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Philly’s Top 50 Bars

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…

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)

1. Grace Tavern
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.

2. N. Third
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?

3. Good Dog Bar
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.

4. Sugar Mom’s
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.

Photograph by Albert Yee
5. McMenamin’s Tavern
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.

6. Standard Tap
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.

7. Royal Tavern
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.

8. For Pete’s Sake
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.

9. Oscar’s Tavern
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.

10. Raven Lounge
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.

Contributors

Jeffrey Barg, Leah Blewett, Rachel Brind, Adam Erace, Arthur Etchells, Jess Fuerst, Johnny Goodtimes, Caralyn Green, Kia Gregory, Cassidy Hartmann, Kirsten Henri, Alli Katz, Kate Kilpatrick, Brian McManus, Daniel McQuade, G.W. Miller III, Tara Murtha, Joe Sixpack, Dave Sommer, John Steele, Tommy Up, Steven Wells, Tim Whitaker.

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.

Map: Philly’s Top 50 Bars

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Map courtesy of Travis Hoppe

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.

18. Fiume
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.

19. Vintage
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 Gewürztraminer 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

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 Café, 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.

26. Greeks
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.

27. Barbary
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.

28. Abbaye
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.

31. Bards
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.

33. Tritone
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.

40. Dive 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.

43. South Philadelphia Tap Room
1509 Mifflin St. 215.271.7787. www.south philadelphiataproom.com

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.

46. Xochitl
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 Patrón) or style (blanco, reposado or añejo), while munching on earthy, belly-filling huitlacoche gorditas. Good tequila will cost you, so don’t miss Xochitl’s half-price-margaritas happy hours.

47. O’Neals
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
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.

50. McGlinchey’s
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.”

 

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