January 26, 2017

Mario's Fishbowl in Morgantown: Where Nolstalgia is Served Ice (Cream) Cold

Historic Bars Mario's Fishbowl Beer on Tap Exterior Sign

photo by: Kim Zweibaum

Mario's Fishbowl in Morgantown, West Virginia.

If you’re looking for a bar to take you back to your college glory days, head to Morgantown, West Virginia. There, near the campus of West Virginia University, you’ll find Mario’s Fishbowl, a fixture in this college town since the 1960s.

Don’t worry if you’re not an actual alum; the bar is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. If you aren’t convinced, take a look at the bar’s walls. From floor to ceiling, handwritten notes, posters, and signs from patrons from all over the world prove that the bar’s neighborly atmosphere isn’t just for regulars.

Historic Bars Mario's Fishbowl wall with duck sign covered in letters and notes

photo by: Kim Zweibaum

Some of the notes covering the walls of Mario's Fishbowl date to the early 1970s.

Historic Bars Mario's Fishbowl Closeup of the Fishbowls that patrons drink beer out of

photo by: Kim Zweibaum

Enjoy a local brew from these large glass goblets (known locally as fishbowls).

Mario’s Fishbowl evolved out of a confectionery store that opened in 1949. One year later, the owners moved their shop down the road on Richwood Avenue, where they built a one-story brick veneer building. They sold ice cream to children from a long, red laminate countertop in giant, round, glass goblets from a local manufacturer. For older customers, the store offered beer on tap.

After the confectionery owner passed away, the business passed to Rose and Mario Spina in 1963 who transformed it into a bar. They began serving beer from the ice cream goblets for 35 cents—a great bargain that speedily attracted a following. Legend says that Mario once made a casual remark that the goblets resembled fishbowls. The name stuck, and the iconic drinkware became the inspiration for the bar’s current name. It also cemented the bar’s legacy as the place to go for generous servings of cold beer and good conversation.

Historic Bars Mario's Fishbowl Photo of Mario and Rose Spina original owners on the Wall

photo by: Kim Zweibaum

Mario and Rose Spina faithfully oversaw this favorite watering hole in Morgantown for almost 35 years.

Though the giant glass ice cream bowls now serve craft beer and homemade sangria, the building hasn’t changed much since the 1950s. The Spinas, and later the Furfaris, who took over Mario’s Fishbowl in 1997, have hardly altered the interior—not the checkered floors, nor the long counter that served sweets to the town’s children for over a decade. While the business attracts an older crowd today, patrons still find delight in perching at the red linen Formica countertop and enjoying a drink out of those famous goblets.

Location: 704 Richwood Ave., Morgantown, WV 26505

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-12 a.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-1. a.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

You’re having: Any of their cooked-to-order wings (their Cowboy Ranch wings are a favorite) and a great local beer, like Greenbrier Valley's Wild Trail Pale Ale.

Fun Fact: The bar stores its fishbowls in the original ice cream freezer that dates to its years as a confectionery.

Best Yelp Review: “I like the fishbowl. It's genuine Morgantown, cozy, and the beer and food are always tasty. Don't confuse the fishbowl for a modern day gastropub that only serves craft beers. The fishbowl is a throwback where you can get ice cold beers and some pretty traditional pub food. What makes the fish bowl great is that it's not overrun by the frat pack college kids and is a great quaint place to meet your friends or coworkers after work to have a few cold ones and enjoy the friendly environment.”–Eric S.

Meghan White is a historic preservationist and an assistant editor for Preservation magazine. She has a penchant for historic stables, absorbing stories of the past, and one day rehabilitating a Charleston single house.


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