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Tourists and Sports Fans at The Pig 'n' Whistle

There are more than 6,000 bars in New York City. About 200 of them get regular press. This column is about the other ones. Robert Simonson, a journalist and blogger of the drinking life, and the originator of the "A Beer At..." column, takes a peek inside Gotham’s more anonymous watering holes, one by one.

[Jenny Adams]

The way Irish pubs crowd the Theatre District, you'd think that George M. Cohan and his fellow Hibernians still dominated the New York stage as they did in the first decades of the 20th century. One of the oldest is the Pig 'n' Whistle, which, the sign says, was founded in 1969. This is one of a handful of bars in the City that go by that name, most under the same ownership. It was founded by John Mahon, who ran an Irish music hall in London, and Peter Magee, who owned a bar in the Bronx, also called the Pig 'n' Whistle. The website brags that the original location was in a W. 48th Street townhouse owned by President Taft, and that the place "quickly became the meeting place for New York's literary and banking elite." What bankers and writers were doing hanging about that part of midtown—or hanging out with each other—I have no idea.

The new location, on W. 47th near Time Square, is the meeting place of tourists and sports fans. Or maybe just tourists who are also sports fans. Anyway, no bankers. To my left at the bar was a Englishman who groaned or grunted with every triumph and failure of Manchester United. To my right were two strapping young German girls, sipping slowly through their glasses of Stella Artois, the ubiquitous Budweiser of imported beer. "Vat is that duck beer?" one asked the bartender. She meant the Goose Island IPA. The tap handle did kind of look like a duck. The bartender gave her a sample. She ordered a Boddington's instead. There is a long menu of Martinis, not a single one made with gin or vermouth. Also a Pig 'n' Whistle Ale on tap. But the bartender didn't know who made it for the bar, so I opted a pint of duck beer.

The guests over at the Doubletree Guest Suites across the street seem to like the Pig 'n' Whistle. Who can blame them? In the costly world of Times Square, it ranks as a cheap date. It's clean and there are t-shirts if you feel the need to take away a souvenir. A mother and two heavily-made-up daughters were given a whole booth, even though they announced their intention to only drink coffee. Most everyone else came in to watch the soccer game. The bartender killed the sound on the television when the commercials came on, but forgot to put it back on when the match returned. Nobody seemed to notice; they kept watching the game. The Englishman ordered another foamy Boddington's, "the cream of Manchester." He handed the barkeep a fifty. She held it up to the light. "It's OK," he said. "I just made it."
—Robert Simonson