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.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.