‘The Great Train Revelry’: A Metro-North Pub Crawl

Some boozy commuter has written a feature for the Journal News monthly mag INTown on doing a pub crawl via Metro-North. Called “The Great Train Revelry,” the feature is broken into three parts: The Hudson Line, the Harlem Line and the New Haven Line, covering a total of 12 pubs.

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Of J. C. Fogarty’s, that cute pub you see in Bronxville from the Harlem Line train, it reads:

 

The place is like your favorite sweater—lived in but holding up well, comfy, and perfect for a chilly day. Classy stained glass greets me at the door of this freestanding old building, right next door to the village’s Starbucks (made semi-famous in local resident Michael Gates Gill’s newish memoir How Starbucks Saved My Life).

An Irish bartender in a crisp dress shirt pulls a Guinness as I eye the pub grub on the menu: shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, fish ’n’ chips. Named Mike, he talks to a guest about the recent Rugby World Cup. The regulars seem to know him well. A cop comes in for takeout and chats with a friend at the bar. It’s freakin’ Mayberry, only with the average home selling for close to $2 million.

 

It being 2008 and all, we were hoping to find the story online, but no luck. So here’s the text for the Harlem line. Hudson and New Haven Lines to follow in the not so distant future.

 

The Great Train Revelry

 

WITH HELP FROM METRO-NORTH, THE URBAN PUB CRAWL IS ALIVE IN THE ’BURBS. 

by michael malone 

In my previous life, in that city just to the south, one of the things that made the colder months bearable was the pub crawl: afternoons or evenings spent with friends in some charmingly scruffy saloon, downing soul-warming drinks, then setting out on foot to the next joint, and the one after that. Sometimes a fund-raiser was involved; other times, clues were gathered as part of a scavenger hunt. Most times, though, my friends and I just pub-crawled for the sake of pub-crawling.  Those hazy Gotham days may be behind me, but the pub-crawl urge still strikes every so often. After all, the county is filled with cozy watering holes, and I had a hunch that—armed with a train ticket, a sensible pair of shoes, and a dash of wanderlust—I could try them all.  OK, maybe not all. But a dozen bars, at least, split up over three separate days—a perfectly reasonable goal. Hitting the rails after work with a few friends, I traveled up each of the three Metro-North lines that run through Westchester: the Harlem, the New Haven, and the Hudson.  

Along the way, I learned that Anthonys are a dime a dozen in Hartsdale, counting the ducks at the Duck Inn is a fool’s game, and homeless people in Irvington aren’t always what they appear to be.

HARLEM LINE Of the three lines, I’m most excited about the Harlem leg of the crawl. This is the train that I take to Manhattan five days a week, every week. And every single day, I stare out the windows at J.C. Fogarty’s, as the train flies through Bronxville, and wish I was enjoying a nice pint inside. Sometimes it even happens on the morning commute.  

Bronxville’s got one of the great downtowns in the Northeast, though all but the highest of high rollers might have to settle for window shopping. Fogarty’s sits right into this Currier & Ives image. The place is like your favorite sweater—lived in but holding up well, comfy, and perfect for a chilly day. Classy stained glass greets me at the door of this freestanding old building, right next door to the village’s Starbucks (made semi-famous in local resident Michael Gates Gill’s newish memoir How Starbucks Saved My Life).  

An Irish bartender in a crisp dress shirt pulls a Guinness as I eye the pub grub on the menu: shepherd’s pie, bangers and mash, fish ’n’ chips. Named Mike, he talks to a guest about the recent Rugby World Cup. The regulars seem to know him well. A cop comes in for takeout and chats with a friend at the bar. It’s freakin’ Mayberry, only with the average home selling for close to $2 million.  

We could spend all night in Fogarty’s, but then we’d never hit our quaff quota for the night. We finish off the Guinness, thank Mike for his hospitality, and hop across the street to the station.

The train is a few minutes late, but eventually we see the lights coming around the bend and step on. The electronic conductor-voice calls out Tuckahoe, the village’s name offering the best limerick possibilities in all of Westchester (There once was a guy from… Oh, you get the picture).

Then it’s Crestwood, Scarsdale, and, finally, Hartsdale.  

Harrys of Hartsdale, located across from the quaint, Tudor-style train station, was devastated in the hamlet’s April floods, but you wouldn’t know it to look at the restaurant today. It’s a different vibe from Fogarty’s—30-something singles (or at least, pretending to be singles) jam the bar, making it feel a bit like the 6-train platform at rush hour.  

A guy named Anthony asks the bartender to put a cocktail on his tab, which elicits some confusion. “I already have three Anthonys with tabs,” says the beleaguered bartendress. A band sets up as the drummer taps his tom.

We eventually get served and venture downstairs, to see where the food had gone up to the ceiling. The kitchen has been completely redone, and an immaculate wine cellar serves as a private partyspace. I poke my head in, and a dozen young ladies—a bachelorette party, I think—look up from their dinner. They think I’m the “entertainment.” At least, that’s what I tell myself as I feel a blush coming on and bolt back upstairs.

Our energy level properly restored, thanks to the bachelorettes, we finish off our cocktails, use the handy crosswalk across East Hartsdale Avenue and head back to the station. We pause for a second to admire the sculptures between the northbound and southbound tracks—steel black cutouts of people, such as the figure in a chef toque wielding a shovel—then buckle down for the next leg of our trip.  

Tempting as it is to debark at the next Metro-North stop—White Plains—we’ll save it for another day, the city being a pub crawl unto itself. That means hopping off in the W.P. station for the train heading for points north. The transfer goes smoothly, and we’re headed toward Southeast a minute later.  

North of White Plains, the stops are farther apart, the downtowns quieter, the stations leafier. We step off in Valhalla for the always enticing Valhalla Crossing, in the old station house. A stone’s throw from Kensico Dam, the Crossing calls to mind the old Cedar Tavern down in Greenwich Village: huge wood shelving built behind the bar and a giant steel clock that’s a holdover from the old station days.

Bartender Kevin says the large wooden frames behind him held chutes, back when the bar was a storage depot; freight trains would unload their cargo through the chutes. Framed black-and-white photos of old Valhalla add to the old-time feel.

Kevin pours a few pints of Brooklyn Pale Ale, one of 15 draughts on tap.  It’s quiet at the bar, and he’s got time to share more factoids about the place, such as that the original floors date back to 1850. “I’m a treasure trove of useless information,” he says with a laugh. 

The Crossing’s got a nice, mellow atmosphere, but the drinks are taking their toll—clearly our nightlife stamina has lost a step since those days of pub-crawling in New York—and we feel a case of the drowsies coming on. We head outside and, rejuvenated from the brisk air, hop on the next train for our Harlem Line nightcap. 

Pleasantville pops up two stops later. Lucy’s is just across from the platform adjacent to Bedford Road, and our mood soon gets further goosed as we peel back the heavy velvet curtains and step inside.

Lucy’s has a decidedly upscale feel, the people smartly dressed. A groovy R&B mix plays. A table of guys eyes a table of women. A brunette in the bunch says to her friends, “You guys have to compliment me on my earrings.” They do.

Most of the drinks being consumed are wine and cocktails, but whenever we’re in Pleasantville, we make a point of trying the stellar Captain Lawrence Pale Ale that’s brewed not even a mile from here. Pleasantville’s finest has a hoppy bite that holds its own with the best craft brews around. We ease behind a table near the window. 

“Captain, my Captain,” I say as I raise the pint to my lips. The ale tickles the taste buds and warms me to my bones. 

Pleasantville, indeed, we think as we cross the first leg of the crawl’s finish line at full speed. 

J.C. FOGARTY’S Bronxville

ORDER A Car Bomb—a shot of Baileys dropped into a Guinness—to christen your car-less tour of the Westchester pub scene.

PUB GRUB The traditional Irish shepherd’s pie never disappoints (60 Kraft Ave.; Bronxville; 337-1122; jcfogartys.com).

HARRYS OF HARTSDALE Hartsdale

ORDER A Harrys Cosmopolitan, with homemade pineapple vodka.PUB GRUB A plate of five mini-burgers (230 E. Hartsdale Ave.; Hartsdale; 472-8777;harrysofhartsdale.com).

VALHALLA CROSSING Valhalla

ORDER A Kevin’s El Wrecko—vodka, triple sec, orange juice, sour mix, and grenadine.“It’s the drink to drink when you don’t know what to drink,” says bartender Kevin.

PUB GRUB The crab cake salad. It’s a secret recipe (2 Cleveland St.; Valhalla; 682-4076; thevalhallacrossing.com).

LUCY’S Pleasantville

ORDER A Captain Lawrence Pale Ale, made just down the road (446 Bedford Rd.; Pleasantville; 747-4740; lucys-lounge.com).    COMING SOON: Hudson and New Haven Lines.

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2 Responses to ‘The Great Train Revelry’: A Metro-North Pub Crawl

  1. Pingback: The Great Train Revelry, Part II: New Haven Line » trainjotting.com

  2. Pingback: The Great Train Revelry, Part III: The Hudson Line » trainjotting.com

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