Better Know a Bartender: Jon Kennedy, Billy Murphy’s Irish Saloon

Dude behind the taps at East Falls’ legendary watering hole spills all:  a Q&A

EastFallsLocal BillyMurphy Jon at Billy Murphys polaroid text

Many years ago, Jon Kennedy was on the fast track to success,  earning not just an MBA but also a law degree from Temple. He was making piles of money, but he felt drained and unfulfilled. So he simply switched careers to what made him happy:  people, good food & drink, community.  Billy Murphy’s Saloon was the obvious choice for a local like him.

When Jon’s not pulling drafts behind the counter, he’s likely hosting friends at his home up the street where he keeps — what else? — a fully-stocked bar, including local beer from home-brewing friends. He’s also an accomplished & experimental chef who fully embraces the “Whole Beast” Movement:  Mmmm… pigs’ feet. Fish eyes? Yes please!

Jon was full of tips and commentary when we caught up with him last Monday night, here we attempt to distill him down to ten questions & answers. Ha.  In truth, we fired dozens at him — so did other bar patrons — and Jon entertained us all thru $5 chicken sammies and this root beer stuff he recommended that tastes EXACTLY LIKE ROOT BEER.


EastfallsLocal 4-21 Not Your Fathers Root Beer polaroid text

Seriously. You would never in a million years guess it’s 5%+ abv, this is a dangerous brew that goes frighteningly well with pub food (have not yet dumped a scoop of vanilla ice cream in it but obviously that’s the next step).

Thanks, Jon, for introducing us to this delicious alchemy. And thank you, too, for the wisdom you impart upon us below.


1. When were you last drunk and what on?

Yesterday when I stopped in for a minute and stayed till closing. Racer 5 (an IPA 7 1/2%)

2. What kind of drunk are you?

I love everyone!

3. Hangover cure of choice?

Coconut water and gingseng iced tea. (Interesting aside: he used to favor Vitamin Water to right him after a night of partying, so much that he bought stock in the company before Coco-Cola bought ’em: “Don’t mind saying I made a pretty penny on that one!” )

4. What kind of business is missing in East Falls?

Another nice BYOB — like Fiorino’s. I try to get there with friends and a few bottles of wine two, three times a month. I love the place but it’d be great to have more choices around here. For everything, really.

5. Speaking of — what do you look for in a bar?

Somewhere relaxing, where people are friendly and they don’t eyeball you or give a crap, really, what your deal is. As long as you’re cool, we’ll all get along.

6. Dog or cat person?

Definitely a dog person. I inherited a now-13 year old chihuahua named Jake from an ex girlfriend. The most loving chihuahua in the world.

7. Favorite cocktail?

Seasonal — right now I’m loving a jalapeno-cucumber margaritas, you’d never guess these two flavors would mix to taste like melon but they do. It’s really interesting and refreshing.

8. Bartender pet peeves?

I have two, but these aren’t digs at customers, people are just trying to be helpful. But just so you know, it’s really hard when you ask us “What’s good,” cause it’s all good. That’s why we sell it! So you need to tell me what you like, and then I can recommend something. But just asking me what’s good without any other information is an exercise in futility.

Second, customers trying to be conscientious will often wad up their garbage into their pint glass but really all you’re doing is requiring your server or bus person to dig that trash out by hand, which is kinda nasty. Much easier to just swipe it off the bar.  Thanks!

9. Is there a trick to tipping a bartender?

Tip big the first round — at least 50% — to get the bartender’s attention.

10. What do you do when you’re not at Murphy’s?

I cook, I eat, I have friends over — a lot of my friends are in the restaurant/bar industry, too, so we like to get together all over: here, down in the city, at my place…  I’m digging the “nose to tail” thing that’s happening: pig’s feet, lardo, organs — all those big flavors. Dining out in Philly is really exciting because a lot of chefs are experimenting with all that good stuff now, it’s fantastic.

Eastfallslocal cucumber jalapeno margarita


Steep 1 jalapeno in a fifth of blanco tequila (your choice ) for about a weekend or two
Seed & juice a cucumber
Simple syrup
Mix to taste, serve in a smoked-salt rimmed glass if you wanna get fancy. 

Say hey to Jon at Billy Murphy’s Irish Saloon,  3333 Conrad Street, East Falls, Philadelphia (he’s there’s most nights and some weekends)

UPDATE 2017: Be sure to follow Jon’s monthly beer column, Behind the Tap, on EFL! 

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