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.
Campbell’s Place is an inviting tavern, with a century-old bar on one side of the long and thin space and four-person booths next to an exposed-brick wall along the other. The menu – a hearty mix of contemporary dishes and popular classics – is written on three mirrors behind the bar, each separated by beautiful carved-wood dividers depicting classical-looking figures. Longtime locals love to chow down on lunchtime menu items like sandwiches and burgers, while an array of comfort food entrées like shepherd’s pie, meatloaf, bacon-wrapped flat iron steak and miso-glazed tilapia make for an evening meal. Campbell’s Place is more than just a neighborhood hangout, too; the old world eatery has been serving up their particular brand of charm in Chestnut Hill for nearly 40 years.
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.
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.
This nearly 100-year-old Chestnut Hill institution will forever be known as the home of the gut-busting sandwich called the Schmitter, piled with beef, grilled salami, fried onions, tomatoes and tons of cheese. But there’s more to McNally’s than just their signature meal. The tavern exudes charm, from its old black-and-white family photos on the wall to the line of metal beer steins hanging behind the bar. A tiny open kitchen puts out sandwiches with distinctly literary names, like the George Bernard Shaw, a three cheese mix melted on top of peppers, onions, mushrooms and tomatoes; and the Dickens, a Thanksgiving-inspired combo of roasted turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. More straightforward fare includes burgers, salads and soups. Outside, a bench and a traditional coach light welcome customers.
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.