McGillin’s Olde Ale House

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

Nestled in a Philadelphia alley, McGillin’s Olde Ale House is a classic drinking tavern that blends Irish roots with a German floorplan, creating a colorful, communal setting perfect for taking part, or opting out with a High Life in the corner.

Field Rating

8

out of 10

Benjamin Franklin probably drank here right? Feels right.

Field Note

McGillin’s Olde Ale House is less a dive bar and more a dive tavern, tucked away amid some particularly historical buildings in what is obviously a fairly historical part of the world. Of course, there’s a story behind the drinking, and McGillin’s starts in 1860, as can be found through the extensive history portion of the bar’s web site.

There’s a lot to like about this tavern, but the curb appeal is obvious, with ornate, framed windows, wrought iron on the second level and a hugely impressive sign that takes the “old English” font style to the extreme. The main entrance flows from what can romantically be termed an alley, a distinct left turn or so away from the main walking street, which is always the best way to enter a dive, historical or not.

With even a few stray rays of sun on a Philadelphia afternoon, the space jumps to life, bathed in what can only be called “old light."

Inside, it’s a hard aspect to explain, but it’s the color palette of the place that jumps out. With even a few stray rays of sun on a Philadelphia afternoon, the space jumps to life, bathed in what can only be called “old light” from the classic windows, which then bounces off an array of stained-glass fixtures throughout the space. It’s like drinking in a church without the pesky annoyance of having to stand up to get your sip.

The layout feels like a German drinking hall crossed with a cathedral. Prominent pillars dot the layout, of course adorned with an array of typical dive bar ambiance like framed photos, historical prints and the like. There is an ornateness to the space that transforms what could be a dive bar skeleton living on past glory into something that feels alive and dynamic.

And the layout lends itself well to at least an illusion of community among the drinkers assembled, whether they ultimately keep to themselves or not.

And the layout lends itself well to at least an illusion of community among the drinkers assembled, whether they ultimately keep to themselves or not. The low chairs. Long, narrow tables around the outside of the seating area with smaller tables within. The airy atmosphere supported by tall ceilings. It’s a communal space, even if all you want is a quiet High Life in the corner.

This travel guide’s first love will always be the grimy dive bar off the beaten path, but old school taverns like McGillin’s make up for their lack of filth with their unpretentious drinking atmosphere chased with a dose of legitimate history. The blend here is the magic. McGillin’s is Irish, but German. Communal but intimate. Classic but not pretentious. And just classy enough to spell Olde with the gentleman’s ‘e.’

Photos

The Basics

1310 Drury St
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107

Classification:
Downtown Dive

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