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. 12stepsdown.com
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. fieldhousephilly.com
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. darkhorsepub.com
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. kungfunecktie.com
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. conniesricrac.com
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. knockphilly.com
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. myspace.com/tattooed_mom.
Ready to find out Philly's coolest people, fanciest food, tastiest drinks, best shopping and more? Welcome to PW's "Better Than Best" list, a roundup of all of the city's top hidden treasures.