When a friend comes into town, it’s natural that you want to impress them. And that’s not going to happen if you take them to the fanciest or newest place in Center City. You need to bring them to a place with really good drinks and even better food that’s in a neighborhood where there’s a lot more going on than just a few cool restaurants. If you really want to impress your friend, go to Fishtown and eat at Wm. Mulherin’s Sons.
Wm. Mulherin’s is an Italian restaurant that doubles as a boutique hotel, but not in the traditional sense with a restaurant in the lobby and a full-service hotel surrounding it. Instead, it’s really just a restaurant that happens to have some well-decorated rooms upstairs. The entire place feels like it was picked up by a tornado in the Catskills and put down in perfect condition on the corner of Front and Master. There are murals on the walls of animals camping in tents, brown leather booths in every corner, and a large wood-paneled bar in the front of the restaurant that’s usually filled with people grabbing drinks on first dates. In the main dining room, there’s a fireplace that looks like it should always have an old guy smoking a pipe in a red velvet robe sitting in front of it. All of these details show how Wm. Mulherin’s epitomizes the spirit of Fishtown - it’s a place that’s trendy without being obnoxious.
It’s not only how the restaurant looks inside that makes it feel so cool and, at the same time, so uniquely Fishtown though. The place feels high-end without being stuffy, and comfortable without being filled with people in sweatpants. That’s mainly due to the service. The servers always explain the menu and the wine list in a charming, relatable way that gets you excited to try whatever skin-contact wine or pizza they recommend. And if you had to wait a few extra minutes for your table, you might get some extra bites on the house.
All other details aside, the excellent Italian food gives Wm. Mulherin’s most of its Feel Good Factor. The menu, which ranges from small plates like a citrusy hamachi crudo to larger, shareable plates like Neapolitan-style pizzas and pastas, is crowd-pleasing but not basic. All of their pastas are incredible, the creamy porcini cavatelli and the rich duck agnolotti are our favorites, and they offer half portions so it’s easy to try a couple of different ones. They also have some of our favorite pizzas in Philadelphia - the margherita is always our go-to, but there are also other great options like The Spicy Jawn with pepperoni and long hot peppers. You could have an excellent dinner if you just stick to small plates and a bunch of pastas or pizzas, but if you want to order one of the mains, the half brick chicken is one of our favorite things here.
Every once in a while, you might have a meal at Wm. Mulherin’s that’s disappointing. You might get a cacio e pepe that’s essentially butter noodles with hardly any “pepe,” or a speck and egg pizza that almost tastes like it’s been reheated. But even on a bad night, your dinner will still be impressive. Nine out of ten times you bring someone here, it’s a meal that neither of you will forget - it might even convince a few of your visitors to make the trip to Philly more often.
If you like garlic, this is a solid starter or side course for any of the pasta dishes. Also, the breadcrumbs give the broccoli rabe a little bit of a needed crunch.
Light, citrusy, and a great way to start a meal that will probably end up being dominated by pizza and pasta.
There are a lot of great pasta options on the menu, but this isn’t one of them. It’s light on pepper, and the egg yolk just essentially makes it taste like a wet bowl of butter noodles.
With a leek puree and parmesan cheese on top, this pasta tastes like a savory juicy fruit-gummy exploding with pieces of duck and thyme.
This is our favorite pasta on the menu. It arrives at the table under what looks like the fluffiest blanket of taleggio and fontina cheese, and every bite is better than the one before it.
All of the pizzas are great, but the spicy jawn is the best. Topped with provolone and caciocavallo cheese, then pepperoni, hot coppa, and long hot peppers, this pie is spicy, meaty, and delicious.
You should focus most of your energy here on pizza and pasta, but if you want to get a main for the table, the half brick chicken is your best bet. It’s tender with a cherry glaze that makes it a tiny bit sweet.