This is the second act of a project undertaken by the author to find the proper company, both in human interaction and in drink, to endure the rebuilding era of Philadelphia Phillies baseball. Absent friends who even bother to pretend to care about the Phillies, that same author has taken to the streets, as it were, of Philadelphia and its environs to find the ideal spot to watch a Phillies game. Just as Socrates found himself unsatisfied in his pursuit of the Forms, the present author will likely find himself in a similarly futile, albeit less noble, pursuit. Nonetheless, this series has been promised to the internet, and internet promises must be upheld.
Note: If you require a refresher on the exceptionally rigorous methodology behind these reviews, refer to the first post in this series.
For those of us under the age of 35, summer on the Main Line brings a desolate wasteland where college kids and landed gentry alike abandon the area for, respectively, their parents' homes on Long Island and beach-front properties. While the former, i.e., college kids, are no doubt annoying, they take up seats in bars and create the impression that fun is possible in the old-money Western suburbs of the city. The summer is a laying bare of the inherent boredom of suburban life. Masks are removed and the inevitable boredom of middle and old-age are revealed.
It was on one of these warm late-spring/early-summer evenings that I ventured to the J.D. McGillicuddy's location in the heart of Wayne to watch the Phillies.
Having grown up in South Jersey, my idealized image of a sports bar is strongly influenced by P.J. Whelihans--uncountable televisions, an open layout, simple, yet pretty good, food, and reasonably-priced beers. In other words, for the sports bar genre, P.J. Whelihan's of Haddon Township, New Jersey (it's not in Haddonfield no matter how much they try to sell it. Haddonfield is dry. Haddon Township is not) would receive an 80 aesthetic grade. McGillicuddy's is basically a smaller, darker, less modern-looking version of this. It has TVs lining the walls and has enough open space to accommodate standing crowds. The size and darkness of the Wayne McGillicuddy's imparts a more depressing mood on the visitor than I prefer, but, overall, it does pretty well meeting the standard for sports bar aesthetic I have in mind.
PHILLIES GAME SPECIALS: 50
All McGillicuddy's offers in the way of game-specific specials is $2.50 bottles of Budweiser and $3 drafts of Bud Light. As covered in the review for Cavanaugh's Rittenhouse, these beer specials are bad at best and insulting at worst. The problem lies in that they aren't even really specials; I wouldn't anticipate paying much more for those beers on a normal night.
Where McGillicuddy's redeems itself relative to Cavanaugh's is in the food menu. The food, independent of quality--more on that in a bit--is more than affordable. I find it difficult to complain about a menu on which burgers and other sandwiches are all priced under $10. The entrees are probably a little pricy, but, let's be honest, no one orders a Broiled Seafood Combo at a sports bar. In the revised conception of "Phillies specials" as "presence of affordability," McGilliddy's performs admirably enough to escape the fate of an insulting advertised beer special.
NOTICEABILITY OF GAME: 65
As I indicated under the aesthetic section of the review, there is no lack of TVs at McGillicuddy's. Even on a night that featured and NBA Playoff game and College World Series Super Regionals, the Phillies were still featured prominently on many of their screens, although audio was not provided.
As I usually do, I sat at the bar rather than a table, and, from the perspective of a bar-sitter, McGillicuddy's had a unique and helpful set-up. In addition to the large TVs that every bar has, there was a 2x2 set-up of four smaller (25"-30") screens that each showed a different channel. On this particular night, they featured the Phillies, CWS, NBA Playoffs, and whatever game was on MLB Network. One of the benefits of not leaving home to watch sports is that I can put multiple games on my computer screen and have all of them in the same field of vision. At a bar, I often feel forced to focus on one game at a time and potentially miss out on something exciting happening on another game that is being played outside of my periphery. This was a great setup for my preferred, digital-age method for consuming sports. Major points for this.
QUALITY OF OTHER FANS/CLIENTELE: 45
I can confidently say that I was the only patron of McGillicuddy's on this particular night who gave a hoot what was happening in the Phillies game, presumably because the Main Line is a barren wasteland between Memorial and Labor Days. Nevertheless, much like my experience at The Industry last month there were other people at the bar talking about baseball that satisfied my need to feel like baseball matters to people outside of the internet. In this instance, there were two people sitting next to me talking about their dynasty fantasy league and, while talking about other people's fantasy leagues is the height of uninteresting conversation, they seemed knowledgeable enough about baseball that it was tolerable, even enjoyable.
FOOD/DRINK: 50 (FOOD: 55; DRINK: 45)
The tap list was exactly what I would have expected at a small-ish suburban sports bar: heavy on American macro-brews with a couple of "craft" beers chosen more or less at random. Again, as expected, those randomly chosen "craft" beers were overpriced, so I avoided them in favor of the Phillies special of $3 Bud Light drafts. Don't hate. Like pizza, all beer is pretty good.
The food was a little disappointing, but above average for the sports bar genre. I got the Chili Nachos despite ordering the cheesesteak variety, but was impressed with the quality independent of the accuracy of the bartender in taking my order. They were appropriately spicy and the plate was larger than I expected for less than $10. The burger was predictably over-cooked, but, again, for $8, who am I to complain? The food I tried was average, maybe slightly better, relative to my expectations for a sports bar. Although the price should not influence the grade here, the cheapness of the food is a bit of a tie breaker for me on a grade that, if judged on a more continuous scale, would be a 52 or so.
Most every tool here is within a standard deviation of average and that feels perfect for McGillicuddy's. The only tool that stood out to me was the noticeability. I have never seen a 2x2 TV arrangement behind a bar and that made the viewing experience feel closer to what I would get at home. As stated at some point in this series, the goal of this endeavor has always been to find an atmosphere that most closely mimics that a person with baseball fan friends would be able to create within his own home. The 2x2 TV setup advances that goal and is the sole reason that I am going to rate this bar a tick above-average rather than merely average.
OVERALL GRADE: 55
Updated Rankings: I'll be updating the rankings of the bars I've visited based on how I graded them at the time of my visit. Recently, thanks to the tutelage of Brandon Lee Gowton from Bleeding Green Nation, or, BLG from BGN if you're into the whole brevity thing, the table has become sortable. In the future, grades might be updated and bars might move up and down the list. Instances like those, if they ever occur, will be duly noted. Ties have been broken arbitrarily.
As always, if you have a recommendation for a future bar review, leave it in the comments.
|Bar Name||Neighborhood||Overall Score||Aesthetic||Specials||Noticeability||Other Fans||Food/Drink||Drink Subscore||Food Subscore|
|Wishing Well||Bella Vista||70||70||60||70||70||60||55||65|
|Great American Pub||Main Line||65||75||40||55||60||50||35||65|
|Citizens Bank Park||South Philly||60||65||25||75||65||45||55||45|
|McGillicuddy's Wayne||Main Line||55||65||50||65||45||50||45||55|
|Devil's Den||South Philly||55||60||35||60||25||65||70||55|
|Roache and O'Brien||Main Line||45||55||65||40||40||40||40||40|
|McGillin's Olde Ale House||Center City||45||50||60||45||30||45||45||55|
|Madira Bar & Grill||Point Breeze||40||30||55||40||35||60||55||60|
|Fox and Hound||Center City||35||35||40||50||35||45||50||45|