On The Rox

Roxborough’s blue-collar bars offer many sensory delights.

By Brian McManus
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 13 | Posted Aug. 24, 2010

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Photo by Michael Alan Goldberg

Poor guy. He’s barely peered his head in the door before being admonished with a loud, angry chorus of “Nooooo!” from the bartender, the six or so daytime drinkers scattered around the rectangular bar and the four guys playing pool, unmistakable scorn on their faces.

“You’re flagged, motherfucker!” says a man, pointing a pool cue violently.

“Motherfucker, you’re flagged,” the bartender screams, shooing him with a yet-to-be-opened can of Miller Lite.

Then, in unison, all of them: “FLAGGED!”

Poor Guy blinks slowly, absorbs the blow, and withdraws back into the sunlight outside, heartbroken.

I’m at DeLeo’s Cafe (405 Dupont St.), a working-class dive on the Manayunk/Roxbourgh cusp, where they don’t take kindly to strangers—non-regulars here are gazed upon openly and with suspicion. Some of the regulars physically recoil in the presence of newcomers, hovering nervously around their drinks and waiting uncomfortably for the intruder to leave so they can go back to being themselves. Others take the opposite tack, turning the Asshole up to 11, puffing their chests and cursing loudly with gusto.

It’s called DeLeo’s Cafe, but it’s not a restaurant. Hell, it’s barely even a bar. Talk Roxborough/Manayunk dives—Peck Miller’s Bar, Pop Pop’s II, Cresson Inn, T Hogan’s Pub—to anyone who knows and DeLeo’s will come heavily “recommended,” always with equal measures of sarcasm and caution. “It’s a reaalll classy joint. Make sure you put your wallet in your front pocket.” “Top notch. Don’t make eye contact.” “Cream of the crop. Put your wallet in your front pocket and don’t make eye contact.”

There’s a distinct B.O. funk in the air at DeLeo’s that suits it perfectly. In the last few years, it’s been written up for fruit-fly infestation, roach infestation, mouse infestation and spider infestation. Also, for not cleaning utensils properly, which seems redundant as they’ve also been cited for not having a proper sink for sanitation.

But no one here is thinking about any of that, and instead are shaking their heads, marveling at the gall of Poor Guy, coming back here, and so soon.

So what’d he do?

“He smeared his own shit all over the walls and floor of the women’s restroom,” the bartender answers, his mouth switching back and forth between gleeful smirk and bitter disgust.

Ahhh. That’ll do.

“At least it was his own,” I joke, enough Old Grand-Dad in me to feel loose, but not so much I feel like my smart-ass commentary is welcome.

The bartender shoots me the best courtesy smile he can muster considering he’s missing several teeth. He pours himself a shot of Jager, downs it, walks out the door after Poor Guy, and is gone for quite some time.

A couple of the regulars grumble about whether or not he’s gone to get more ice to stock the Igloo cooler he’s serving the beer out of on account of the fridge being on the fritz. Fed up, one of them takes off for Pop Pop’s. “It’s cheaper and their beer is colder anyway.”

I follow him out the door in due time, and make my way over to a much more festive Pop Pop’s II (7168 Ridge Ave.), home of the $2.50 40-ounce Piels. They’ve got a great jukebox here—ZZ Top, Sinatra, the best of Yes (!). There are two Creed CDs in the thing too, but no one here gives them much play.

George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone” starts blaring, and a man a couple stools down starts singing the chorus to the woman he’s with, changing the words slightly.

“I’m bad with my bone.”

There’s a woman dancing wildly to whatever comes on, about to bounce right out of her Rolling Stones’ shirt. She all but loses her mind when Foreigner’s “Double Vision” is punched up. If you ever feel half as passionate about anything in your life as she does about the opening line—“Feelin’ down and dirty, feelin’ kinda mean”—you’ll do just fine.

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Comments 1 - 13 of 13
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1. Anonymous said... on Aug 25, 2010 at 07:08PM

“You can't possibly lump T Hogans Bar in with those s***hole bars, Yes, it's a blue collar neighborhood bar but anyone who goes there surely knows the difference between Hogan's and those other dumps! They have good specials and the wings especially are out of this world. And in all fairness to the other bars in your article, they are not in the same category as DeLeo's either.”

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2. Sam said... on Aug 25, 2010 at 08:47PM


Including T. Hogan's with DeLeo's is just flat out delusional to the point of madness (I haven't been to Peck's or Pop's). I lived in Manayunk for 8 years (in Ardmore now for last 4), and T. Hogan's is a great place to grab a microbrew(or a domestic) and scarf down a high-quality (I mean VERY high quality for a neighborhood pub) cheesesteak, wings, or chicken fingers. Jeez, they had blackened catfish fingers on the menu last time I was there (it sounds like DeLeo's has catfood that is black)! They have like 20 TV's to watch sporting events, and cool video games, darts, etc. Last time I was there was a month ago for a quick pop after work, and a few of the regulars were discussing some local zoning issue! They also gave a cordial "Yo" when I took a seat (not overly friendly, but not rude either). Also, there is lots of parking around T. Hogan's (including a private lot across the street).

I mean, seriously...in this case, the comparison is just not valid in the least.

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3. Anonymous said... on Aug 25, 2010 at 09:42PM

“Comparing De Leo's to any other bar in the area is unfair. It is in a different league: the Global Champions League of Fukcing-Dreadful Boozers. All of the other local bars mentioned are genuinely good drinkers - especially T Hogans. De Leo's could seriously be in with a chance of becoming a coach/cruise-ship destination for rich tourists who want to experience the shittest bars in the world. Come on Mr Nutter - this needs funding.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2010 at 10:10AM


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5. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2010 at 10:20AM

“u mean there was beer at deleos when he visited. usually its byob and i dont mean bring your own body odor! Thats expected.let the owner know if u have any trash he can use for stools n he will pickem up.you have to be colorblind to play pool ,i think all the balls r the same.if it wasnt for holes like this where would we go for entertainment!!!”

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6. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2010 at 12:49PM


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7. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2010 at 07:18PM

“Come on...Hogan's is gross. The ladies room there is comparable to DeLeo's for sure! ewwwww...”

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8. Anonymous said... on Aug 26, 2010 at 08:18PM

“Thank God someone else has a clue!!!! HOGAN'S IS NASTY. The ladies room is a nasty backed up sewer hole! You might as well just go in there and pull your pants down and piss on the floor! I wouldn't eat ANYTHING from any of these bars for fear of being poisoned. And make sure if you make a pit stop in DeLeo's, you wear a hazmat suit.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Aug 30, 2010 at 10:10AM

“The article didn't mention T. Hogan's.”

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10. Anonymous said... on Aug 30, 2010 at 10:14AM

“Oh, I see. T.Hogans' grouped with some others.”

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11. Anonymous said... on Aug 30, 2010 at 03:20PM

“Thanks for the information. I was thinking about stopping in on my way home one of these days. The people I see hanging around outside always seem so classy and well-mannered. Really, did you really need to review it?”

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12. Anonymous said... on May 9, 2011 at 03:03PM

“I would rather be at a place that I feel comfortable then down on Main Street with a bunch of Phony's. These Same Issues Are In Many Other Establishments Besides The Ones On The List. I'd rather D-i-v-e deep than with Shallow people. News flash I have all my original teeth and no cavities and No I don't hang at DeLeo's, but I do frequent the others on the list. I would call The Brick my Home base”

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13. Anonymous said... on Apr 4, 2013 at 02:39PM

“I feel like anonymous may 9th just threw out a couple hidden messages with that posting, I just wish I could figure them out...”


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