A lunchtime tourist in her own city: The City Tavern and McGillin’s

July 1, 2013 – If lunch is on your mind during your lunch hour – and why wouldn’t it be – you can still play tourist and sample Philadelphia’s delicious history by dining at The City Tavern or at McGillin’s Olde Ale House. Both historic eateries offer plenty of Philly flavor right in the downtown district.

tavern signThe City Tavern

Allow your senses to take a trip back to the 18th century at the City Tavern, established before the Declaration of Independence and the United States of America, in 1773. The tavern is located at 2nd and Walnut Streets in the Old City area.

city tavernThe City Tavern served as the unofficial meeting place for the First Continental Congress in 1774, and on July 4, 1777, it hosted the celebration for Congress on the first anniversary of Independence. Some of its more famous patrons included George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, and plenty of foreign diplomats and dignitaries. It was Adams who referred to the tavern as “the most genteel tavern in America.”

More than 240 years have passed now, yet the tavern’s mission today is the same as it was back in 1773; to deliver a pleasant and authentic culinary experience. The menu, served by folks in colonial garb, features turkey potpie, braised rabbit, roasted duckling, and unique baked goods such as Thomas Jefferson’s favorite, sweet potato & pecan biscuits. There are also plenty of modern traditional choices, such as beef, chicken, and seafood dishes.

An added plus, not only does the staff dress in 18th century fashion, they are also happy to share the history of the tavern’s celebrated past if you ask.

mcGillinsMcGillin’s Old Ale House

If you head further downtown, several blocks west on Walnut Street from the Old City area, you will find McGillin’s Old Ale House. McGillin’s opened in 1860, making it the oldest continuously operating tavern in the city, since The City Tavern had brief periods of history where it closed.

McGillin’s is located on Drury Street, an alley connecting 13th Street and South Juniper Street, between Chestnut and Sansom Streets. It was a popular gathering place in the 19th century, and remained that way through modern times, when office workers in center city flock to it for happy hour.

Although its history is as much a part of its story as any other historical landmark, it does not replicate the colonial experience as The City Tavern does. Instead, its atmosphere is comfortable pub style, perfect lunch, dinner or an evening out with friends.

roast beefThe menu features pub favorites such as their famous roast beef sandwiches and Philly cheesesteaks, along with an assortment of seafood dishes and the popular Shepard’s Pie, a McGillin’s favorite. There are also plenty of local and regional beers on tap, and it has earned the honor of Philadelphia’s “Best Irish Pub”.

No doubt that either The City Tavern or McGillin’s can offer a satisfying meal for any lunchtime tourist.

Be sure to check out other tourists and local attractions in the Lunchtime Tourist series:

The Philadelphia History Museum
The Italian Market

The Reading Terminal Market

Jeweler’s Row
Old City

6 thoughts on “A lunchtime tourist in her own city: The City Tavern and McGillin’s

    1. That’s true, Starlite. The City Tavern is a special treat, while McGillin’s is every day classic. Both are so Philly though, aren’t they?

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