When we first moved to our town we were smitten by the flashy exterior of a vintage diner only to be disappointed on more than one occasion by the food– reminding us that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Taking those words to heart, one day we thought we’d try an intriguing but somewhat plainer looking restaurant up the road, The Fisherman. And BOY were we in for a treat!
Now, I will say up front that not everyone who has visited it “gets” The Fisherman, but since you’re here reading Retro Roadmap, I think you will appreciate the charm of the place.
Opened 1960, The Fisherman was built by the father of the folks who run it now. He was the original Fisherman, according to his daughter Laurie, who says her dad would go to the Chesapeake and fish, bring his catch home to PA, clean it and serve it at the restaurant.
While fish and seafood still feature prominently on the menu, it also includes many standard diner food staples- my ultimate fave being the chicken croquettes (with a side of pickled beets, please). While not fancy we’ve always been pleased with what we ordered, and it is definitely much better than the food we had at the shiny diner. They are also famous for their pies, especially the strawberry, though I am usually too stuffed to get dessert.
Besides the comfort food, the best thing ever about The Fisherman is the décor. For the most part untouched since the place opened, it is a beautiful study in preserved materials, patterns and textures. This combination is kept tastefully in check by an overarching neutral palette, allowing everything to serenely co-exist and not clash.
A visual feast from the linoleum floor to the recessed ceiling with its leafy light fixtures, the place is well kept and well cared for.
Allow me to gush for a bit:
The Booths! Each one hand made by the original Fisherman, including the round one in the corner (my fave!) We are all lucky that they are custom sized and cannot be easily replaced by cheaper modern versions. The mocha colored vinyl is patterned with a jazzy intersection of swerving lines and abstract geometrics, busy without being overwhelming.
The Counter! Vintage Formica with a sandy stone motif on a white background. Swively stools overlook a soda fountain setup, where your drinks are still made by mixing syrup and soda water.
The Walls! Warm grey wooden paneling reminiscent of the weatherbeaten exterior of a beach house. Hanging on the walls are various stuffed fish, most of which were caught by the original owner (ask to see the giant sailfish in the banquet room, that was a catch too!)
The cash register is solid silver chrome, as is the pie case. Trust me and don’t miss the signs on the restrooms. Oh and did I mention the cigarette machine that advertises brands that don’t even exist anymore?
Can you see why we love it so?
You know you want to check out the place now, right? Here are a couple of insider tips for your visit:
First of all, it is a very quiet place, with soft music playing in the background, and frequented by older folks. Please don’t be boisterous or loud, it just ruins the whole vibe.
Second- splurge and get yourself a large soda. They come in oversized mugs and are mixed to order behind the counter.
Lastly and most importantly- Please let Laurie know how much you love the decor and appreciate the fact that she and her brothers have not made any changes to it. It definitely takes the place from beige to beautiful.
Please also let them know what a treasure they have on their hands, and that it is one of the reasons you came to visit. I’ve said it each time I’ve visited, but they could think I’m just an odd broad. So add your voice to the chorus of support for how cool the place looks, so they don’t think of “modernizing” the place. Horrors!
440 Schuylkill Rd
Phoenixville, PA 19460-5201
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