Midtown Happy Hour: Desmond’s Tavern is Falling Apart

If you like to eat, chances are you like to drink (read: a lot of you are freakin’ lushes), so I thought maybe it was time to introduce a happy hour column to the site. Every week, our Happy Hour Correspondent “Mamacita” will post about a different bar in Midtown that fits the Midtown Lunch mentality: unhealthy food, not lame (unless it’s lame in a cool way), and most importantly… cheap. This week she heads to Desmond’s because another commenter told her not to.  (That’s how things work around here.)


In my last review of Subway Inn commenter Goats remarked, “If you write about Desmonds next or my beloved McCormacks, I’m seriously gonna hunt you down!” Well, what can I say? I couldn’t help but get his ‘goat’ by moving this bar up to the top of my list of happy hours to write about.


It’s important to know that Desmond’s Tavern is practically the only bar in this far stretch of Midtown East. Due to this it gets a healthy dose of workers filling the bar and large back room with the din of talking, laughing and the occasional exclaiming at the game on the tube. The slightly forgetful bartender was my favorite part of a recent night. He had an impressive comb over and poured a strong mixed drink. The group of us ordered some Brooklyn Lagers on draft and well drinks in the $5.50 to $6 range- not a great price, but if you’re working close by this can be overlooked for the chance to kick back and hang out at the bar with other friendly regulars and coworkers. We also ordered a few perfectly dirty martinis for $8.

The bartender, obviously fond of one of my girlfriends, proudly boasted that Desmond’s was housed in one of the few pre-famine buildings in NYC (i.e. the Ireland Potato Famine of 1845—49). From the looks of this place one could easily be convinced. The joint looks old. The smell was reminiscent of a moldy old coat and the floors quaked with any heavy step. However, the website tells of a more hollywoodesque day:

Desmond’s Tavern has been operating as a traditional New York Irish bar since 1936; it is the fourth oldest continuous operating bar in Manhattan. Its customers have been mainly New Yorkers working and living on Manhattan’s east side. Such notables as Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, Shane McGowan, Kevin Costner and Forrest Tucker have been seen at the bar. Veronica Lake was a waitress here in the 40′s.


After a few martinis and beers we finally felt hungry, only to find the kitchen was closed by 7pm that night. Not all was lost… though I didn’t get a taste, I did get an eyeful of some stuffed potato skins with bacon ($6) and thick long cheesy steak fries ($5) that looked perfectly suitable for drunken consumption. It was at about this time that we were again reminded of the buildings age.. err.. I mean history, in the form of a chunk of wood and ceiling tile that fell on top of a table and chair behind us.


Lest you be deterred, I will add a few more positive points. Thursdays through Saturdays Desmond’s has live bands and despite their old Irish sensibilities they even have a busy Myspace page highlighting the music. Also, and this is of course for the ladies, the women’s bathroom has (as my friend put it) a strong and strangely comforting smell of pure bleach. Hey, it’s better than what else it could have smelled like right?


  • If you work in the area, this is your place, plus they have an at the bar sandwich special if you need a beer with lunch
  • Live music on weekends
  • Wide selection of bar food and full dinner options
  • Offers sports on the televisions and undoubtedly a patron that will join you in conversation


  • Drinks are not that cheap
  • Kitchen closes too soon
  • Danger from above! Watch your head!
  • Dude, you’re freaking hanging out in Midtown East!

Desmond’s Tavern, 433 Park Ave S. (btw. 29+30th),      212-725-9864


  • Way to take one for the team. I’d rather walk across the street and endure the yuppie sausagefest that PS 450 has become. At least the food and music are contemporary.

  • Martini was Wayne’s, wasn’t it?

    And that not the Ceiling….thats Soda Bread.

    T’be sure soit is.

  • The martini’s there are decent, just make sure to ask for olives if you want them. The bartender in question tends to forget them.

  • Shane McGowan & Forrest Tucker mentioned in the same sentence – I love it.

    Shane is on the cover of The Big Book of British Smiles, Rudy… I do like the martini – with Plymouth Gin of course

  • There are one or more cats living in the basement too. Adds to the essence one leaves with after a few hrs in there. pre-smoking ban that parfum was truly awesome/ful.

    Saw Kyle MacLachlan in the place one afternoon/evening a few years back. Not sure if he was drinking a Heineken or not.

  • Desmonds! Our old post work-go-to! This is most definitely out of ML Bounds b/c I used to work across the street. Also it smells like cat pee in there, but who doesn’t love a little atmosphere? Additionally you will hear Black 47 about 8 times in an hour or two at Desmonds. It reminds me of Boston in the best/worst way. I can’t believe you actually ate the food there Mamacita. You’re a braver/drunker woman than me, and I say that with the utmost admiration.

  • Sarah is a Sp.ops Vegie.


    Tony, the bartender with the comb over, RULES! Love tony! The food on the other hand—-uhhhh—-just try a burger please….PLEASE! And the fries (which I think taste like stale donuts due to the 100 yr old oil)… I have not been there this week—and so I missed your coming—-but be on the lookout….as I’m never too far, since I live around the corner!

  • Bwaahahahaaha!! Let the Goats stalking begin!

  • …..poor wayne…cast aside like a crispy kleenex.

  • anyone? MCCormacks? tomorrow? 12 noon? Cuse v notre Dame? LOL

  • This was my hangout all through college. Tony is great, the server a VERY strong Jameson, and the bands tended toward the hippie zone. We were the Columbia University Regulars. The drinks are strong, the food is crap and the Saturday night crowd is awesome.

  • Tony is a New York City institution. One of the nicest bartenders around, I’m glad he is still walking the musty lengths of Desmonds. Let’s not forget about Ryan, the fella with the thick glasses, whose hoarse voice can be heard from one side of the joint to the other.

  • My coworkers and I used to go here, but only out of convenience, not because we really liked it. Now we usually hit up The Wharf on 3rd Ave between 38th and 39th. They have delicious and cheap bar food (I highly recommend the nachos and chicken quesadillas) and they always have two pints for $3.50, all hours of the day. On Wed and Fri they also have two different bottles of beer for $3 after 7pm until close. There are other specials throughout the week as well. The prices and food are hard to beat – definitely check it out. And if the downstairs is packed, don’t be deterred, there’s a second floor with an outdoor area that’s enclosed in the winter, although it can still be a bit chilly.

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