A list curated by a diverse panel of Philly's drinking community.
A tiny little whiskey bar set atop an Ethiopian restaurant in West Philly. Absolutely beloved by serious drinkers, whiskey freaks and cocktail hunters. Not bad for the beer drinkers, either. Absolutely ignored by everyone else. 229 South 45th Street, second floor.
Friday Saturday Sunday
Only the upstairs Tank Bar, where the glowing marine fish tank, the claustrophobic proportions of the place, and the crowd of middle-aged solo-drinkers make you feel like you’ve slipped out of reality and walked into some late-’90s music video.
Perfectly Irish. Smithwick’s? Check. Live Irish music tearing it up? You bet. Our friends pouring us into a cab when, after five Jamesons, we pick a fight with a light fixture? That’s just how we know it’s Friday.
So tiny, but such a nice selection of drinks. And despite being packed with non-neighborhood people, it somehow maintains the vibe of the neighborhood bar it wants to be.
Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar
If you must do karaoke, Ray’s is the only acceptable place in the city to do it. Also, if you must start drinking at 7 a.m., Ray’s is one of the very few bars in the world that can make you proud to have gotten out of bed so early.
So many people we know had their last first date here.
Like Cheers for the gays, only with karaoke.
Pub on Passyunk East
Known to most as the P.O.P.E., it’s an unassuming corner joint with a truly rad beer selection. Avoid the tables if you can, but a seat at the bar is totally worth fighting for.
The Boat House
Imagine getting drunk at your great-grandpa’s house—if your great-grandpa lived in a shack in New Jersey and was a former boat captain. Just an awesome old bar with great classic cocktails and plenty of boat-y decor on the walls. 8 Coryell Street, Lambertville, 609-397-2244.
Old Guard House Inn
Very old-school. Very Main Line. As a matter of fact, when they were building the old school on the Main Line, the Old Guard House is where all the construction workers drank and ate schnitzel.
A nautically themed bar in Delco that we frequent for the $5 Beefeater martinis and the thought that if times ever get desperate enough and we get drunk enough, we might try robbing the nearest bank with one of the swordfish heads mounted at the end of the bar.
Fox & Hound
A chain, yes, but one with a great Tuesday special: $2 drafts, with 30 on tap. Only place in town to drink Harp or Guinness at two bucks a go.
It’s older than dirt and is constantly being bought and sold and bought again, but it has some of the nicest bartenders on Earth—and it doesn’t price-gouge like some of the other boy bars in town.
It’s nice to have a place named for what it does best.
Pen and Pencil Club
A quasi-private club and notorious late-night hang for reporters, restaurant crews and working media professionals? Well, we know where we’ll be spending our nights from now on
Every drinking city needs to have a Moe’s Tavern. This is Philly’s. 13639 Philmont Avenue, 215-677-3177.
The quintessential cozy neighborhood pub, with good sandwiches—including the world-famous Schmitter—to boot.
Some places, you go for the cocktails. Some places, you go for the beer. Some places, you go for the service or the vibe, or to be with the cocktail waitress you’re secretly in love with. The ’Vous? We go because it’s cheap.
The shuffleboard authority around Philly, for those who like games to distract them from their drinking.
Continental Tavern Small and friendly and perfectly un-fancy without being a suburban Oscar’s—just the place to grab a beer with the locals.
The perfect escape from work. A mid-afternoon seat at the bar, three innings of the Phils, and the best thing is, you’ll never get caught, because no one you know comes here. 28 South 18th Street, 215-567-5144.
A great mix of working-class folks who haven’t set foot in Center City in two decades and professionals who recently moved to the ’burbs and can’t find anywhere else to go for an after-work drink.
Percy Street BBQ
If you like your beer in cans, Percy Street has more than 60 behind the bar. And if you like your canned beer with pickle juice and BBQ sauce, order the Hillbilly Gatorade. You’ll thank us later.
The bar you want to wake up in once you become the kind of person who wakes up in bars.