Top 50 Bars in Philadelphia Methodology

This is the fourth year I’ve run the Foobooz Top 50 Bars list, taking over after Philadelphia Weekly ran a similar list in 2008. A list on which I contributed.

The mechanics of the ranking is modeled after that Philadelphia Weekly list. Ask a bunch of writers, bloggers and other assorted bar hounds for their top ten bars. I’m not sure how mathematical Philly Weekly’s list was after polling, but I’ve kept mine to a formula.

And that formula is as follows:

Collect responses from an email list that goes out to dozens of voters. Ten points are assigned for a first place vote and descending points for each place down the list. I also vote, and vote twice, starting Foobooz has its advantages. So I vote for 20 places, two get 10 points, two get 9 points, etc.

Then I add up the scores, ties go to the establishment that appears on more ballots. Then I publish the list. No changes are made by me or anyone else at Philadelphia magazine or Foobooz.

And that’s how the Top 50 Bars list is created, no matter what conspiracy theorists would imagine.

2012 Top Bars in Philadelphia [f8b8z]

Around The Web

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  • Ur kidding me

    Stop trying to cover ur ass and answer to how zahav a high end restaurant that does not focus on their bar does not claim to be a “bar” and does not match any of the other establishments on this list in anyway got on this list

  • BadLiarArt

    You are a bad liar Art. You hand pick people (or Profile PR does) that are going to list the bars that you want. Your list is bullshit and leaves of the highest ranked Yelp and other review services bars. Also you ignore the highest rated bars in magazines and websites that have integrity (integrity, that’s a word you need to learn Art).

    So your list is a sham and a work of advertising essentially.

    I feel bad for anyone without industry knowledge who believes your list. About 35 of those bars downright suck and about 6 more are not bars at all.

    Keep up the charade Art, don’t try to sell us that you are anything less than a mouthpiece for advertisers via their PR company. You fraud..

  • jay

    Ur Kidding Me, I don’t doubt that pr firms play a role in foobooz business. I probably think the effect is more indirect than you do, but whatever.

    But what i’m trying to understand is why you think a pr firm would put a lot of effort into getting a dining establishment like zahav on to a best bars list. As you say yourself, they don’t claim to be a bar. You could even make an argument that they’d prefer, from a branding point of view, to not even be on this list as it could cheapen the 4 star/bell niche they’re trying to fit.

    Your rage blinds you.

  • “Your rage blinds you.”

    Neat summation. But it is fun to watch.

  • Jimmy

    I have no position on this debate because I am not an insider or in the industry. But I do think at this point we should be able to agree that Zahav doesn’t need any press to fill tables.

  • steve

    This website lost credibility years ago….the only reason I regularly frequent it at this point is because the comments are often hilarious to watch unfold….that and because Eater Philly is blocked at my office. Oh, and if I want to know anything about Hop Sing, Fed Donuts, Alla Spina or Le Bec Fin since they probably take up about 75 % of stories

  • Collin Keefe

    You mean to tell me that I drank all those comped drinks for nothing? I thought this thing was rigged by the Secret Order of Restaurant Bloggers to serve our almighty public relations overlords. Stupid math.

  • Bill W

    Yeah this is totally ridiculous. Also, the owner of FooBooz is very good friends with Pub and Kitchen. Weird they got first right?

  • Dan

    I am with the conspiracy theorists on this one.

    The selection of Percy Street in addition to Zahav cinched it for me. Percy Street has a tiny bar which closes at 12pm or 1am half the time. Few actually even sit at the bar unless there’s some sort of event. It is a decent bbq joint, but certainly not a bar in the traditional sense. So it is interesting that two Solomonov places that aren’t really bars made the list…

    All that said, nobody cares about this list so I think the impact on actual business is negligible.

  • Ur Kidding Me 2

    The bar at Zahav is the same size as the bar at Stateside, and has a list of well planned cocktails, a small beer list and and a fairly sized wine list. I have been at the bar at Zahav to eat more than sitting down in the restaurant. There are a lot of other restaurants on the list in the same boat , Opa, Oyster house etc. Either the lists criteria should be more exact or people should shut up.
    Is Ur Kidding Me Matt Levin? Just guessing as you use a lot of text talk and Square Peg is nowhere to be seen on the list.
    Continue slinging poo FooBoozers.


    Just more propaganda coming from Philly Mag… can we get the old Foobooz back? How is that pile of money Art?

  • Delete me

    Please speak out people let art phillymag and foobooz know they they need to answer to their readers

  • John Higgins

    Not even a mention of The Cambridge, this is a complete bar with a killer draft list, sour program, wines and cocktails. Weird list all around

  • bogans

    You guys need to calm down, not being on this list is not going to put the terrible bars that you frequent out of business. I, personally, like this list a lot and have been to most of the bars on it.

  • Victor Fiorillo

    If there are bars that give out free drinks as a matter of routine to bloggers and writers, please do let me know where they are.

  • Jacques Strappe

    Just a little bit of overreaction here. This list MAY NOT LOOK LIKE YOUR PERSONAL LIST! Magazines and websites do top-whatever lists all the time, they are fun to write and you don’t have to agree with them. Remember the time when Vesuvio restaurant in Bella Vista got the “best sandwich in America” award from some dumb magazine?

    I’m sure some of it is determined by marketing, but the rest is just determined by Art and the social group that he hangs with. These are his friends, of course they will have similar tastes. A food blogger is not going to love Xfinity Live!

  • DrinkHere

    Victor, I’ll buy you a drink, you seem like the only non sellout at Foobooz and Philly Mag.

    Collin, I’ll give you a drink too, throw it in your face before I smash your face with my fist. Being a dick for dick’s sake isn’t really that funny, try to find a new Schtick

    Lew, you should be an expert on fraud lists being a fraud beer “expert” yourself. How’s that whole disband the LCB thing working out for you? Great leadership there Lew.

  • bobnewhart1

    the cambridge, really? Who does this guy think he’s fooling?

  • You so funny. Let’s see…Thornburgh, Ridge, and now Corbett failed to get the LCB privatized, GOVERNORS OF THE COMMONWEALTH…and you think me writing a blog about it should have had more effect? That’s so damned funny I can’t really think of a response — no, wait, I got it!

    “Your rage blinds you.”

  • Its obviously a list thats influenced by the votes of relatively few people, all in a similar industry. Obviously its not representative of what the general populace thinks. And it sure as hell wont line up with your own personal preferences.

    I am sure we can all agree that about 50% or more of the bars are places we would all like to hang out at.

  • Austin

    First World Problems! Woe is me! This dastardly list! Right after I post this I’ll be going over to the ESPN page to rage on this week’s NFL Power Rankings! Weeee!!!

  • Collin Keefe

    @DrinkHere: Anonymity makes you a real tough guy, huh? Identify yourself or get bent. No, you know what? Just get bent.

  • Tonyjlive

    Good work, Foobooz. It’s a pretty comprehensive list. I do agree that Stateside, and a few others are a stretch for a “traditional bar”, but I do indeed go to Stateside just for the bar. They have a great happy hour and I’m broke, so it works out. Remembering lists of years past, the bar, pun intended, has been set higher.

  • Jimmy

    Fergie’s should be at least 2 or 3 spots higher.

    Can we get a list of the top 50 bars to buy coke at? Maybe 50 best bar staff cokeheads in the city?

  • barryg

    What’s up with Foobooz Boston?

  • barryg fan

    love your style Barryg….

  • This list was completely programmed in South America by Tupac and Hitler and Ted William’s head, except for the Italian restaurants on the list, which were all posted because of Art’s connections with the Medici family.

  • Some girl

    This list is *literally* Hitler.

  • Smash

    I tried to list Federal Donuts #1 and #2, but I guess that won’t work. Also, Colin Keefe and I definitely took advantage of free drinks with Johnny Goodtimes at the Cheesecake Factory.

  • Welfare

    How’s that job search going Smash? Still lined up to run Foobooz Boston ? any day now, any day…. yeah you are the kind of “expert” that led to this lame list

  • Welfare

    oops and how could I forget the underemployed, unemployable mr middle age quizzo expert. stay together guys, you’ve all you got in this world

  • It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that Welfare, Ur kidding me and ChrisH on the other comment strin and probably another 1/2 dozen comment are the same guy. The same disgruntled bar owner who has burned every bridge he’s ever come across. His name is Naessens and he owns Eulogy. Don’t go there. Instead try any of the 50 bars on Foobooz’s list. They’re not all run by an asshole.

  • Jacques Strappe

    Smash? The South Street bartender?

    Also, why isn’t Wooly Mammoth on this list?

  • I don’t know who Collin Keefe is but if he wants to grab drinks at the Cheesecake Factory sometime I would totally be up for it.

  • the same guy who keeps complaining about foobooz is the same guy who called the plcb on memphis taproom and a few other bars a while back right? that guy who owns eulogy?

  • jim

    Bitching about order aside, most of the bars on the list are good.

    The trolls do have a point though – some of those are really not bars. Cool places, but certainly more restaurant than bar.

  • Smashmouth

    Smash is the biggest wussy I ever met. Worst bartender too.

  • DaveStrunk

    There should be more alternative lifestyle bars on the list. For people who like to cross dress etc. We’re strutting with the Mummers this year whether you like it or not Smash

  • Loaf

    You can’t say this website doesn’t generate entertainment :)

  • Jimmy

    LOL @ fake Jimmy #24

  • CM

    It Doesn’t Take a Rocket Scientist/Elton John must be one of the great Old City nuisance bar owners, operating without a liquor license. Only someone shady like that would take cheap shots at the owner of a legitimate place like Eulogy.

  • Haywood

    Guys, leave smash alone. He’s just guy in love with cocaine. Oh and he thinks he’s Peter Pan. And he’s not crazy about paying child support. But other than that he’s pretty cool.

  • karma

    no conspiracy theory here.

    i just think the list is waaaay too food focused. sure, it’s nice to go to a bar and have something tasty to eat, or even experience top notch culinary expertise, but the measure of a bar is the awesomeness of the bar staff (George Costa is awesome), the quality of the drinks (beer, cocktails, or otherwise), and the overall vibe of the place. if you’re measuring mostly on food, you’re measuring the quality of a RESTAURANT, not the quality of a bar.


    LOL… There was no method to the madness… and the only math used was payoffs to the bloggers listed and the adv office at Philly Mag… The goal is to get these “Bars” to advertise

    To suggest that Woody’s… one of the Top 5 bars for purchases from the LCB is not on the list shows that there is no diversity on the people that voted…

    what about… The Irish Pub… Moriarty’s… chickie and pete’s… Xfinity Live… McFadden’s etc… the list goes on. This again shows a lack of diversity in the chosen few to decide on the Top 50 bars

    This list showed that only a certain class person is welcome to vote… SHAME FOOZ is losing credibility as an honest site.

  • jay

    Sockman, really? I mean really, that’s all I can say. If you’re going to bring in revenues or purchases then you know what, it’s easy to do. Just print out the top purchasers list from the LCB and wham-mo, there’s your list. The most popular bars in PA/philly. But that’s not what the list was.


    @Jay #45

    I guess my point was the lack of diversity in the list… if one of the biggest buyers from the LCB that is just a BAR… is not even #50 and places like Zahav that really are restaurants makes the list… it says something about the people chosen to come up with the list.

    If you look at the list from the LCB… you will notice that most of the Top buyers are not Bars but Hotels, Restaurants and other venues. Woody’s is actually now 26 on the list… I went through the LCB list and could not find any of the top 15 bars on the “TOP 50”> I grant you that if the list was about how much beer was purchased many of the “Top Bars” should show up there.

    In my list I also mentioned several other mainstream bars that were not on the list. Most tend to feature sports themes… again sports bars were lacking on the list.

    perhaps the list should have been the top 50 snooty bars

  • Hmmm

    @Sockman Have you maybe considered that the people polled don’t / haven’t frequented Woody’s? They cater to a bet specific crowd. Just because they purchase a lot of liquor does not make it a great bar. Stop taking it so personally and a way to champion your cause. Sometimes people disagree with you. Let it go.

    @Foobooz. I’d like to see you tighten the rules or at least publish what constitutes a “bar.” I’d never just go to Zahav for just a drink. I agree with the majority of people who think there should be something that distinguishes a bar from a restaurant.

  • We have defined bar by the bar experience rather than the space. Otherwise it is too difficult to draw the line. Look at the case of Southwark. It’s a restaurant but many people go there and would never consider the dining room. Even if they do eat there regularly.

    Zahav may have surprised some people but it’s a bar is pretty special when you can walk in without a reservation, get a great drink and order dinner from one of the best restaurants in the city.

    There’s no better city I’ve been to to eat at a bar. Because so many of our bars cook great food and some of best restaurants have great bars. That’s a strength and one that shows through year after year on the Foobooz Top Bars lists.

    After all, the site is Foobooz, not Boozbooz.

    Are there room for other best bars lists? Of course. This list is just a Foobooz lens on the Philly bar and restaurant scene.

  • neanderthal

    What about Local 44? I have lived in NoLibs for years and admittedly think Brendas is one of the best bars Philly has ever had. (RIP SugarMoms) Recently, for whatever reason I was in W. Philly and finally had a chance to sit and sip a few ales and grab some snacks. What made it so great, in my opinion, was the diversity and thoughtfulness of the beer program. The menu was interesting, albeit, not executed that well but what I truly appreciated were the people working and hanging out. Alright, I’ll get to the point… not one-please look at my mustache, dirty wool sweater that’s too tight for me, ironic grandfather’s shoes and thick glasses hipster! Oh, I was in heaven! Diverse beer, ” gastropubby” food, cool music and just a normal non-pretentious bar folk.
    Well, thats my vote for next year.