Ever since its first location opened in 1994, very rarely is there a quiet moment at J.D. McGillicuddy's. Crowds watching the Phillies cheer and groan in unison, and members of bachelorette parties dance around groups of old friends meeting for a drink. The only time the noise dips is when the staff brings out plates of the house's flavorful pub food. Wings, burgers, pizzas, and nachos fill the menu, with East Coast twists such as Old Bay seasoning and jumbo lump crabmeat. Each spacious location has also been known to host special events, from DJ-spun theme nights and pub crawls to Easter breakfasts.
The staff at Flat Rock Saloon likes to jokingly describe the place in Seinfeld-ish terms: It’s a bar about nothing. This century-old corner Manayunk pub doesn’t go for gimmicks or themes, beyond a host of weekly specials. Mondays and Wednesdays are all-you-can-eat crab legs, and on Tuesdays, the 25-cent wings can get addictive. There are shot specials and combos, like a glass of beer plus mussels for a reasonable price, and the limited food menu consists of standards like burgers, a barbecue pork sandwich and fish and chips. TVs and indoor as well as outdoor tables and seating serve the purpose at this straightforward spot that sometimes hosts live entertainment.
The bartenders at Pitcher’s Pub keep the beer flowing from a whopping 30 taps. When they aren't pouring suds, they mix cocktails by hand in small batches to ensure quality. They eschew mass-produced ingredients in favor of fresh components such as mint, muddled blueberries, and lemonade. These libations pair well with a casual pub menu that spotlights everything from wings and burgers to ham-and-cheese croissant sandwiches. As guests lounge in the dining room, they can ogle any of the restaurant's seven flat-screen TVs, which broadcast a wide range of sports including NFL football and competitive napping.
Housed in a beautiful stone, one-story mill factory building, Bourbon Blue serves its New Orleans-inflected cuisine with style. Inside, a large iron chandelier and old-style pendant lights with smoky yellow glass hang from the tall peaked ceiling. Patrons can grab a seat at the large semi-circular bar or at one of the tables, and opt for a Cajun-style dish such as jambalaya, a quesadilla with alligator sausage or blackened filet mignon tips. There are also plenty of straightforward American dishes, from a burger topped with blue cheese, bacon and mushrooms to pan-seared salmon). In warm weather, one of the best seats in Manayunk is on Bourbon Blue’s deck overlooking the canal and the newly constructed performing arts center.
A corner pub in Manayunk with a nice selection of craft beers on draft and more than 60 bottles including ciders, wheats and barleywines, Old Eagle Tavern exudes a comfortable, easygoing vibe. There’s a rectangular bar and Formica tables, and the wood-paneled walls are decorated with tin beer company signs and old serving trays. Practice your aim on one of the two dartboards, or shoot for the corner pocket on the pool table, both of which are free of charge on Monday nights. The usual supply of burgers anchors the menu, but these beef patties are wrapped in freshly-baked buns from Wild Flour Bakery in Northeast Philly. The rest of the menu wanders a bit from traditional pub fare, including the popular chicken and waffles meal. You can’t go wrong during the generous happy hour on weekdays from 5 to 7 p.m., when all draft beers are half price.
Named not for the 19th-century novelist who wrote The Portrait of a Lady, but rather its location near the intersection of Henry Avenue and Jamestown Street in Roxborough, the Henry James Saloon is a no-frills neighborhood pub that has been propping up local drinkers for years. Housed in a tiny one-story rectangular building with a sign that suggests you should “Eat, Drink and Don’t Hurry,” the Henry James embodies the same easy-going attitude inside. Red walls, neon beer signs and multiple TVs constitute the majority of the atmosphere, while the pub menu is surprisingly extensive, with a long list of favorites like roast pork sandwiches, patty melts, pizzas and more. The more impressive “mealwiches” are a fitting portmanteau, stuffed sandwiches that eat like a full meal, combining chicken tenders, cheese, bacon, ranch dressing and more all under one outsized bun.