In a historic city like Philly, every building has a story.
Wm. Mulherin’s Sons, located in the shadow of the El tracks on the corner of Front and Master, is no exception. The site of a newly opened wood-fired Italian restaurant — and, coming soon, a boutique hotel — boasts a south-facing wall decorated with a mural that graced the cover of Philly lo-fi legend Kurt Vile’s 2013 album “Walkin’ on a Pretty Daze.” But before any of that, the building was home to a whiskey distillery and bottling plant.
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What’s old is new
Two years ago it was acquired by Randy Cook and David Grasso, the developers and designers behind Roost, a pair of extended-stay hotels in the city with a uniquely sleek mid-century aesthetic. Over the course of the project, the building has been revamped, renewed and fully realized into a restaurant space that feels both period perfect and entirely new.
Entering though a door on Master Street, the original vestibule is intact and enlivened with a painting by artist Stacey Rozich. Depicting both the history of the distillery and the past and present of Fishtown, fans of Father John Misty might recognize Rozich’s folksy style from the cover of “I Love You, Honeybear.”
A home away from home for musicians
These ties to the music world are hardly incidental. Over the summer, the upper floors will open as a four-room hotel. With proximity to Johnny Brenda’s, Union Transfer and the Fillmore, the rooms of Wm. Mulherin’s Sons are primed to act as crash pads for the touring artists who frequent the venues in the neighborhood.
What’s on the menu
With wood-fired fare making up a good portion of the Italian-accented menu, the third dining room is home to an open kitchen featuring a grill and pizza oven where chef Chris Painter turns out brick chicken with pine nuts, cherries and cippolini onion and savory pies topped with lamb sausage and artichokes.
Painter and Cook saw a strong appeal in the building’s positioning, just a few blocks north of the bustling intersection of Frankford and Girard with plenty of positive expansion happening on the arterial stretch of Front Street.
“One of the cool things about this building is that it had so much original character,” Cook says. “We tried to design the project in a way where certain things feel as though they could have been here 100 years ago.” And with this seamless blend of old and new, Wm. Mulherin’s Sons is a place where touring bands can knock back Prohibition-era cocktails, pizzas land on slabs of hundred-plus year-old marble, and the old and new faces of Fishtown mingle.