Eat Like an Insider: Fergus ‘Fergie’ Carey

Fergus “Fergie” Carey is the owner of many beloved bars in Philadelphia, including Monk’s Cafe, The Belgian Cafe and his namesake, Fergie’s.

Originally from Dublin, Carey’s first job in the industry was at Burgerland.

“It was an Irish fast food chain on O’Connell St. I became one of the managers after a while and I learned tons about dealing with and managing people,” he says. “It was quite a rough job which also involved dealing with thugs, drug addicts and handbag snatchers. I did that from 1982 to 1987, and then I ran away [to Philly.]”

Carey arrived in Philly on a Saturday night and began working in the Cherry Hill Mall food court at 9 a.m. the next morning.

“Life is a funny thing,” he says.

So what does Carey love about the restaurant industry these days?

“Well, it is fun for one thing. And they always feed you,” he says. “The people are great and come from all walks of life. One can always get a job, and we wine and dine people — which is a worthwhile, and almost noble profession.”

Having lived in Philly for over 30 years, Carey knows everything there is to know about where to eat and drink here.

He tells us where we can dig into an Irish soda bread sandwich and which two restaurants are “the hottest” in town.

Best late night meal?
Grace Tavern (2229 Grays Ferry Ave.). Yes, I know I am one of the owners but still — it serves the full menu until 2 a.m. every night.  Grab a burger and some green beans. You did say late night. Really, really, advanced state of refreshment, late night? Geno’s (1219 S. 9th St.). Whiz without for me. Might as well get cheese fries too, if you’re going down that hole…

Best meal under $10?
POPE (1501 E. Passyunk Ave.). This dark star on Passyunk Avenue has a dynamite beer selection and a decent menu with everything under $12. Try Chef Pete Miller’s zucchini fritters with cashew tzatziki, a delicious bargain. The bar staff are always top notch also.

Hidden foodie gem?
Sassafras (48 S. 2nd St.) — one has to love a Mongolian bar turned Irish. Try the homemade Irish soda bread sandwich this week. Delish! Say hello to the Irish lads, Neil, Donal and Lil’ Ferg.

Best place to dine alone?
Amis (412 S. 13th St.).  I like to sit at the bar have a glass of Italian red and I always go for the cacio y pepe tonarelli. Marc Vetri may not own it anymore but it is still his pasta dishes. Say no more.

Place you always take or recommend to out-of-towners?
The back entrance into McGillin’s Olde Ale House (1310 Drury St.). Approach it from Sansom Street and walk down the dark, smelly alley. Open the little door and pow! You are in a busy, buzzing happy spot. It’s a bit of a shock as people are not expecting it. It always blows people away! And it’s always a good time. For dining, I love to show off Le Virtu (1927 E. Passyunk Ave.) to my out of town guests. It is run by the nicest people in the world and the food is great. I have the Fergie’s Pub staff party there every year.

Best date spot, hands down?
I like to date myself – I was born in the sixties! I like to go to a bar called BAR (1309 Sansom St.).  I like to sit at the bar by myself and have a can of Troegs Perpetual IPA and blast some rock on the Jukebox.

Best place to catch up with friends?
Standard Tap (901 N. 2nd St.). Well run, consistent, beautiful and growing for twenty years. It is run with passion and a sense of humor. The original Philly Gastro Pub – but don’t forget about our own little Monk’s Café (264 S. 16th St.) of course.

Most Instagrammable restaurant?
Instagram my arse. I have never instagrammed a restaurant but I will use this opportunity to talk about Fork (306 Market St.) and Vernick (2031 Walnut St.). These two restaurants are the hottest ticket in town. I could sit at the bar of either of these two any night and get spoiled beautifully with the best food.

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