by Carrie Pestronk
Whether it is your neighborhood or not, the Carriage House located at 219 East 59th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, is the ideal neighborhood bar and retreat. Brimming over with authentic Irish pub flair, the Carriage House has been a staple on the Upper East Side since current owner Richard Mahon took over in 1992. With his charming Irish brogue and his inviting personality, Rich fondly recalls his first time at the Carriage House. “When I first got to New York (from Ireland), this was the first bar I got a job at and one of the first places I had a drink,” he boasts proudly now of the location which he owns, manages and operates.
The 2,000 square foot space offers in-house entertainment including the dartboard, trivia machine and pool table that patrons seem to love whether it is after work for a cocktail, lunch during the workday or on the weekends for a ball game. A flat screen TV is never out of your line of vision so you won’t miss that big play even if you are busy gabbing with your friends. And if you want to bring your laptop to do work or continuously check the score of other games – this one-of-a-kind pub even offers free WiFi!
From the pub-style menu that includes fan favorites such as wings, chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks and jalapeño poppers to the more traditional and tasty Irish house specialties including Shepard’s pie and Fish & Chips – the options are full and plentiful. “We make some special cocktails here too,” Rich elaborates as he explains his drink menu stretches much further than just Guinness. “We do 7 ½ oz. cocktails which feature fresh fruit puree and top shelf liquor. These are the kind of drinks that you would most often find in high-end, trendy restaurants.” Glamorous and exotic drinks such as the Blood Orange Cosmo or the Passion Fruit martini are palate pleasing to those looking for something lush and sweet. On the other hand, don’t discount the power of a good Irish whiskey after a long day at work – Carriage House has 6 different kinds including Jameson, Black Bush and Powers. Check out the extensive cocktail menu online (www.thecarriagehousenyc.com) and chuckle to yourself as you are serenaded by Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” song, a well-chosen albeit off-color musical selection for a bar’s website.
Carriage House has developed a special following by local chefs and restaurant employees from many of the area’s finest restaurants such as Charlie Trotter’s and Daniel. “We get a huge number of chefs and waiters who come in late night to get a bite to eat and a drink after their restaurants close,” Rich says. It could be the legendary burgers homemade from fresh prime beef or the jovial, upbeat nature that captivates patrons the minute they set foot in the Carriage House, but there is always a steady stream through the front door. Happy Hour specials (4-7pm; weekdays) feature $1 off all drinks and Sunday/Monday football specials feature Bud, Bud Light, and Coors Light for $3 or $10/pitcher. And what would football be without a wing special ($.35 per wing). Carriage House does amazing private events (special packages and pricing upon request) too, if you have a special occasion or a holiday party in your upcoming future.
What sets Carriage House apart from other bars is its long, colorful history. Originally one of the first Blarney Stone bars, this venue opened in 1895 in the exact location it stands today. The bar always drew a crowd, which included “Blacky”, a horse who pulled one of the carriages that sat outside on 59th Street. Blacky used to come up and in through the window to grab a drink, and now he is immortalized by a wall mural inside.
When Rich took over in 1992, he decided to make some changes. But it wasn’t until 1999 when the landlord was forced to tear down the entire crumbling building. Rather than shut down and wait for the new venue to be built, Rich and the Carriage House persevered and the bar was kept open during the demolition. “There was no roof,” Rich reminisced, “They put a tarp over the top of the bar and we continued to serve drinks and run the bar normally.” It wasn’t until the tarp collapsed due to rain water which had pooled on top and washed away the patrons’ food and drinks that Rich took issue with his situation. “When that happened, I just bought a round of drinks for the house,” he smiles. And that’s what makes Carriage House so special.