Before SoHo was SoHo, before the neighborhood got transformed into a theme park of galleries, designer boutiques, and mall stores, and before 1970s artists discovered they could afford to live and work in its industrial lofts, there was Fanelli's. 

The second oldest food-drink establishment in New York City

Fanelli Cafe painting by Ted Papoulas

Visual storytelling by Lucas Compan, inspired by Jo-Anne Elikan

Located at the corner of Prince and Mercer since the day it opened in 1847 (yes, almost one-hundred and seventy years), it's the second oldest food-and-drink establishment to remain in one place in New York City. In case you're wondering which one is the first oldest drink-and-food establishment in New York, watch this video and... well, you figure that out.

Which One is The Oldest Bar in New York City?


What began as a workingman's ale house (with a brothel upstairs) became a hangout that watered and fed guys and dolls – serving up hearty pub grub and beer on tap in an atmosphere of rough-and-tumble camaraderie.

The Fanelli Cafe, a former speakeasy, on Prince Street (Credit: Ferdinando Scianna/Magnum Photos)

Fanelli's deserves to be called legendary. Take a seat next to an old-timer some weekday afternoon when it's not too busy. Order a pint of draft beer and strike up a conversation. Express sincere interest and with luck you might hear tales of the Prohibition in the 1920s, when Fanelli's was a local speakeasy, serving bootleg booze, wine, and beer 'distilled' in the basement. You will learn about the man who owned it from 1922 to 1982: Mike Fanelli, a former prize-fighter who hung up photos of the boxers he admired – photos that are still on the walls – and who made it an informal clubhouse for fightfans.

Fanelli's in 1982 (photo by Dave Glass/Flickr via Alex/Flaming Pablum)

Order a second draft and the bartender who seemed strictly business might chime in with tales of thirsty artists and their bohemians pals who made merry in the back room in the 1970s.

Fanelli Café si an authentic old-school neighborhood tavern with its original long bar, tile floors, embossed tin ceilings, and wobbly tables covered with red-and-white checkered cloths. 

It has no Michelin stars, but the burgers and sides are tasty. And while you can't order esoteric craft ales, what's on tap is frosty and satisfying. Leave fancy SoHo at the door and immerse yourself in the real deal.

Rohman's painting, Stephen Gardner

Oil on canvas by Matt Talbert


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LIVE VIDEO

Check out our Facebook page video library on May 28, 2016 at 12:12pm to watch a live video from SoHo – and Fanelli Cafe.


Fanelli Cafe at 94 Prince Street (at Mercer Street). Subway: Prince St. (trains N, R); Broadway-Lafayette St. (B, D, F, M); Bleecker St. (6)

Also, try world-famous cannolis and other pastries at Ferrara Bakery & Cafe on Grand Street.

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