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“Lively HIstoric Dive Bar”

McGillin's Olde Ale House
Ranked #1 of 106 Bars & Pubs in Philadelphia
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: US$15 - US$15
Cuisines: American, Asian, Irish
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Restaurant details
Good for: Local cuisine, Bar Scene, Groups
Dining options: After-hours, Dinner, Lunch, Breakfast
Neighbourhood: City Centre East
Description: McGillin's Olde Ale House, Philadelphia's oldest continuously operating tavern, is known for large selection of regional beers, comfort food & friendly service.
Reviewed 14 August 2017

My spouse and I visited McGillin’s Olde Ale House on a Saturday afternoon in late June 2017. We stayed nearby at the Holiday Inn Express Midtown, and we looked for a bar nearby where we could enjoy our own happy hour. McGillin’s is open daily from lunchtime until late night (or early morning, technically).

McGillin’s is a little hard to find, located in a two-story house on Drury Street, an alleyway that connects 13th and South Juniper Streets, between Chestnut and Sansom Streets. (The rear bar door leads to a narrow passageway that empties out onto Sansom.) The bar is called Philadelphia’s oldest continuously operating pub. In 1860, Irish immigrants Catherine and William McGillin opened the bar as the Bell in Hand Tavern. In 1910, the McGillins renovated the building exterior and officially changed its name to McGillin’s Ole Ale House. During Prohibition, the bar began selling food. In 1958, the Spaniak/Shepaniak family bought the bar; many generations later, it is still run by the family. The pub has won many awards over the years, including Gourmet magazine’s “one of the 14 coolest bars in the US”, Philadelphia Magazine’s “best bartender”, “best happy hour”, Fodor’s “one of ten best historic bars in the US” and “one of the best Irish bars in America”. It has also been mentioned on Fox News, CBS, USA Today, and the Huffington Post.

We loved the wall décor that included iconic signs from now-defunct retailers and restaurants including Gimbels, John Wanamaker, Strawbridge and Clothier, Woolworths, JE Caldwell Jewelers, CoreStates Bank, and Le Bec Fin. Other notable decor includes every liquor license the bar has held since 1871, and also the original Bell in Hand sign. Besides the signage, the bar features lots of wood (tables, chairs, and the extra-long bar) and tile floors. An additional bar and seating is available on the second/top floor. Miraculously, the bar has managed to find the exact right level for its music – loud, but not ear-splitting – and we were surprised that we could not hear the music until we opened the door and stepped inside.

We sat at the very end of the bar during our visit (near the back door), and it seemed like a chore for the bartender to serve us. (Only one of us was ordering beer, with the other ordering non-alcoholic soft drinks). However, we enjoyed ourselves anyway.

McGillin’s was a fine choice for our self-made happy hour.

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Thank fluffnfold
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
McGillins, Owner at McGillin's Olde Ale House, responded to this reviewResponded 28 August 2017

FluffNFold: Thank you for stopping by and for your very thorough review! As a family-owned and operated bar, it pains me to hear that our bartender wasn't welcoming and, for that, I apologize. If you have any additional information about which bartender, please message me so that address it. Glad you enjoyed the rest of your visit.

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68 - 72 of 566 reviews

Reviewed 13 August 2017 via mobile

Delicious food , cold beer and wonderful atmosphere! Everything about this place is great! Too much to say. Just come in and find out for yourself, you won't be disappointed!!! I promise!

Thank Billy J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
McGillins, Owner at McGillin's Olde Ale House, responded to this reviewResponded 15 August 2017

Billy: Thanks for stopping by and for taking the time to leave such an enthusiastic review. Hope to see you again soon! Cheers!

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Reviewed 26 July 2017

I first visited this pub back in 1973. I was on a weekend pass from basic training at Fort Dix NJ. Two friends and I decided to take the bus into Philly. We were wandering around center city and happened to ask a young couple where a good bar was. They immediately recommended McGillin's and gave us directions. We walked around some more, then decided to go for a few drinks. We got to the pub and who was there at the bar but the couple we spoke to earlier. We had a great time! They even invited us to spend the night at their place in Germantown and gave us a ride to the bus station the next morning. You have to understand that this was in 1973, Vietnam was winding down and G.I's in uniform weren't the most welcome, but we certainly felt welcome. Food was great, beer was cold and music loud. I've taken many friends to McGillin's since and they all love it too. I'm excited because I will be in Philly again soon with family who have never been there. Great place, great people and great history for me.

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Thank thoban
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
McGillins, Owner at McGillin's Olde Ale House, responded to this reviewResponded 31 July 2017

Wow, Thoban, what a great story! Can't wait for your return visit!

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Reviewed 26 July 2017

McGillin's a pretty good spot for lunch. I had the Reuben with chips, which I enjoyed. Prices were very reasonable, and service was good. The only knock is that during the summer when their AC is on, it can get incredibly cold if you're sitting near the back wall away from the bar.

    • Value
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Thank NTP66
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
McGillins, Owner at McGillin's Olde Ale House, responded to this reviewResponded 31 July 2017

Thanks, NTP!

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Reviewed 24 July 2017 via mobile

Very noisy BUT it's a bar so what I would expect. Service was not good. Cute waitress who spent more time talking to her cohorts. Food was pub style, nothing special. I had the corned beef sandwich that came on two slices of wonder bread with no condiments. I did track down waitress to get mustard and put the slaw on it to make it palatable. Sadly, I shouldn't have to do the chef's job but Hey, it's the oldest pub in the US. So they are still in the 19th century. The beer was good and cold.

Thank Tom P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
McGillins, Owner at McGillin's Olde Ale House, responded to this reviewResponded 26 July 2017

Tom: My family & I strive to make every guest happy, so we're sorry you weren't delighted with your experience here. I'm concerned that the waitress wasn't attentive and would like to address that. Do you recall her name or can you describe her? Also, we typically serve the corned beef sandwich on rye bread so we'd like to figure out why yours was served on white bread. From your review, I'm assuming you didn't order it that way. Respond here or email me at mcgillins@aol.com. Thanks, Chris

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