7 Haunted Philly Restaurants & Bars
photo credit: KERRY MCINTYRE
It’s that time of year again—everyone claims candy corn is disgusting, horror movies are in heavy rotation, and the Halloween costume that you “don’t really care about” becomes the focal point of your life. While Philly has several spooky season attractions, from the Eastern State Penitentiary to cemetery tours, the most chilling adventures can be experienced while simply biting into a burger or sipping on a beer. Here are seven spots with histories as haunting as Jason Voorhees' hometown (but with way better food).
Dante and Luigi’s in Bella Vista has two of the major criteria when it comes to hauntings: it’s old as fu*k (it’s been around since 1899) and the murder of a guest. And not just any murder; we’re talking about the 1989 Halloween night hit by a killer wearing a mask and carrying a trick-or-treat bag. We know, right? A scene straight out of Halloween, if Michael Meyers was a fan of the best cheesy baked lasagna in town and fettuccini filetto. We’re not saying every night at the old-school Italian restaurant ends with a supernatural event—but it might.
Perhaps the woman sitting at the bar just finished her shift at Penn. Or maybe she’s the ghost of Helena Blavatsky—the famous mystic who used to live inside. The University City location of this classic restaurant was a hub for psychic readings, channeling spirits, and all things occult. With its creative rooms (some decorated with floating handkerchiefs as a nod to Blavatsky) and wide-ranging menus, any meal here has the versatility of an episode of American Horror Story. Stop by for a brunch or dinner full of produce-heavy dishes like a butternut squash ravioli topped with trumpet mushrooms and share some wine with friends (those with and without a pulse).
Paranoia slips in any time you see a gloomy, gothic house. They’re super old, dark, and probably have haunted mirrors. Midtown Village’s McGillin's Olde Ale House has those same elements (and, thankfully, lots of liquor). Open since 1860, the Irish pub is full of antiques like framed family photos and neon signs, and once in a while, the lights flicker for no reason (and no, it’s not because of PECO). There’s a chance that you’ll encounter an apparition, like Ma McGillin, an original owner, whose image has been captured by a paranormal group. If you see an actual poltergeist but don’t feel like making a quick exit, grab a plate of crispy buffalo wings, a few beers, and catch a game at one of our favorite sports bars in town.
This Northern Liberties gastropub has a great rooftop deck, plenty of local beers, and a rotation of more ghost stories than a teenage campfire. The building has been around since 1880, which means two things: the amount of beer served here can probably fill the Delaware, and they have a few ghosts. Mr. Smeigelski, a former tenant, is known to rattle cutlery and knock over shelves, and an old woman occasionally appears at the top of the stairs. Basically, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter spirits over your chicken pot pie. We suggest you order a round of spicy chicken flatbread with buffalo crema and crispy squid just in case the afterlife doesn't have good small plates, and the ghouls are hungry.
We all know the horror movie survival checklist: Don’t split up, don’t investigate random noises, and never fall while being chased through the woods. Add steering clear of historic hotels to the list. On July 24, 1976, thousands of American Legion members stayed at Center City’s Bellevue Hotel at The Hyatt, resulting in mass illness and many deaths (the mysterious illness was later named Legionnaires disease). Guests at the hotel and restaurant have reported endless phantom encounters, including major temperature drops and even something grabbing at their toes. It’s a hard no from us, but if you’re feeling adventurous, take in a great view, sip on a nicely blended Al Capone (their version of an old fashioned), and eat a juicy burger with aged cheddar.
There are fun, Pirates of the Caribbean-type ghostships, and then there’s the Moshulu. The Society Hill floating restaurant and bar was once a WWI warship in which 28 people died aboard. If that doesn’t send a shiver down your spine, staff members claim to hear unexplainable laughter on board and find re-lit lanterns on tables after they’ve been extinguished. If you’re brave enough to stop by, they have a fine weekend brunch (go for the smoky blackened shrimp and bacon omelet). Or stop by for Happy Hour for a few $8 cocktails, $7 wines, and meet some new friends from this world and the next.
Khyber Pass Pub is a classic, German-style tavern—which tracks because, from the outside, it looks like the witch’s house from Hansel and Gretel. The building has been around since the 1800s and has all the dark wood and dim lighting you’d expect from a neighborhood bar you could spend all day inside. That is until you feel a cold brush of wind on your neck and remember the Old City bar is a ghost hotspot. At least, that’s what an owner claimed (she even vowed to add to the spirit tally herself when she passed). But don’t let the paranormal atmosphere keep you from biting into one of the best burgers in town, listening to some good live music, or having a full-on dance party with someone 300 years old.