New York || Caroline Street
The legendary Tin and Lint bar on Caroline Street started its life as a speakeasy. After weathering the Prohibition years, it was an institution such that it needed no name...just a lone beer sign winking from its ground-level window.
In 1969, the bar got a shot in the arm from three men named Easter, Mead and Malone who had come tomcatting from Vermont. After striking out with the girls at Skidmore, they happened upon the anonymous bar and left with the title in their hands. The name emerged from a cloud of pot smoke and a legend was reborn.
With its low prices and subterranean vibe, the Tin and Lint became a salon of the counterculture. Populated by students, activists, working class racetrack speculators, and the musicians who drifted through town to sing at the Caffé Lena across town.
Abbie Hoffman and Jimmy Breslin decried establishment politics from its shadowy depths. Gregg Allman got thrown out on more than one occasion. And Don McLean was known to scribble songs on bar napkins. Local legend holds that he wrote "American Pie" in a notebook at the booth right under the glass lampshade. (A plaque on the wall commemorates the occasion. It doesn't say that he stumbled out drunk and left the notebook behind.)
These days, the Tin and Lint is owned by Jim Stanley, the barkeep who threw Allman out and retrieved McLean's notebook. It still rocks the same plebeian crowd, thanks to $5 pitchers and 2-for-1 drafts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's also known as the easiest bar to get into if you're underage.
They've stopped talking about "American Pie" since McLean denied the story on NPR. Doesn't matter, Stanley says--he has more than enough stories to make up for it. Just not the kind you can put on a plaque.