Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Frisco 1, Philly 0

In which we claim bragging rights

Took a brief sojourn back east over the New Year to visit the City of Brotherly Love: Philadelphia, PA (of which more anon). While gallivanting around the Old City I got to thinking that I should find and visit Philly's oldest tavern. Philadelphia being as old as it is -- and the very cradle of American liberty itself -- I reckoned that the city's oldest tavern must be venerable indeed, perhaps dating back to the 18th, or even the late 17th, century.

So I stopped in at the first bar I came to and asked the question, "What's the oldest bar in Philadelphia and were may I find it?" The universal response from this pleasant, working class dive's patronage was "McGillin's Old Ale House on Drury Street."

A couple days later we found the joint on the corner of Drury and 13th, between Sansom and Chestnut. Over the bar hangs the original signpost, dating back to 1860, when the bar was named "The Bell in Hand." Indeed, the signpost was in the form of a carved wooden arm and hand swinging a bell.

I was surprised, though, that in a city that dates back to the 1680s -- when William Penn first chartered the nascent town -- that oldest bar dates from just 1860. My own San Francisco, a comparatively new city, the original Presidio of which dates back only to 1776, boasts watering holes dating back to the Miner 49er days.

So we've got you beat on that one, Philly.

Though of venerable provenance, McGillin's today caters largely to a college "binge drinking" crowd. When we were there awaiting our dinner and enjoying our pre-prandial drinks, for example, a fellow at a raucous table near ours leaned back in his chair and promptly fell over like a drunken buffoon. (I may love drinking, but I do despise drunks.) The jukebox was too loud, making the overall noise level all but intolerable. But the pub fare wasn't bad for what it is (we had the cheese steaks, natch).

McGillin's Old Ale House
Philadelphia, PA

Pluses: It's the oldest bar in Philly
Minuses: College crowd; obnoxiously loud music and patrons; drunks requiring oversized bouncers to keep them in check

Overall Rating: ♠ ♠ 1/2


Blogger bluenote said...

Wow... you got a great photo. Why did you decide to make it look like you had taken it during the day? Just curious.

11:00 PM  

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