From upscale to down home, we really know where to knock 'em back.
This city loves booze. Fancy microbrews, dented cans of PBR, a snobby Merlot or a shot of Jack--we love it all. But lonely drinkers we're not. We Philadelphians go out to get our drink on because we know a good time has more to do with location than beverage. Happily, there are approximately 252,925 different bars, brewpubs, taverns and gin joints in this city. Which is exactly why you need this list. We considered everything--beer selection, food selection, clientele, service, happy hour specials, music options, decor, location, reputation, special features and ambience. Forget world peace, the election and the latest episode of American Idol. These are the things that matter. So pick your poison, and let's get on with it. (Erica Palan)
2229 Grays Ferry Ave. 215.893.9580
Just behind the beautiful dark oak bar at Grace Tavern sits a miniature grain silo stuffed with a large assortment of beer. Well, not exactly. It's an old-school refrigerator called the Bevador. The Bevador was built in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1955, and remains the shining pillar of kickass cooling technology the men and women who built it more than a half-century ago intended it to be. That it's still standing--chilling bottles of High Life, Amstel Light, Budweiser, et al.--speaks to both its magnificent craftsmanship and the dedication of some caring someone to keep her up and running over the years. It also speaks to the unfailing attention to detail with which the folks at Grace approach their establishment. That observant eye extends to every square inch of the Grays Ferry bar's tiny, cozy interior. The ceiling and walls are covered in an elegant, understated architectural tin tile. An old gas heater by the door glows blue; an old Ballantine beer ad shines on the wall just under a TV. Together, they give Grace the feel of an era gone by, cast off by a distinct people-have-been-drinking-here-for-eons vibe despite its having been open only three years. Of course the ambience would matter little if the food and drink were subpar. Both impress. They pour a perfect pint of Guinness at Grace. They cook their blackened green beans al dente. Jambalaya, po' boys, sausages: delicious, all. They even take the time to grill the bread each is served with. And you can eat this good stuff all night, since the kitchen pumps out food till 2 a.m. It doesn't get much more perfect than Grace. Put simply, it's the best bar in Philadelphia. Stop by and pay the Bevador its proper respect.
801 N. Third St. 215.413.3666. www.norththird.com
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?
224 S. 15th St. 215.985.9600. www.gooddogbar.com
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.
225 Church St. 215.925.8219. www.myspace.com/sugarmoms
A hidden island in the awful sea of Old City, Sugar Mom's has two things going for it: an arcade corner and multiple seating options. Pinball and a standup Ms. Pac-Man beat video poker any day, and the difference between resting your ass on a couch, a stool or a bumper car is astounding. Seriously, there are a lot of freakin' seats, so Sugar Mom's can handle folks who like to drink with their friends, their friends' friends and their friends' friends' moms. Plus, you can smoke inside, so if that MILF sucks down a pack of Virginia Slims a day, you're golden.
7170 Germantown Ave. 215.247.9920
For one, McMenamin's has the best damn bar food. And we're not just talkin' buffalo wings, burgers and mozzarella sticks. We're talkin' pistachio-crusted tilapia, Irish beef stew and spinach-and-cheese ravioli. And it's all ridiculously cheap. This cozy Mt. Airy gem also has a long and impressive list of beers on tap. For those who prefer something besides stouts, we recommend the big-glass margaritas. The staff remembers faces. The crowd is inviting. There's always a game on. And there's free parking right next door. Life gets no better.
901 N. Second St. 215.238.0630. www.standardtap.com
This two-story corner bar is the perfect middle ground between the hipster hangs to the north and the Old City frat traps just south of its NoLibs location. Built by former Sam Adams brewmaster William Reed and his partner Paul Kimport, the Tap has all the features of a cozy neighborhood pub but the menu of a full restaurant. The front door is adorned with taps of all varieties including a totally memorable door handle made from a brass pipe. A chalkboard displays the completely homegrown beer selection, and knowledgeable bartenders can (and do!) answer all beverage-related questions.
937 E. Passyunk Ave. 215.389.6694. www.royaltavern.com
Universally and righteously praised as one of the best burgers in town, the royal with cheese comes with a succulently carcinogenic coating, bacon, cheese and a greasy long hot pepper on top. The Tavern has graduated from vibing as Standard Tap South to its own rightful place as a cozy nook. The only downsides are that you've got to start early if you want a seat, because it fills up fast, and the service at brunch can be, shall we graciously say, European-style. But if you have all day, and ya know you do, go for it.
900 S. Front St. 215.462.2230. www.forpetessakepub.com
With a beer menu that's more church bulletin than Bible, and a clientele of QV yups and scrappy unioneers ordering everything from lager to Dupont Saison, this redbrick Queen Village pub emphasizes quality over quantity. Taps are a well-chosen mix of Irish, Belgian and American brewers--Allagash, Yuengling and Chimay are mainstays--with a few surprises like the rouge keg of Kwak, a tawny 8 percent Belgian with notes of maple and vanilla. They stock a respectable selection of Irish whiskies, and their modern pub menu is no afterthought, from the scallion-flecked creamy potato soup to the smoked-in-house pulled pork sandwich too big for its bun.
1524 Sansom St. 215.972.9938
Let's see, the ceiling is caked with the brown ick of a few decades' worth of tobacco smoke; the clientele are salt-of-the-earth blue-collar types who could drink Bukowski under the table; and it's the home of the $3 honker, a 23-ounce pour of refreshingly cold lager or Pabst. If the top three most critically important aspects of any good bar are 1) ambience, 2) a polite and efficient waitstaff and 3) the ability to buy a round of drinks for friends with a $10 bill, Oscar's has all its bases covered. This place is a bar. It's a beautiful thing. Oh, and bonus, it's two doors down from PW's office.
1718 Sansom St. 215.840.3577. www.ravenlounge.com
A true hideaway amid the neighboring business bars and well-loved dives, the Raven Lounge's brick-backed bar and brightly colored walls make the space feel both cozy and cool without trying too hard. Board games scattered on the tables don't hurt either. Spend happy hour playing kid-classic Connect Four or new-school fave Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? Or show up later for quizzo with an edge--sponsored by Brave New World Comics. A rotating crew of DJs spin Thursday through Sunday, with the occasional live music act, including local acoustic artist Benjamin Tinsley.
11. Bob and Barbara's
1509 South St. 215.545.4511
There are some dive bars that feel like lies--dive in name only. You order a microbrew, overpay for an innocuous jukebox pick, and feel safely cutting-edge surrounded by likeminded folks and a bathroom so clean you could lick its porcelain. Thank heaven Bob and Barbara's is nothing like that. The place hasn't been quite the same since house bandleader Nate Wiley passed, but there's still plenty of slightly scuzzy merrymaking from all walks of life--the Crowd Pleasers' gentlemanly jazz, the long-running Thursday drag show and the legendary Citywide Special--PBR and a shotta Beam, if you dare.
12. Southwark Restaurant
701 S. Fourth St. 215.238.1888. www.southwarkrestaurant.com
Fact: Kip Waide, co-owner and barkeep extraordinaire at Southwark, shakes up the best goddamn Manhattan in town. It's a cathedral of safety in a dangerous world, a classic cocktail bar for connoisseurs and amateurs alike. You couldn't get through the 20-plus rye collection in three sittings without medical attention. Bonus for people who consume solids: It's not often an Old World bar comes attached to a progressive, full-service, farmer-friendly restaurant. The restaurant, run by Kip's wife Sheri Waide, impeccably plates sophisticated twists on bistro classics under the same roof as all those golden dreams. You can go for the clams in dried chili butter broth, and stay for the digestifs and George the bartender's jokes.
13. Dawson Street Pub
100 Dawson St. 215.482.5677. www.dawsonstreetpub.com
If you're going to wind up in Manayunk some night--and really, that kind of masochistic bender can happen to anyone--cushion the blow at the Dawson if you're more Chevrolet than jetset. There's a healthy slew of microbrews for ale snobs, a ratty-couched lounge and pool table for competitive slackers. And you can always find a friendly soul to bum a butt from on the patio. Wednesday nights are an informal half-open-mike scene that has that band-in-the-living-room vibe: You know who only a few of these cats are, but who cares? More pressingly, how the hell are you gonna get home?
14. Monk's Belgian Café
626 S. 16th St. 215.545.7005. www.monkscafe.com
A beer aficionado's wet dream, Monk's features the most extensive and delicious collection of rarities, microbrews and barley wines in the city. One of the bar's greatest claims to fame is its astoundingly diverse beer bible, which guides curious patrons to the perfect brew for their palate. Not surprisingly, the well-loved Belgian brewpub respects its beer--and its clientele--by offering smart cheese, fruit and sausage pairings to bring out the full flavor of each pint. Visit Monk's this week for Philly Beer Week festivities, including tasting events and meet-and-greets with brewers from around the world. Just don't get caught ordering a Miller Lite.
15. Dark Horse Pub
421 S. Second St. 215.928.9307. www.darkhorsepub.com
There's beer and soccer for starters. And the not-too-posh proper pub food. And it's a real Irish pub. Meaning it's utterly indistinguishable from an English, Scottish or Welsh pub--and miles from those plastic-Paddy chains with fake memorabilia, fake Irish beers and a fake Gaelic name. The beer isn't top-notch microbrewed ale, but that's a good thing. Because if it were, the Dark Horse would be heaven on earth. If you haven't been served proper beer by properly surly (but devastatingly efficient) bar staff in a pub packed with savagely partisan, singing, stomping, cursing, roaring international soccer fans, you haven't really been in a pub.
16. Silk City
435 Spring Garden St. 215.592.8838. www.silkcitydiner.com
Long before there was the Barbary or Johnny Brenda's, there was Silk City. The grime-encrusted lounge that hosted assorted bands and fledgling dance-driven DJ parties was for years the neon-lit cornerstone of Philly nightlife's northward migration. With cheap or no covers, mixed crowds and cheap plates of gravy-soaked french fries to be had in the classic silver-bullet diner next door, Silk City was a destination dive. So it could've been risky business when NoLibs' man-about-the-neighborhood Mark Bee took over two years ago, gutting Silk's insides, applying a mosaic-laced carnie-boudoir makeover in the lounge, and switching to a bougie-comfort-food menu in the diner. Despite the redo, Silk has kept its laid-back, anything-cool-goes religion. And its hard-partying congregation--it's still home to top-notch, only-in-Philly parties like the Thursday night Mo Money No Problems and Monday's Back 2 Basics.
17. Johnny Brenda's
1201 Frankford Ave. 215.739.9684. www.johnnybrendas.com
When Fishtown became known as the official hipster hive, Johnny Brenda's was there to be the hipster bar. On a Saturday night you can eye the finest fixed-gear bikes the city has to offer locked up out front. Go for a look at equally diverse and ridiculous facial hair, from Fu Manchus to mutton chops. Since the second floor opened last year as a venue, it's also been the place to see up-and-coming bands without sneaking your booze in a paper bag. Oh, and the pulled pork and ham sandwiches are delicious.
229 S. 45th St.
A signless room above the Ethiopian restaurant Abyssinia, Fiume has gained a reputation for its Citywide Specials--both the $3 PBR and whiskey combo and their Thursday night bluegrass band. The popularity of the music nights--Sunday and Wednesday also feature bands--make it nearly impossible to find a spot even to stand in, so go on an off night. While in any other bar this would be intolerable, such tight quarters have just the opposite effect here, creating one of the friendliest bars around. The pure West Philly crowd means you can come in alone, start off talking to a grad student about neuroscience and end the night in a sing-along with your new crust-punk friends.
Wine Bar & Bistro 129 S. 13th St. 215.922.3095. www.vintage-philadelphia.com
From the wall of crosshatched corks to the Vin Marshall chandelier of empty bottles, Vintage isn't ashamed to wear its tastes on its sleeve. The 80-by-bottle, 60-by-glass wine list at this Midtown Village grape escape is smartly composed by sommelier Delphine Evenchik, who co-owns Vintage with hubby Jason, and features an interesting, super-affordable selection. We dig the choices from the "Unusual and Exciting" section, such as apricotty Covey Run Gew�rztraminer and berrylicious Colle dei Venti Dolcetto D'Alba, generously poured from a state-of-the-art Cuvinet without any of the pomp or pretense served up at other so-called wine bars. Ask the bartender for pairing suggestions to go along with Vintage's brasserie menu of pates, cheeses and one hell of an Angus burger.
20. Fergie's Pub
1214 Sansom St. 215.928.8118. www.fergies.com
Few bars define Center City like the flagship of the Fergus Carey empire. Philly's best quizzo (sorry, Johnny Goodtimes) on Tuesday and Thursday nights feels very all-for-one-and-one-for-all, while still being suitably competitive. The top-notch staff, meanwhile, embody Fergie's everybody-knows-your-name conviviality, without the exclusionary feeling that you have to be a member to get in. And beyond the great burgers, better fries and best-of-all chili, Fergie's is among the most artist-friendly bars in town, regularly hosting theater events, art happenings, solid open-mikes and of course traditional Irish music Saturdays.
21. North Star
27th and Poplar sts. 215.787.0488. www.northstarbar.com
Classifying the North Star is no easy task. One part dingy local watering hole and one part kickass music venue, the bright pink Fairmount bar has become a staple in Philly's music scene and in its rapidly gentrifying 'hood. Open since 1981--though it closed briefly and changed hands before reopening in 2000--North Star gives a big fuck you to the overly popular Citywide Special, and offers a way better alternative, featuring a happy hour with half off all pints and well liquor with 25-cent wings "eight days a week." And that whole music thing? Yeah. That's pretty awesome too.
22. Moriarty's Restaurant and Irish Pub
1116 Walnut St. 215.627.7676. www.moriartyspub.com
Though it's best known for ginormous buffalo wings, Moriarty's offers more than the same old spicy fowl offered at just about every other establishment on this list (and in the world). Gorgeous stained wood and walls adorned with cute colloquialism plaques make the whole place feel homey and warm, while Guinness served by bartenders with (presumably) authentic brogues gives this Center City bar the feel of a low-key Irish pub.
23. Tattooed Mom
530 South St. 215.238.9880. www.myspace.com/tattooed_mom
There are loads of reasons to hang at Tattooed Mom (kitschy decor, Woodchuck Pear Cider, Taco Tuesdays, dirt-cheap pierogies and grab-bag toys on the tables), but all of those fall flat if the condiment basket's removed from the equation. There's ketchup, Grey Poupon, Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, Louisiana Hot Sauce, nectar from the gods and liquid crack. Makes anything taste better. Even South Street. Nestled in the midst of the outdoor mall, Mom's is the perfect/only spot for a friendly nibble and cold one before Fluid or after a show at the Fillmore at the TLA.
24. Atlantis: The Lost Bar
2442 Frankford Ave. 215.739.4929
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?...
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PW's Fall Guide 2014