Top Historically Significant Bars In Philadelphia

July 9, 2015 8:00 AM

Chef Walter Staib (right) and his staff are happy to be back in the kitchen. (Credit: Mike Dougherty)

When it comes to historical significance, few locales can even approximate the importance of Philadelphia. Just traversing the quaint, cobblestone areas of town can transport you to a wonderful time-lost era of days gone by. As you stroll along, you can take in an impressive array of buildings, artifacts and even personalities that were all vital to our nation’s development. With such a saturation of history, it’s not hard to find a drinking establishment that not only captures the atmosphere but actually dates back to the early years of our country. Here are some of the most historically significant bars in town.

Cherry Street Tavern
129 N. 22nd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 561-5683
www.cherrysttavern.com

The Cherry Street Tavern is a Philadelphia landmark. It has been operating on the same corner of 22nd and Cherry Streets since 1905. The tavern’s original owner was John “Tex” Flannery, a local football legend who was inducted into La Salle High School’s Alumni Hall of Fame in 1975. In Cherry Street Tavern’s early days, women were not permitted to enter through the front entrance. During Prohibition, this iconic bar functioned as a barber shop. Its location and reputation have attracted a number of high-profile clientele, from Joe Frazier to the Flyer’s Scott Hartnell and even Larry Bird. Enter the fabled doors, have a drink, and become legend.

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City Tavern
138 S. 2nd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 413-1443
www.citytavern.com

According to their website, City Tavern Restaurant’s mission is to “interpret and deliver the culinary experience inspired by the customs and foods of 18th Century Colonial America.” This historic institution was established in 1773 and boasts that it is the location where the Founding Fathers supped and celebrated. As a matter of fact, in 1777, City Tavern is reported to have hosted the very first Independence Day celebration — now, that’s something worth toasting! After your Mallard duck sausage, braised rabbit, and colonial turkey pot pie, raise a glass and say cheers to the many years our country has celebrated its freedom.

Khyber Pass Pub
56 S. 2nd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 238-5888
www.khyberpasspub.com

Technically, the Khyber Pass Pub is not one of the oldest hangs in town. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t established until 1970, a mere baby compared to other watering holes on this list. However, the Khyber is worthy of historical distinction because the charming Old City favorite features a beautiful bar that was handcrafted in 1876. Besides its appreciable selection of beer, customer-friendly prices, and tasty bar food, the pub was recently one of only 15 bars in the nation to make ‘Esquire’s list of “The Best Bars In America 2015.”

The Mask And Wig Club
310 S. Quince St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 716-7378
www.maskandwig.com

If you’re searching for the extraordinary, try Philadelphia’s Mask and Wig Club. Founded in 1889, the troupe is the nation’s oldest all-male collegiate comedy group and its members have made countless contributions to American culture over many years of delighting audiences. The Clubhouse has a history that dates back to the early 1800s. It served many functions throughout the years, from its origins as a church to its transformation into a stable and carriage house. Just before the venue was acquired by the Mask and Wig Club, the space was being utilized as dissecting rooms for Jefferson Medical College. The Grille Room is lined with hundreds of unique mugs and the dark wood paneled space can be used for cocktail parties, luncheons, or dinners.

McGillin’s Olde Ale House
1310 Drury St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 735-5562
www.mcgillins.com

Talk about historic: McGillin’s Olde Ale House opened shortly after the Liberty Bell cracked. If you need another timeline reference, it was established the same year that Lincoln became President of the United States way back in 1860. The original name for the ale house was The Bell in Hand, but laborers simply called it McGillin’s — after owner William McGillin — and their moniker stuck. Now, in its 156th year of operation, besides a fine assortment of microbrews and macrobrews, McGillin’s Olde Ale House offers three house specialties: McGillin’s 1860 IPA (Stoudt’s), McGillin’s Real Ale (Stoudt’s), and McGillin’s Genuine Lager (Stoudt’s).

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Allen Foster, a lifelong Greater Philadelphia resident, has been writing about all those wonderful things that make us feel so alive for over 20 years. He approaches each day as an adventure, eager to discover what new and vibrant surprises await just around life’s corner. You can see his work on Examiner.com.