Classic Best of Philly: The Eternal Draw of McGlinchey’s
I remember the first time I went to McGlinchey’s, the notoriously divey (and smoky) dive bar on 15th Street. It was just after my 21st birthday (I’m 39 now, egad!), and I had heard that the beers were some of the cheapest in the city, which is all I needed to know.
Given that these were the days before Philadelphia was Beer Town U.S.A., I ordered a Rolling Rock. Within minutes, I managed to get screamed at by the prickly bartender and have a beer spilled on me. On a later visit, a blond bartender pegged me in the eye with an ice cube, and a girl puked on my shoe. Little has changed.
Unlike most dive bars in Philadelphia, which go through waves of cliques and trends (Bob & Barbara’s is a good case in point), McGlinchey’s is still the same old McGlinchey’s it was back in the good old days when every bar in the city allowed you to light up. And the cast of regulars that bellies up to the bar each night—hell, each lunchtime, at this place—is a study in colorful characters, so much so that Philadelphia photographer (and former McGlinchey’s bartender) Sarah Stolfa won a New York Times photography contest for The Regulars, her series of pics of some of McGlinchey’s most dedicated drinkers. You can have your “gastropubs” and trendy “dive bars” that have to actually try to be dive bars. Gritty, no-frills McGlinchey’s is the real deal.
Oh, you can find all sorts of fancy beers here now, that’s true … but don’t worry; they still have the $3 Rolling Rock 20 oz. draft. And the jukebox is now one of those irritating play-anything models. But the bathrooms are still filthy and graffiti-covered, with barely enough room to stand up and pee (and God forbid you have to do more). You can still get a 75-cent hot dog. And if you so much as let a finger dangle into the waitress’s service space at the bar, she will put a verbal beatdown on you. But that’s okay. It’s McGlinchey’s. It’s always been that way, and I, for one, hope it never changes.
First appeared in the August, 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
Photo by Jauhien Sasnou