Murphy, etc.) or their ancestral turf (Kerry, Down, Shannon,etc.). For some reason (probably low rent) they were often located under the elevated trains that used to roar around the city (Third Avenue, Sixth Avenue, Pearl Street,etc. — all of which were demolished just before or a few years after World War Two). As noted previously by HG, most saloons had big jars of pickled pig knuckles and hardboiled eggs on the bar. But, the big specialty — you guessed it — was corned beef and cabbage. HG can visualize it now: A big, indestructible plate with three healthy slices of corned beef rimmed in fat (fat is flavor, of course); a wedge of cabbage (alas, often overcooked); large boiled potato; hot mustard. A glass of Ballantine’s beer straight from the tap kept it company. This was straightforward, hearty food much appreciated by the working class clientele of the saloons. Customers were classier (stockbrokers, tea, coffee and cocoa brokers) In the saloons under the Pearl Street El. And, the corned beef and cabbage was a shade more aristocratic. Some gin mills had steam tables where inedible beef and lamb stew languished.
A true gourmand destination was a Third Avenue saloon named Connolly’s (near 23rd Street, HG recalls) that was a favorite of uniformed cops as well as detectives and other law enforcement types. The parade dish was pot roast and it was the best HG has ever tasted. It was served as a knife-and-fork sandwich. The very thick sandwich was placed in a bowl and lavishly doused with extraordinarily lush and robust dark brown gravy. Ah!! Up the Rebels!!
Erin Go Bragh!!