Better Than Best: Bars

By PW Staff
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 1 | Posted Oct. 19, 2011

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Best Place to (Still) Extend the Weekend Waaay into Monday

Ten years ago, the RUBA Club was a beloved Sunday night secret for the server set, a place where tired, artsy staffers melted memories of being harassed and demeaned away by wasting earnings on cheap slugs of liquor to fuel epic ping-pong battles and shenanigans. (One time, a local musician broke a bottle over the head of that guy from the Strokes. I guess you had to be there.) It slowed down for a while, but the little Russian-Ukrainian Boating Association that could exchanged hands, renovated and now we hear that the cash-only Sunday nights after-hour party vibe is back in full effect. Regularly hosted by multimedia theater artist Daniele Strawmyre of ReadySetGO, the hostess with the mostest knows how to choreograph a good time for the day-jobless and suits who don’t give a shit.

Ruba Hall, 414 Green St. 215.627.9831. rubaclub.org

Best Bar to Go It Alone and Be Left Alone

The awesomely named 12 Steps Down is the dive to pick if you really just want to have a drink (or a smoke inside), in public, by yourself and not be bothered or mistaken for wanting to be hit on. It’s secluded (12 steps under Christian Street), there’s good food ($7 grilled cheese sliders, tomato chutney?!), 300-plus beers, cheap drinks, TV, a jukebox and pool. Most importantly, you’re not going to be the only single person there and won’t stand out with a novel, sketchbook or blank stare on your face as you cradle your G&T. It has the neighborhood bar feel without the record-scratch, “you-don’t-belong-here” attitude.

12 Steps Down, 831 Christian St. 215.238.0379. 12stepsdown.com

Best Bar to Get Berated by Locals

Remember the mention of the record-scratch, “you-don’t-belong-here” thing? (See: Best Bar To Go It Alone and be Left Alone.) Grumpy’s is ace at producing that feeling. Though, once you grab a stool, order a $5 special and generously tip the bartender (don’t even think about looking at the juke box) you might get some respect. Just know that each lumpy old-man, metal-head and juicehead (with Snookie-alike in tow) in the joint wants to know who the hell you think you are? Where’s the bathroom: Who the hell do you think you are? I got next game: WTHDYTYA? How ’bout them Phils: WTHDYTYA? Excuse me, sir, but you seem to have mistaken my shot for yours while I was in the bathroom: WTHDYTYA?!

Grumpy’s Tavern, 1525 S. Ninth St. 215.416.1408.

Best Straight Bar That’s Slowly Turning Into a Gay Bar

With a Big Gay Al doppleganger (Paul, in appearance only) behind the bar and a booming Sunday night karaoke business, Locust Bar’s been slowly getting gayer and gayer with each show tune performed in earnest or pop diva revered. The smoke-filled blue-collar neighborhood bar doesn’t exactly scream pink triangle or rainbow flag, but the clientele that’s been flocking there just might. Before midnight of weekend’s end, droves of sinewy, young and oddball gays show up in hordes to perform and observe. It doesn’t hurt that it’s two blocks from the Bike Stop, but they are completely different universes. Locust is just starting to put its tip toe into a patent-leather pump.

Locust Bar, 235 S. 10th St. 215.925.2191.

Best Reason to Like Chestnut Hill Again (Or At All)

Did you know that, back in the ‘80s, Chestnut Hill wanted desperately to secede from the rest of Philadelphia? Some supporters likened it to “removing the brain from the giant.” True story. Years later, Chestnut Hill is still kinda uppity but seems to accept its home in Philadelphia County (a store that recently opened up there called Hipster Home is an apt testament to that). And now, by some stroke of luck or grace of God, Iron Hill Brewery finds a home in Chestnut Hill, too, right on Germantown Avenue. Iron Hill, which began in Newark, Del., in 1996, is hoping to have its ninth location open by late 2011 or early 2012. The reason its addition to this part of Philly is so unbelievable is because Chestnut Hill has not had an easy time attracting and/or keeping businesses on the Ave. Express peaced out (Jos A. Bank appears to be hanging on) a while back; so did the commercial corridor’s anchor store, Borders. Anyway, the point is that a fuckin’ awesome brewery is coming to Northwest Philly. This is one joint we hope doesn’t go out of business.

Iron Hill Brewery, 8400 Germantown Ave. ironhillbrewery.com/chestnuthill

Best Bar to Bump Fists With a Member of Bardo Pond

If you believe the T-shirts, the El Bar has been in business on Front Street for more than 40 years. Bardo Pond—world-beating psychedelic space rock veterans—have been guiding weird trips from the shadow of the Blue Line for almost as long. So it should be little surprise that the Gibbons Brothers are likely hovering around the El Bar’s pool table on any given night. Or maybe the rhythm section is glued to the flat-screen, cracking wise at Charlie’s shuffle to the mound. Be prepared for a hearty fist-bump, and a conversation that can turn seamlessly from Carlos Ruiz to Damo Suziki.

El Bar, 1356 N. Front St. 215.634.6430.

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