Where to Drink Like a Local in Philadelphia
Seek out these neighborhood bars in the City of Brotherly Love
Like every city, Philadelphia has its destination bars—au courant establishments packed with out-of-towners and scenesters in search of exotic cocktails and esoteric ingredients. And truly, a lot of those bars are a blast. But this list is about the local hangouts, the weekday watering-holes where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat, complain about the Eagles, and—depending on the night—play a little Quizzo. From Fishtown to Fairmount, East Passyunk to Point Breeze, here’s where to drink like a local.
New Wave Café
Forget the “café” in the name—especially that very un-Philly accent aigu. This place is about as “bar” as bars get, in a good way. New Wave has been a Queen Village hangout since 1985, and after 30 years, it’s clear they’re doing something right. A lot of things, actually. The rotating selection of craft beers offer a dozen or so options that pair nicely with the nachos or short rib sandwich, as well as the fading magazine covers and record sleeves that adorn the walls.
New Wave Café, 784 S 3rd St.; 215-922-8484
Bob and Barbara’s
A shot-and-a-beer kind of spot if ever there was one—which in Philly is called a “citywide special”—you can get a shot of Beam and a PBR at Bob and Barbara’s for $4. There’s live entertainment on weekends—usually jazz. But this cash-only, no-food South Street spot is made for those who want to catch a cheap buzz with unpretentious company.
Bob and Barbara’s, 1509 South St.; 215-545-4511
2nd Street Brew House
The bottle list at this Pennsport bar—with a soft focus on Belgian brews—sets it apart from most neighborhood joints. But for a beer-centric spot this small and tucked-away, the food options at 2nd Street are unexpectedly considered and delicious.
2nd Street Brew House, 1700 S 2nd St.; 267-687-7964
Dart boards and dogs don’t seem like a great mix. But they somehow comingle nicely in this cheap, cash-only Washington Square West dive. If one spot on this list exemplifies the come-as-you-are, nice-but-not-fake-nice spirit of Philadelphia, Dirty Frank’s is it. They don’t even care if you bring in your own food, since they don’t serve any.
Dirty Franks, 347 S. 13th St.; 267-665-0095
American Sardine Bar
Point Breeze is suddenly one of the hottest real estate markets in the city. But it’s bar scene hasn’t quite caught up yet—except for this stand-out. The namesake sardines are delicious and prepared four ways. And much of the fare is a step above typical bar food. A selection of more than 50 canned beers complements the hefty 16-option draft list.
American Sardine Bar, 1800 Federal St.; 215-334-2337
An Irish dive bar that serves great Italian food? Philly actually has a few spots like this. (Bridgid’s in Fairmount is another good one.) But Murph’s deserves a shout-out for keeping its head above water in Fishtown, the city’s current hotbed of creative, considered drinking and dining spots. It’s hard to beat the $2 happy-hour draft specials, but the tortellini comes close.
Murph’s Bar, 202 E Girard Ave.; 215-425-1847
Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar
An East Passyunk institution for more than 75 years, Ray’s is the place you go after a long day of work when you need a stiff drink and a cigarette. You read that right. While smoking is still permitted, and likely to turn a lot of people away, this bar is a good time—especially during Friday-night Karaoke. Ray’s doesn’t serve food; it serves atmosphere.
Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, 1200 E Passyunk Ave.; 215-365-1169
The Bishop’s Collar
According to its owners, the bar takes its name from an old Celtic expression for a perfectly poured pint of Guinness. So yeah, you can get a pint of “the black stuff.” But the Collar also has an above-average tap and bottle lineup of craft brews (macro brews too). The tomatillo salsa and Old Bay fries are standouts. But all the offerings at this Fairmount spot are solid, if unspectacular—exactly what you hope for from affordable bar eats.
The Bishop’s Collar, 2349 Fairmount Ave.; 215-765-1616
This postage-stamp sized West Philly bar looks and feels like—and basically is—a converted apartment. And while Fiume is as no-frills as bars get, the beer selection is more exotic and far-reaching than you would expect, the live music (mostly bluegrass and rock) is great, and you can order food from Abyssinia, the Ethiopian restaurant downstairs.
Fiume, 229 S 45th St.; 215-387-2424
Cook and Shaker
Delicious and always-changing food specials, great happy-hour deals, and affordable all-the-time drink prices make Cook and Shaker a convenient luxury for Kensington and Fishtown residents.
Cook and Shaker, 2301 E Albert St.; 215-426-2665