Now that summer is winding down, the nights of drinking on boats are coming to an end. My friends and I have decided this fall that instead of going to whatever bar has the cheapest happy hour specials, we are going to finally explore NYC’s most historic bars. This idea was sparked with a trip to McSorley’s earlier this month and brought a few of us to Marie’s Crisis Cafe in the West Village last week.
According to NY Mag, Marie’s Crisis Cafe was originally a prostitute’s den in the 1850s, a “boy bar” in the 1890s, and it stayed open through Prohibition. Make sure to check out the “mirror” behind the bar, which has scenes from the American Revolution but in which you cannot actually see your reflection because it is so old and dirty. Thomas Paine himself died at this address, which is where the “Crisis” part of the bar name comes from – referencing Paine’s “The Crisis Papers.”
We walked in and within a minute, a single note played on the piano. I instantly got a flashback and realized that I had been there before. I stopped by once years ago around 3:30 in the morning and forgot all about it until that piano made some noise. I now recall telling myself to remember it so I could return, but it was one of those nights after which I didn’t remember much and I am so glad to have happened upon it again.
This place has everything. Piano players who only play showtunes and the theme song to the Golden Girls. Former glee club members and aspiring Broadway stars singing along to every word. Singing waiters. Your favorite CBS Sunday Morning correspondent enjoying the scene with you. $5 white wine that tastes like absolute crap but is $3 less than a bottle of Stella. Ghosts.
I spoke with one of the managers (who I believe was named Mike, but I had consumed several glasses of $5 wine at this point) who told me all about the ghosts. He himself does not typically believe in them but has had two strange experiences. One in which footsteps were heard inside once the bar was closed for the night and one in which a woman’s voice was heard in the basement and it just so happens that in the 1980s, a woman died down there. Needless to say, I would not go to the basement bathrooms by myself after hearing that tale.
We got called out by the piano player at one point as “Hiltons” so we assumed he thought we were tourists. He asked what we wanted to hear and I panicked and all I could think of was “Something from Oklahoma?” Everyone rolled their eyes and he started playing “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No” which isn’t even a song that I remembered. Next time I am going with a list of songs that I think the crowd would approve of, although it’s tough to tell what would go over well and what would not. There are *many* regulars here.
Aside from the ghosts, this place is seriously the best. It makes for a completely non-typical night out in Manhattan that everyone should experience at least once. If you need someone to go with, “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No.”