Story, photos by Julia Dent
McGillin’s Olde Ale House is hosting their annual Oktoberfest for the 15th year running. This year’s festival started in August, and it will wrap up with its main event on Oct. 1. The end of Oktoberfest coincides with Midtown Village Fall Festival with other local Philadelphia businesses, and McGillin’s will have an outdoor beer garden, karaoke and DJ, along with their German beers and food. Located in Center City, McGillin’s sits on its original location at 1310 Drury St.
The last day of Oktoberfest will be celebrated outside McGillin’s.
To celebrate Oktoberfest, McGillin’s has a selection of pumpkin beers, ciders, and German beers, as well as festive foods like German sausage and schnitzel. The inside of the ale house is also decked out for Oktoberfest, complete with decorations of German boys in lederhosen playing the horn. But if Oktoberfest isn’t your scene, they still have their traditional Irish dishes, football on the TV, and they’re even hosting a party for the presidential debate with Good Morning America filming the scene at the tavern. During my visit, I enjoyed a traditional Irish breakfast and $3 mimosas for brunch, which will definitely have me coming back.
The Irish breakfast included traditional Irish bangers and ham.
If you’re unable to visit McGillin’s during Oktoberfest, you can still drop by at any other point in the year (they also host other annual events, like Cinco de Mayo). It’s a Philadelphia landmark as the oldest continuously operating tavern in the city. It was started by Ma and Pa McGillin, Irish immigrants who raised their 13 children above the tavern. As McGillin’s says about the history, “McGillin’s Olde Ale House threw open its doors the year Lincoln was elected president. That’s shortly after the Liberty Bell cracked and long before ground was broken for Philadelphia City Hall. The beer taps have been flowing since 1860 — making it the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia and one of the oldest taverns in the country.”
You can see much of their history inside the tavern.
McGillin’s also boasts outlasting Strawbridge’s, the Civil War and Prohibition. It was even in Philadelphia before the iconic city hall was built. McGillin’s has a collection of iconic Philadelphia signs from when stores close, like Strawbridge’s, Woolworth’s, Gimbel’s and Wanamaker’s. You can read more about the quirks and history on McGillin’s website.
You can see many of the collected signs inside McGillin’s.
For its history and Irish ancestry, McGillin’s has been recognized by a host of publications, like Philadelphia Business Journal, Huffington Post, Yahoo Travel and Fox News. CBS even named it one of the top karaoke spots in Philadelphia. During my visit, people of all ages were there, and it was pretty popular spot, even for a Sunday. There was even a Dutch tour group there for lunch, and the manager, Chris Lawrence, said that they get international tour groups almost every week since it’s such a historic spot in Philadelphia.
If you want to watch the presidential debate (and possibly be on Good Morning America), watch football or eat schnitzel, McGillin’s is the place to be this week. They’re open daily from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m., and their pumpkin beers and ciders will get you ready for the approaching fall weather. Even if McGillin’s is an Irish ale house, they know how to get you in the mood for some German fare for Oktoberfest.
McGillin’s has hung up some patriotic decorations for the presidential debate.