Throwback Thursday – The Balligomingo Inn

The Balligomingo Inn, or Balligo) Inn as some called it, came up in conversation earlier this week. The inn was a jazz club on Balligomingo Road in West Conshohocken. At best we can discern, it operated in the early 1990’s. The space is now used for storage. Here are a couple things we found on the web about the inn.

Balligomingo Inn

From Joe Fortunato on Vimeo

During the early 1990’s there was a place called “The Balligo Inn” located on Balligomingo Road in Conshohocken, PA. The Balligo was a weekend quaint rustic Inn that featured a limited menu of sandwiches & salads plus a bar that served many-imported International Beer labels that were not able to find in other places. The Philadelphia Inquirer and other local newspapers ranked and acclaimed this place as one of the best venues to hear live JAZZ. Every Friday & Saturday night the Jazz entertainment consisted of a House Trio or Quartet lead by saxophonist Joe Fortunato that featured Poppa John DeFrancesco, organ – Eddie McFadden, guitar – Mike Anthony on drums. The entertainment policy was to have a “Jazz Open House” each weekend in order to give a creative musical outlet to aspiring young musicians and experienced musicians that were traveling through the Philadelphia area. On many occasions, you were able to witness a major Jazz musician or vocalist stop-by just to say hello and sit-in with the band members for an impromptu performance that would generate standing ovations from a 200-seat capacity crowd.

1992 Article in the Philadelphia Inquirer

Tucked away in an unlikely area of West Conshohocken, on a street with the unfortunate name of Balligomingo Road, is a tiny, hot jazz club called – wonder where this name came from? – the Balligo Inn.

What marks this as a weird destination is the pause you take outside the door, right after you finish hesitating over whether to park precariously on the side of this winding road or in the minuscule lot. It’s a pause that, whether you say it out loud or not, leaves “Is this the right place?” hanging ominously in the air.

From the outside, and even on the inside, the Balligo appears to be no more than a local bar, known only to the local-est of locals. In fact, only nine tables fill the room with the music. Because of the corner-tappy atmosphere, the pause may linger if you enter the Balligo before the music starts (at 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays). But as soon as the Original Act III Jazz Organ Trio takes the stage, you’ll forget any doubts you had.

The Act III Jazz Organ Trio, which on Saturday nights adds a guitar player and turns into the Act IV Jazz Organ Quartet, is a sizzling house band. But more impressive than the traditional music – as good as any at Ortlieb’s or Zanzibar Blue, with a strong tenor sax and a powerful undertone added by an organ – is the Balligo’s ambience. There’s something about the stage lighting that casts a smoky, intimate glow across the musicians’ faces. There’s also the thrill of discovering such a gem of a bar.

Unlike many taverns that look like this, the Balligo actually has decent food, for lunch and dinner. Especially the seafood, which includes Louisiana crabs year-round.

The Balligo Inn Jazz Club is at 16 Balligomingo Rd. (Take the Schuylkill Expressway to Exit 27 at Gulph Mills, turn right at the bottom of the ramp and you’re on Balligomingo Road; the Inn is three-quarters of a mile up, on the left.) The Inn is open 1:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Dinner is served 7 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, till midnight other days. The house band plays 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. An open jam session runs 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursdays. No cover charge. Phone: 215-828-5615.

Please share your memories of the inn in the comments.

Photo from ChromeJR on