McGovern’s is a real old-fashioned tavern. I’m sure there are those who think of it as an Irish pub and Esquire magazine called it one of the country’s best bars. But it is a tavern.
I started going there in the early 1970s when I had a summer job in Newark during college.
It had Guinness on tap, murals of Irish scenes in a back room, old photos on the wall, patches from police organizations, and the clientele was made up of city workers, cops, and firemen, prosecutors and attorneys, students from nearby Rutgers-Newark and a lunchtime crowd from the downtown offices.
And all of that is still there. Few changes in half a century. Maybe not much different since 1936. They have a half-hearted website. I guess you don’t have a choice these days – you have to have something online – but it seems appropriate that they don’t seem to really care. They are on Facebook and it looks like they are getting some bands in there.
I’m not sure if the write-up in Esquire works for or against the place. I don’t really see McGovern’s crowd as big Esquire readers.
The menu is still good but basic. I usually get some Chili Con Kearny (as in Kearny, NJ), a McGoo burger or maybe a Scully burger with some Jersey Taylor ham. There’s no other place I go to where I would order a liverwurst sandwich and lava fries.
I’m not around New Street in Newark much these days, but it only takes a few minutes in here for me to feel comfortable. No one yells, “Ken!” when I enter, like on Cheers, but it feels as much like home as I want from a tavern.
Yeah, it’s a tavern – from the Latin taberna and the Greek ταβέρνα/taverna. In Renaissance England, a tavern was distinguished from a public ale house because it was run as a private enterprise. So, drinkers were “guests” rather than members of the public.
I like being a guest at McGovern’s.