Great Good Places: Fairmount’s London Grill

 

London Grill today
The London Grill today. A restaurant or pub has occupied this building since the mid-19th century.

Located at 2301 Fairmount Ave. in Fairmount, London Grill may give a slight hipster vibe, perhaps even Euro-hipster.  The giant wine bottle on the side may make a few people step back and say, “But Philly is the city of brewery love—what is up with this wine bottle?” At a closer view, meaning the menu, it’s starting to look like Philly gastropub heaven. Fancy-pants items like tuna tartare and ceviche mingle next to fish and chips and steamed mussels, and oh yes, there is a kick-ass burger which is highly recommended with a fried egg.  Once you step inside, it is all Philly.

London Grill building in 1947
The London Grill building in 1947, when locals knew it as McMenamin's. Are those blackboard specials in the windows?

Built in 1843, it was originally known as the Golden Lager Saloon and owned by a Russian couple. You can enjoy one of many house-made infused vodka libations on the original mahogany bar used in the days of the Saloon. In the mid-1900s it was sold to P.J. McMenamin, who opened it as McMenamin’s Restaurant and Bar.  In 1960, it first became known as “London” and was owned by Warren Brown, who owned several other “Londons” in the area.

Terry Berch and Michael McNally have owned the incarnation we see today since 1991.  While they have added the Paris Wine Bar within the same structure, the vibe is the same throughout. There is a sense of the neighborhood casually blended with a pride in the food and unique beverages served. It is ideal for meeting friends, yet classy enough for a quick business meeting.

I had first heard of the London Grill while interning for Phillymag.com. It continually made some of their multitudes of “best of” lists, but at that point in time my knowledge of Fairmount consisted of the Art Museum and that was it. It took me a few years and yet another writing job before I finally made it to one of the 85 best Philadelphia bars of 2011, according to my former employer.

London Grill interior
The bar at the London Grill today

After a long day of finding the hottest new construction and real estate developments in the area, my dining companion and I enjoyed the above mentioned kick-ass gastropub burger (their gimmick is it’s served on an English muffin), a bubbling cast-iron pan of mac and cheese, one of the best cask brews in the city and lemonade made with lavender and green tea vodka. Also while there, I overheard the staff accommodating a family by serving simple butter and noodles for the kids—the London doesn’t have a kid’s menu.

It’s one of those places that aren’t captured in time—it captures time. When you look down and enjoy the latest creation from Yards and glance up at a tin ceiling that is nearly 170 years old you feel a part of the neighborhood and history.

-By Brooke Hoffman for PhiladelphiaRealEstate.com

Photos by the author except as noted