Much of Pennsylvania’s storied history remains alive in the state’s museums, landmarks, inns, and even restaurants. Pennsylvania has no shortage of historic restaurants but one is said to be the oldest, opening its doors in 1860. McGillin’s Old Ale House claims to be the oldest continuously operating restaurant/tavern in the state. The oldest restaurant in Pennsylvania has certainly seen a lot during its history.
Originally Bell In Hand Tavern, the popular Philadelphia tavern was opened in 1860 by William and Catherine McGillin. Frequent guests became so comfortable with and were so endeared by the owners that they began referring to them as Ma and Pa and the tavern as McGillin's. It wasn't until the establishment's 50th anniversary, however, that it was officially renamed McGillin's Old Ale House.
To really appreciate how long McGillin's Old Ale House has been around, you have to consider all the history that has occurred since the popular restaurant opened. During its 156-year history, McGillin's celebrated the end of the Civil War in 1865, watched as construction began on Philadelphia's City Hall in 1871, thrived even when not allowed to serve alcohol during Prohibition, served servicemen on their way to the battlefields of World War II, and watched as One Liberty Center began to take shape in 1987.
History is appreciated and celebrated within McGillin's. In fact, McGillin's is teeming with historic business signs that adorn its walls. Sneak a peak at the Wannamaker's, Woolworths, Gimbel Brothers, Lit Brothers, J.E. Caldwell, and Le Bec Fin signs, only a few among the many at McGillin's. Each business opened after McGillin's and closed sometime during McGillin's storied history.
Visitors will also notice a smattering of liquor licenses – one for every year since 1871 – hanging on McGillin's walls. The only time the popular Irish pub and restaurant didn't serve alcohol was during Prohibition from 1920 to 1933. Since it was illegal to sell alcohol during that time, McGillin's focused on making guests happy with such delicious menu items as Philadelphia cheese steak and ice cream. Tea replaced alcohol.
McGillin's isn't just popular with locals and travelers passing through Philadelphia. It's also been frequented by such well-known individuals as Ethel Merman and Tennessee Williams.
Enjoy a pint or two of one of the 30 beers on draft. McGillin's features such regional favorites as Dogfish Head, Yards, Flying Fish, and Stoudt's.
Order a delicious meal to go along with your drink. Opt for pizza, buffalo wings, onion wings, sandwiches, or soup and salad. Entrees include traditional American favorites like Philadelphia cheese steak and Irish dishes, including shepherd's pie. Or, visit for brunch on Saturday or Sunday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
McGillin's has earned a slew of accolades during its history, including being named one of the top karaoke places by CBS, one of the most historic bars in the United States by Fodor's, and one of the 18 most authentic Irish pubs in the U.S. by Yahoo Travel.
McGillan's Old Ale House, at 1310 Drury Street in Philadelphia, welcomes patrons daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. The kitchen, however, closes at 1 a.m.
The oldest restaurant in Pennsylvania oozes charm and history. You’ll also discover, ironically in the same city of Philadelphia, one of the most unique restaurants in the state.
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