Who Is P.J. Whelihan, Anyway?
The journey began more than a quarter century ago with a down-home neighborhood pub called Platzer’s in the Poconos. When the first P.J. Whelihan’s opened in Allentown in 1994, a small empire was born. Today, the P.J. Whelihan’s Restaurant Group — headquartered in Haddonfield — has more than a dozen locations from the mountains all the way down to the South Jersey. P.J.’s has become so popular, in fact, that their chicken wings are the official extremity of that most hallowed institution: Wing Bowl.
But owner and founder Robert Platz and his staff weren’t happy representing only the messy wing/cold beer crowd (of which I am proudly a member). The past decade has seen the PJW crew expand their small but burgeoning empire to most corners of the American food scene. The Chophouse, in Gibbsboro, is an upscale steak and seafood joint opened in 2002 that has become extremely popular with Philly athletes who call the Jersey ‘burbs home. Westmont’s The Pour House, with 18 craft beers on draft (and 125 more by the bottle), is what PJW’s chief operating officer Jim Friss calls “a better beer bar.” And most recently, late last year, Treno opened in Haddon Township as a pizza, wine, and pasta bar. There are more than 30 wines that can be ordered by the glass or the bottle, with options for both the lowbrow drinker and the more refined palate. The pizza ranges from familiar — house-made sausage and peppers — to experimental — a fig pizza with prosciutto and gorgonzola, apple pie with bacon and onion.
Of course, P.J. Whelihan’s, with 13 locations in the area, is still the big grosser, according to Platz. While the last decade has seen the PJW Group grow exponentially, the recent economic downturn has convinced them to stick to their roots: Friss says any new ideas are currently on hold, but they are exploring the possibility of opening another P.J.’s or two.
P.J. Whelihan’s, 13 Locations in the region; pjspub.com.
The Chophouse, 4 Lakeview Drive South, Gibbsboro, NJ. 856-566-7300.
The Pour House, 124 Haddon Avenue, Westmont NJ. 856-869-4600.
Treno, 233 Haddon Avenue, Haddon Township, NJ. 856-833-9233.