Better Than Best: Philly Bars

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Trying to find a decent bar in which you can smoke since the partial ban went through is a bit of a trial. Most of the few Philly bars that still allow smoking know very well that smokers have nowhere else to go and will therefore put up with tiny tables, shitty beer selection, air quality reminiscent of the monster on Lost (which is what happens when you pack half of the heaviest smokers in town into four bars) and staff attitudes that are generally terrible. Now, non-smokers reading this are probably thinking, “Why are smokers complaining about air quality, quit or smoke outside or stop whining,” but non-smokers can shut up and skip to every other bar writeup in this section. This one’s for you, smokers: 12 Steps Down is an Italian Market bar with friendly bartenders, tables that can sit more than four people, pool, breathing space, an excellent beer selection that’s not super expensive and ashtrays. Now don’t ruin it for the rest of us.

12 Steps Down, 831 Christian St. 215.238.0379.

Best Place To Watch 15 Football Games At Once

Problem: You want to watch every single NFL game on a Sunday afternoon, but most sports bars are full of angry douchebags who take cues in style and attitude from the cast of Jersey Shore . Solution: Head to Field House , the surprisingly solid sports bar in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Field House has decent food and 50 plasma televisions, including sets in every booth. From most places in the bar, you can see every game on a Sunday afternoon, with several of the televisions in an awesome rectangle-of-four-televisions setup. Not completely immune to douches, but worth it if you absolutely need to see almost every team in the NFL play at once.

Field House, 1150 Filbert St. 215.629.1520.

Best Place To Play Darts

Darts is a game inextricably linked with the drink. This combination of razor-sharp projectiles and alcohol has bred several idiot-proof varieties—plastic boards, rubber tips—just in case your friendly bar owner doesn’t love the idea of potentially blinding his patrons. But in this safety-obsessed world, it’s the truly great bar that not only has real darts but has them out among the blissfully ignorant masses and not tucked away in some fearful corner. By this measure, the Dark Horse Tavern is a dart-lover’s mecca. Their eight dartboards are right in the thick of the action, adding to the danger of this already dangerous game. Each booze-soaked battlefield is just an errant dart’s throw from a bar so you won’t forget just what makes this game great.

Dark Horse Tavern, 421 S. Second St. 215.928.9307.

B est Tiny Place To Catch A Band You’d Pay Through The Nose To See In NYC

It’s always a nice surprise to see a band you have your eye on throw a  Necktie date on their itinerary. With a typical $10 ticket price and space for about 100 people at a time, it’s a steal. A lot of bands that end up at Necktie are following up dates at the Mercury Lounge or the Music Hall of Williambsurg. Not huge price tags but, ya know beers at those joints are gonna be like $12 each, and many of them sell out quickly. Last year saw visits from indie darlings Gang Gang Dance, Fuck Buttons, Girls, Fiery Furnaces, Fucked Up and many others, and 2010 will no doubt be littered with locals throwing record release parties and shows from several “next big things.”

Kung Fu Necktie, 1248 N. Front St. 215.291.4919.

Best BYOB Venue With A Caged Rat

While most nightlife proprietors have animosity toward rats, Connie’s Ric Rac co-owner Frank Tartaglia has a soft spot. For the past year, South Philly’s BYOB music venue has kept a caged rat right on the bar as a nod to their homespun, grimy brilliance. Originally bought as food for Tartaglia’s pet snake, Rick the Ric Rac Rat would give concert-goers the old once over as they ventured to the BYOB share fridge for another beer. Alas, the boys of the Ric Rac are going legit, recently applying for a food and liquor license, which spelled the end for Rick. Where is he now? “One of our customers adopted him,” says Tartaglia. “And we were going to get rid of the snake but on his last night at the Ric Rac, the rat we fed him fought back and ate the snake’s head!” Tartaglia set the fighting rat free to invade other nightclubs as the Ric Rac was given a clean bill of health. They expect to begin serving food and booze in the spring.

Connie’s Ric Rac, 1132 S. Ninth St. 215.279.7587.

Best Bar For Young Gays To Get Bought Drinks

Sometimes it seems like girls have it so easy. All they have to do is put on some heels, do their hair, expose some tit and—Bam!— they’re drinkin’ free all goddamn night ! They just bat their lashes and lean over 45 degrees and any dude with at least one working eye will come running to their alcohol rescue. But what’s a young gay who’s artsy lifestyle affords only a few PBR cans before pushing their monthly budget to do? Knock is the answer. The swanky decor and older gentlemen’s crowd make twentysomethings (dressed in something other than a V-neck sweater and bootcut jeans) stand out like a doe-eyed target. Be careful though, boys, the drinks are strong at Knock (don’t accept too many, it’s trashy), and you may end up puzzled with a business card on the pillow next to you. Sometimes it helps to bring a book or magazine, it makes you look extra lonely, and sure enough you’ll have an upside-down shot glass placed in front of you with a wink from across the bar flying your way in no time. Score.

Knock, 225 S. 12th St. 215.925.1166.

Best Hipster Bar To Play Pool

Tattooed Mom ’s is like a movie set. It’s a biker bar without the bikers. It’s a dive bar in a decidedly un-dive neighborhood. The punk-club feel of the upstairs barroom will leave you feeling like you have ventured into a Jim Croce song, and with the dirty-but-diverse jukebox, you can pick the perfect soundtrack. Down balls and beers as you strut the floor like Paul Newman in the Color of Money . After all, isn’t that why we play pool in the first place?

Tattooed Moms, 530 South St. 215.238.9880.

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Comments 1 - 9 of 9
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1. Lynn Hoffman said... on Feb 24, 2010 at 07:47AM

“Good Hefeweizen, Batman! You compiled a list of Better-than-Best bars in the city and left out Monk's. That's like putting together a list of art venues and leaving out Philadelphia Museum of Art, or cheesesteak joints and neglecting Vincenzo's. Maybe you think everybody knows about it-and maybe everybody does, but this is the bar that half of your list is trying to emulate.
While we're at it, how about venturing out of Center City by more than a few blocks and trying Earth Bread Brewery or McMenamin's in Mt. Airy? Earth has a particularly radical idea: it's a brewpub where the beer is wonderful. I wonder how they thought of it.

Lynn Hoffman”

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2. SB said... on Feb 24, 2010 at 01:08PM

“"On top of that, he’s quick to offer a sample before you commit to a whole pint unlike some other owners in our city. (We’re looking at you Peters and Hartranft.)"


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3. hmmm said... on Feb 24, 2010 at 01:21PM

“Besides the strip clubs of Pennsport and the "is that even considered a fucking bar" aka Connie's Ric Rac, South of Washington Ave. is once again ignored by PW. I'm surprised (not really).”

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4. Cameldroppings said... on Feb 26, 2010 at 08:46AM

“Attn Hartranft's,
Your unwillingness to offer a diminutive 1/2 oz. taste before purchasing the FIRST pint has cost you several customers, myself included. Since your beers are in the $5-$6 range, this taste would cost you 16--19 cents. This exorbitant amount however, would be quickly recovered with the patron's first purchased pint (nobody gets a taste then walks out) and your customers wouldn't feel as if they were drinking at a beer vending machine.”

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5. jibberdin said... on Feb 26, 2010 at 11:23AM

“oh Bike Stop, how I love thee.
A throwback to the gay leather cruise spots of the early 80's?
NOPE, this place is an original.

not polished, and no martinis but oh daddy what a good place to find yourself on the weekends.
keep it up boys.

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6. rascal b schuylkillian said... on Feb 26, 2010 at 12:54PM

“I once ate a cheesesteak, drank a flying fish, and watched a girl with a taint peircing dance on the bar. a great place to spend the day if you ditch work.”

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7. Pete LaVerghetta said... on Mar 1, 2010 at 10:49AM

“List articles are doomed. Three Monkeys? The Grey Lodge is reason enough to visit NE Philly, and Scoats or staff will gladly give you a sample of whatever you'd like to taste.”

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8. TR said... on Mar 2, 2010 at 08:03PM

“For those who find themselves in Chestnut Hill on a weekend night for whatever reason, finding something to do can be difficult. After all, the whole neighborhood shuts down around 9. Of course, McMenamin's and Earth are fine destinations, but I've got to recommend Towey's Tavern, near the intersection of Germantown Avenue and Mermaid Lane. Beer is cheap, the pitchers are big (during football season, they have $6 pitchers on Monday nights) and you can smoke there. Pretty awesome to find an honest-to-God dive right in the middle of Chestnut Hill, of all places.”

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9. PhillyClass said... on Mar 12, 2010 at 12:58PM

“Ritter is a genius and true visionary -- where would Philly be without him.”


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