|Bruce Caulfield with one of his partners, Patrick O’Brien outside Tracks in Penn Station (James Higgins)|
How It’s New York: Tracks, an Irish pub, is right in Penn Station, near the Long Island Rail Road, downstairs. Lots of Irish people commute to NY and NJ, of course, which is where the trains in Penn station go, and because it is so centrally located, it’s a NYC fixture. Owner Bruce Caulfield is a New Yorker, and the pub grew out of an idea he had while running a newsstand.
How It’s Irish: It’s an Irish pub, which pulls a mean Guinness: they have even won a Guinness Gold Standard Award, which is a certification or approval from Guinness in Ireland.
Not so swanky as the Oyster Bar at Grand Central, Tracks is just right for the pedestrian, streamlined architecture of Penn Station (boring and bland but serviceable. The old Penn Station, before my time, was grand, like Grand Central is now). And they do serve Oysters: it’s a Raw Bar and grill. But it is also one of the best Guinness bars in the city. Often crowded at rush hour, I love to go there after a show and wait for my train, eavesdropping on the conversations of commuters at the bar.
This article from IE was first published in Irish Examiner USA, Tuesday, Jan. 8.
Labor Of Love Reaches Its Tenth Birthday, And It’s Having A Party
Longtime restaurateur, lifetime New Yorker and Irish-American, Bruce Caulfield had known for a long time that he would end up involved in the bar and restaurant business in New York.
You could almost say it was in his blood, his grandfather having owned one himself on First Avenue and 53rd Street in the 1930s (where Parnell’s currently stands).
It would take time though since he wanted to do it the right way, creating a lasting legacy – a bar and restaurant that combined the homey feel of an Irish pub, the quality of a fine dining establishment, and a great selection of food and drinks at reasonable prices. Together with his father John Caulfield and partners Patrick and Michael O’Brien (who, while at High School in the ’80s had worked at Parnell’s as porters) he made this a reality by building Tracks; but we’re getting ahead of ourselves already.
In the 1980s, Bruce owned a newsstand on 53rd and Second Avenue and it was here that he met a cast of characters that included his future partners and others, notably including Eamonn Doran, Terry O’Neill, Steve McFadden, Danny Ryan and Paddy McCarthy. It was at the newsstand too where Bruce, Patrick and Michael vowed to open a bar together some day.
Despite the vow, the three didn’t rush things, wanting to ensure that they had the “right place, not just any place,” preferably inside Penn Station where Bruce owned Le Cafe and was known as “The Muffin Man”
At the time, a long vacant space in Penn Station, where McCann’s used to stand, became available, and they started the process of acquiring the lease for themselves, though the tragic events of 9/11 in New York meant that the opening of the new bar – Tracks Bar & Grill – was delayed until Epiphany, January 6, 2003.
Thus the dream became a reality. One look around Tracks and you’ll see how much time and effort was taken into creating the perfect place for enjoying a meal or hanging out for a drink after work.
Bruce believed that Tracks should be more than just another Irish Bar & Restaurant. Instead he envisioned a more upscale venue suited to the clientele passing through and by Penn Station.
As a result he decided early on to add a raw bar – the crown jewel of Tracks, featuring an incredible array of East and West Coast oysters as well as shrimp, lobster, crab, clams, and mussels all shipped in fresh daily – to emulate, on a smaller scale, the world famous Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station.
By subway you can take the 1, 2, 3, and 9 Lines as well as the A, C, and E.
Penn Station is located on 7th Avenue between 31st and 33rd Streets.
This care and attention to detail is further showcased in the railroad themes found throughout Tracks, featuring old prints and murals related to the history of the LIRR – for train spotters a particular rare model of the 1964 World’s Fair subway is on display.
The owners of Tracks owe their deepest appreciation to the numerous bar owners and bartenders who helped as advisors throughout the last ten and more years. Bruce and his partners Patrick and Michael O’Brien and his father John A Caulfield took all of their business experience, observations of other bars and restaurants in the city and advice from many friends including those he had met on Second Avenue together with current supporters that include Danny McDonald, Pat Burke, Des O’Brien, and all of their friends at Tir na Nog, in order to create Tracks – a business that is as strong today, ten years on, as it was in 2003.