From upscale to down home, we really know where to knock 'em back.
On the border between Kensington and Fishtown, Lost Bar is in disputed territory. Serving up the Citywide Special (beer and a shot for $3), and located right across from the Philadelphia Brewing Company, Lost Bar will soon offer plenty of cheap and delicious PBC pints. Plus, there's a mesmerizing fish tank behind the bar, making it the perfect place to go when you want to only pretend to listen to what the guy sitting next to you is saying.
25. Belgian Cafe
21st and Green sts. 215.235.3500. www.thebelgiancafe.com
Sure the 'Mount has its share of perfectly fine drinking establishments and watering holes--Bridgid's, Green Room, Rose Tattoo, Bishop's Collar, not to mention newcomers Urban Saloon and St. Stephen's Green--but the Belgian Cafe stomps them all. A collaboration between Philly beer/bar mavens Tom Peters (Monk's Caf�, No. 14) and Fergus Carey (Fergie's, No. 20; Grace Tavern, No. 1), local expectations ran high when it was announced last year that a Belgian-style bar would be coming our way. If you're not from the neighborhood, there's not much to draw you to Belgian Cafe that you won't find elsewhere--just a great selection of (mostly) Belgian beers; decent, well-priced food (every 'hood needs a burger-and-mussels joint); and a clean and friendly bar that's not too fussy, not too boring, but--like the large paintings of soft naked ladies that decorate the dining room--somehow magically just right.
39 Haverford Ave., Narberth. 610.664.8655. www.narberthpa.com/TheGreeks
You live in the 'burbs and want to have a few pops at a joint with character, you're pretty much out of luck. The Main Line in particular is dotted with faceless sterile bars in generic environs. There are exceptions--McCloskey's and Guillanes, belly to belly in Ardmore, come to mind. But the place with the most character (and the most resident characters) is the Greeks, a woodsy ramshackle no-frills bar-with-booths and good honest food located in the heart of Narberth. Most of the time the demographic mix is classic parish picnic--all ages, all sizes, all degrees of smart. (Former Sixers coach Larry Brown is a semiregular drop by.) But at night the lights dim and the place gets kind of sexy in a 1959 suburban-noir kind of way.
951 Frankford Ave. www.myspace.com/thenewbarbary
If you're in the mood for intimate conversation, well-crafted cocktails or edibles of any kind, forget the Barbary. But if you wanna dance, you've found your spot. Less than six months old, the Barbary has quickly become the one-stop shop for those looking to get sweaty. DJ nights include Turnaround vs. Immediate (soul 'n' stuff), Michael Madonna Prince (Pop with a capital P), Broadzilla back from Sal's (blog bangers) and Spank Rock's weekly Jang House. Drinks are cheap, the refracted disco light makes anyone look and feel like a Daft Punk robot, and the photo booth's cool for taking a breather from the soundsystem.
637 N. Third St. 215.627.6711
To celebrate his 35th birthday in 2005, Rich Bruder started a band. But more important than just having a band, Bruder wanted the ability to perform in front of people. So he talked to the folks at the Abbaye, the homey corner bar/restaurant in Northern Liberties. "They're all my friends who work here," Bruder says. They let him play despite having no training or experience, and very little practice. It's that kind of place. On a daily basis the burgundy-colored room with art-covered walls is packed with neighborhood locals like Bruder, eating bacon-wrapped meatloaf sandwiches or seitan cheesesteaks, and quaffing fine Belgian beers. "There's a comfort level," Bruder says. "I got attracted to that and never left."
29 Sidecar Bar & Grille
2201 Christian St. 215.732.3429. www.THEsidecarbar.com
Arguably the friendliest bar in Philadelphia, Sidecar will make you feel welcome whether you're just grabbing a six-pack to go or plan to claim your stool for the whole night. Located just far enough from Broad Street to feel off the beaten path, this South Philly treasure may be teensy-tiny when it comes to space, but its beer selection is enormous, with drafts changing weekly. With a Cajun-inspired dinner menu featuring mouthwatering handmade sausages, Sidecar offers more than just atmosphere.
30. Locust Bar
235 S. 10th St. 215.925.2191
No frills, quality beer, good crowd, tasty food, decent prices. That describes a lot of bars, but none more than Locust Bar. The L-shaped space gets a little crowded at times, but despite its popularity, the place rarely feels stuffy or cramped. It has just the right selection of amenities and events--quizzo, karaoke and arcade bowling to name a few. Despite the bar's constant flood of hipsters, it also feels like a neighborhood bar your grandfather went to.
2013 Walnut St. 215.569.9585. www.bardsirishbar.com
Imagine a Dublin taproom packed with red-nosed regulars with whiskey-soaked brogues. That fantasy is the most accurate representation of the Bards you'll find on this side of the Atlantic. A true Irish pub swimming in a sea of shamrock-soaked imitations, the Bards avoids the gimmicks with classier decor. Think shillelaghs instead of four-leaf clovers, and Irish tribal drums instead of orange-green-and-white flags. Besides encouraging pint after pint of Guinness or that extra shot of Tullamore Dew, this Center City tavern keeps amusements low-key, save twice-weekly quizzo nights. The Bards is the real deal.
32. McGillin's Olde Ale House
1310 Drury St. 215.735.5562. www.mcgillins.com
No list of Philly bars would be complete without showing some love for McGillin's. This 146-year-old tavern is the oldest in Philly, opening the year Abe Lincoln took office and outlasting Strawbridge's, the Civil War and that pesky 18th Amendment. Keeping it fresh with topically themed drinks--last year's special was the King Tutini, inspired by the Franklin Institute's exhibit, and each football season brings the return of the deadly Iggletini--McGillin's has traditionally served more Stoudt's draft beer than any other tavern in the state. We'd say this ain't your grandma's bar, but it actually could've been.
1508 South St. 215.545.0475. www.tritonebar.com
Thank God the deep-fried candy bars are still there. Tritone--along with the entire Philly music scene--took a serious hit with last year's passing of co-owner Rick D. But the eclectic South Street mainstay has soldiered on, and still offers seemingly every genre under the sun. The next two weeks alone include jazz (G. Calvin Weston's Big Tree, Bobby Zankel), indie (Nite Lights, Grady), Jewish (the Collaborative's Purim Shpiel), hip-hop (Wise Intelligent Live and Doodlebug) and Eastern European (West Philadelphia Orchestra's Balkan Dance Party). And through it all, deep-fried candy bars. Try 'em with ice cream--Bob and Barbara's can't touch that.
34. Grey Lodge Pub
6235 Frankford Ave. 215.825.5357. www.greylodge.com
This Northeast pub was named one of America's best bars by Esquire and one of America's top 50 bars by BeerAdvocate.com. Don't hate, though--the place hasn't been spoiled by fame. The beer selection is constantly (and rightfully) lauded, but the strong Irish whiskey collection is the best in the city. Plus, you have to love a place that sometimes feels like it has an entire CYO soccer team in it.
35. Bishop's Collar
2349 Fairmount Ave. 215.765.1616
Named for the white stripe that forms atop the murky blackness of a perfect Guinness pint, the Bishop's Collar delivers what its clever logo promises. But St. James stout isn't the only choice on the menu. The 9-year-old Fairmount pub also features 10 other reliable brews on tap, including Yards, Yuengling and Stella selections. Owners Jeff and Megan Keel have assembled a comprehensive jukebox to keep heads bopping to everything from the Boss to hometown heroes Dr. Dog, but the real draw is the occasional live music. Best known for its church pew seating, Bishop's Collar has an earth-toned decor that opens up the narrow taproom, making it feel warm and welcoming.
36. Nodding Head Brewery and Restaurant
1516 Sansom St. 215.569.9525. www.ripsneakers.com/nodding
How could you not love a pub that sells a beer called Rudy's Kung Fu Grip? It's all about the beer at the Nodding Head. Which is not to say the grub, the dart boards, the bobblehead collection, the always happy waitstaff, the nonstop soccer on the TV and the jukebox (featuring the Clash, Toots and the Maytals and Billy Bragg) are to be sniffed at either. But oh man, the beer! Brewed on the premises, it's the mutt's nuts. Some of their more esoteric concoctions--like the spicy Monkey Knife Fight--may be an acquired taste. But stick to staples like the grog, 60 Shilling and BPA, and you'll be laughing. Literally.
37. Charlie's Pub
114 N. Third St. 215.627.3354
There are two kinds of people in this city--those who love Old City and those who loathe it. If you're among the latter, we hear ya loud and clear. But give Charlie's a chance. An oasis among the usual Old City mayhem, Charlie's Pub is a low-key alternative where patrons actually sit and converse with their pals instead of tossing back Soco-and-lime shots or grinding to a corny remix of a song you first heard in eighth grade. The menu features typical pub grub with a surprising Mediterranean flair, and there are two well-maintained pool tables in the back room. One visit and you'll be a convert.
38. White Dog Cafe
3420 Sansom St. 215.386.9224. www.whitedog.com
Being spotted at White Dog Bar automatically ups your cool ante. Even if you go to Penn. Frequented by artists, architects, graphic designers and other creative types, the well-lit room feels like the perfect place to sit and chat with pals or fly solo for a night of non-creepy people-watching. The only place in the whole city where you can grab late-night organic snacks, White Dog has the most amazing nachos you'll ever taste. And the hot toddies are to die for.
39. Ten Stone
21st and South sts. 215.735.9939. www.tenstone.com
Open five years next week, Ten Stone is bigger than it looks. The dark wood, fireplace and warm ambience belie the bar's surprising size, and it's proved an anchor in the G-Ho/Anderson Village resurgence. The mammoth draft list is always changing, but regularly includes a healthy mix of domestics and imports, lites, wheats and ales. And the servers are especially good at recommending beer pairings with the sophisticated (but cheap!) menu: three cheese risotto fritters, brie and blue cheese fondue, grilled flank steak salad with caramelized onions and miso peanut vinaigrette, and spicy turkey reuben on a ciabatta roll, to name just a few. Gentrification can be delicious.
947 E. Passyunk Ave. 215.465.5505
There are many reasons to patronize the Dive: $4 PBR and Jager specials, rock paper scissors competitions, bathroom graffiti that says "These clever kids are killing me." But there's no better reason to go than to simply stick it to the man. Last spring the place was raided by the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections and cops after owner Jonn Klein says he pissed off the wrong connected guy. The upstairs was shut for months. This can be said only in heavy words: People who know people in Philadelphia can get shit done to you. If you don't know people, go to the Dive and fight for the little guy.
41 National Mechanics
22 S. Third St. 215.701.4883. www.nationalmechanics.com
An integral (if recent) addition to the way-too-cool-to-be-in-Old-City tavern triumvirate (see also: Sugar Mom's, No. 4, and Charlie's, No. 37), National Mechanics opened its red-velvet-draped doors just about a year ago. With an expansive selection of pub fare, 32 varieties of beer and a warm, welcoming vibe, the most recent incarnation of the gothic Third Street staple is the best thing to happen to the 171-year-old former bank building since ... well, since anyone around here can remember.
42 Dock Street
701 S. 50th St. 215.726.2337. www.dockstreetbeer.com
Everyone's been singing Dock Street's praises for its elaborate, delicious pizzas and its tasty homebrewed beer. Everyone's right. This West Philly brewpub is just about the only watering hole on Baltimore Avenue that isn't the back/side/bar area of an Ethiopian restaurant, making it an interesting alternative for all those students and professorial types. It's the perfect place for meeting up with dates from Craigslist's Missed Connections--the drinks and food are impressively refined, the atmosphere is laid back, and there are enough people around to help in an emergency.
It seems like owner John Longacre had a Field of Dreams moment. Some ghost must've whispered a little "If you build it" action into his ear, because there has to be a reason this South Philadelphia Tap Room exists. Too far from the hipper haunts of South Philly to be an easy drunk walk for pub crawls, the SPTR loaded up on microbrews, opened its doors, and announced to the seemingly thousands of craft beer lovers in the city that they were there for them, organizing lectures, tastings and brew-focused brunch.
44. Misconduct Tavern
1511 Locust St. 215.732.5797. www.misconduct-tavern.com
What's with the nautical theme? All due respect to the late former owner (who named the place after his sailboat), but high seas in Philly? Last high C 'round these parts came from Teddy Pendergrass when he hit that note repeatedly while jamming with the Bluenotes at Sigma Sound. Oh, but how we digress. Misconduct is a winner because the bar is itself is a work of art--long and deep and substantial, and because there are seven flat-screen TVs, one everywhere you look, making it one of the best non-frat bars in Center City to watch sports in late afternoon or early evening. Later at night Misconduct transforms into what its name connotes, but by then you're home in bed watching Sportscenter.
45. Tony's Place
6300 Frankford Ave. 215.289.3044. www.tonystomatopies.com
An institution on Frankford Avenue in Mayfair for more than 50 years, Tony's is a solid neighborhood sports bar where the high-pitched accents of Hubert's grads reverberate off the walls like it's a church basement gym. Somehow, though, it's remained practically unknown outside Northeast Philly despite having, hands down, the city's best pizza. Tony's serves tomato pies--God orders extra cheese when he goes to Tony's.
408 S. Second St. 215.238.7280. www.xochitlphilly.com
Xochitl--the authentic upscale Aztec bar/lounge/restaurant in Headhouse Square--serves the freshest, tastiest margaritas in Philly. Choose your tequila (Herradura, El Tesoro, Siembra Azul ... the list goes on) mixed with freshly squeezed lime juice, or try a fresh and fancy Mexican cocktail with the likes of chile-infused tequila, muddled blood orange and cranberries, fresh agua de Jamaica or prickly pear juice, and garnishes like a spicy pomegranate rim. Agave purists, meanwhile, can sip and savor the premium tequila flights arranged by maker (Sauza Tres Generaciones, Don Julio or Patr�n) or style (blanco, reposado or a�ejo), while munching on earthy, belly-filling huitlacoche gorditas. Good tequila will cost you, so don't miss Xochitl's half-price-margaritas happy hours.
611 S. Third St. 215.574.9495. www.onealspub.com
Just off South Street, O'Neals handily wins the Best Center City Sports Bar's East of Broad Division. And why not? The TVs are plentiful, the crowd boisterous and attentive to games--especially local ones--and there's free Wi-Fi. At O'Neals you don't have to calculate whether your fantasy team is getting destroyed in the championship. Service is great too. There's never a need to wait for a beer; tables get moved around with precision. Replacing the waitresses at O'Neals with robots equipped with the latest in waitstaff technology would decrease efficiency.
48. Pub on Passyunk East
1501 E. Passyunk Ave. 215.755.5125
Somewhere between dive bar and colonial armory, POPE (officially the Pub on Passyunk East) is defined by its dark yet alluring ambience. Toss back a few craft brews from the extensive beer menu, and it'll be easy to imagine you're anywhere other than South Philly. Make your first visit a weekday outing to avoid competing with droves of scenesters possessing an unrivaled affinity for image, affordable drinks and a well-stocked jukebox.
49. Loie Bistro and Bar (CLOSED)
128 S. 19th St. 215.568.0808. www.loie215.com
Loie (or Loie's, if you hail from deep South Philly) executes the restaurant-by-day, hotspot-by-night atmosphere with elan. It consistently features quality DJs spinning everything from "In da Club" to Inxs, keeping patrons bumping and grinding all night long. The free coat check on weekends is a nice feature, and it's policed by a bouncer, so you feel safe leaving your parka behind while you hit the dance floor. Bonus: The crazy-cheap shot specials will ensure you're back for a medicinal hair o' the dog Sunday brunch with yummy food and bottomless Bloody Marys and mimosas.
259 S. 15th St. 215.735.1259
See Oscar's Tavern (No. 9). Take out the part about polite and efficient waitstaff and the 23-ounce pour. Now substitute the phrase "two blocks" for "two doors."
Grace Tavern 2229 Grays Ferry Ave. 215.893.9580 Cuisine: Beer food Prices: $5.95-$11 Hours: 11:30am-2am. Smoking: Yes Atmosphere: Neighborhood pub. Service: Nice folks, these. Food: Sausage sa...
Good Dog 224 S. 15th St. 215.985.9600 Cuisine: American Prices: $7-$21 Hours: 11:30am-2am Mon-Fri; 4pm-2am Sat-Sun. Atmosphere: Old taproom meets pet boutique. Service: Friendly, enthused. Fo...
Come for the signature Roquefort-stuffed Good Dog burger or Wednesday nights' half-priced cans. Sit in the cozy high-backed booths or, if you've got a big group, at one of the coveted tables upstairs. Stay for the happy hipster waitstaff, the Johnny Goodtimes quizzo or "Philly's only Internet jukebox" (though the coolest cats prefer the Pac-Man on the third floor). A drinkers' bar for foodies, the self-proclaimed "baddest bitch in town" has you covered on both sides of the aisle. The kitchen, helmed by gastropub wunderkind Jessica O'Donnell, is open till 1 a.m.--so you can enjoy fries with your PBR pounder till the wee hours of the morning, doggie-style. "in the biz" discount for restaurant & bar employees: 20 percent off Sunday - Wednesday Police and Fire department discount: 20 percent off everyday...
Even though owner Mark's been a busy Bee, having revamped Silk City into its current retropolitan splendor, he hasn't forgotten N. Third. Where else can you look at dried piranhas hanging from the ceiling, pretend Tuaca is a proper cordial or mop up the best sausage gravy and biscuit breakfast, all under a huge eagle and without feeling rushed?...
There's a lot to like about Memphis Taproom, the hotly anticipated Port Fishington gastropub that's quickly locking down status as the preferred command center for the neighborhood's vanguard. I lik...
PW's Music Issue 2014