The 50 Best Bars in Philadelphia
For eight years now, we’ve turned to the people of Philadelphia to create this list. The drinkers, the bartenders, the cork dorks and hopheads—the serious boozing class of this serious drinking city—have debated and argued and contributed to its construction.
★ A bar that’s been on all nine 50 Best Bars lists
❊ New this year or back on the list after an absence
So here it is: our list of the 50 Best Bars in Philadelphia for 2017. And it all begins with …
1. Friday Saturday Sunday • Rittenhouse ❊
This onetime neighborhood joint has been transformed into a food-lover’s destination, with a bar program to match. The vibe and cocktails bridge the gap between our classic tastes and all those bright and shiny new drinks.
2. Townsend • East Passyunk
Philly’s BYO scene is nice and all, but Townsend is the argument for why dinner at a fine restaurant should begin and end with perfect drinks served across a well-staffed bar.
3. Fountain Porter • East Passyunk
This friendly neighborhood bar is cheap and convenient and does everything it can to make itself essential—from the 4 p.m. opening time to the $5 burger to the smart tap list.
4. Palizzi Social Club • South Philly ❊
When the third cocktail makes everything seem to shimmer and the old man with the guitar starts playing Louis Prima, you know you’re at the heart of something special.
5. Martha • Kensington
Even when every other bar starts shaking drinks made with nothing but local liquors, Martha will still do it best.
6. Fiume • University City
Fiume is like a museum dedicated to everything that made bars great before everything that made bars great became a commodity to be quantified.
7. Pub & Kitchen • Grad Hospital ★
Philly is a gastropub town, and P&K, with its curated draft list, short and simple menu and smooth-running staff, remains one of the best.
8. The Good King Tavern • Bella Vista
This place is a good reminder that before they became the pretentious undisputed kings of the food world, the French were a bunch of hard-drinking, snail-eating peasants just like the rest of us.
9. Wm. Mulherin’s Sons • Fishtown
We know the food is good, but that some people don’t even make it to the tables says all you need to know about this destination bar.
10. Oscar’s Tavern • Center City
Oscar’s might be one of the last honest dives in the city. Let’s hope it stays that way.
11. American Sardine Bar • Point Breeze
The bar staff cares about strangers and regulars, the kitchen does comfort food, and the beer selection is varied. And that’s all before you discover the backyard garden.
12. Bob & Barbara’s • Grad Hospital ★
With sticky tables, cheap drinks, karaoke nights, drag shows, and bar stools filled with construction workers, neighborhood drunks, journalists, old-timers and gentrifiers, B&B’s may be the bar that best defines Philly.
13. El Bar • Fishtown ❊
Sometimes all we’re looking for are cheap drinks, a pool table and a big patio. And that’s why we end up here so often.
14. ITV • East Passyunk
If you’re the kind of person—and no doubt you are—who appreciates beautiful
spaces, a well-curated wine list, cocktails made with smoked pineapple, and a menu that considers trout rillettes to be acceptable bar snacks, then ITV is heaven.
15. Hop Sing Laundromat • Chinatown
Look, at this point you understand what all the fuss is about, or you’re just not going to go. Either way, we’re fine with it. We don’t like waiting in lines anyway.
16. Royal Sushi and Izakaya • Queen Village ❊
Philly waited for years for this joint, and it was worth it. From the loud, crowded front room with sake and fish jerky, to the quiet back reservations-only sushi bar, there’s no bad angle at Royal.
17. Johnny Brenda’s • Fishtown ★
With the kegged wines, kitchen specials, and a staff that has as much fun as the customers, JB’s just keeps getting better.
18. Bok Bar • East Passyunk
Bok would rank high on a list of 100 bars to drink in before you die. Yes, there’s often a line. But trust us—the views, the crowds, the music, and the iconoclastic vibe of the seasonal rooftop spot make the wait worth it.
19. Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar • East Passyunk ❊
Need a place to get a drink at 7 a.m.? Ray’s is it. And if you want to have a cigarette along with that Yuengling, go ahead and light up. Stick around long enough, and you’ll be singing with the rest of ’em at Friday-night karaoke.
20. Pub on Passyunk East • East Passyunk ★
A cozy bar with a welcoming staff, plates of pierogies, an $8 fish fry and a solid beer list is often what you’re missing on those nights when it feels like there’s nothing left in Philly but kale salads, $18 burgers, and cocktails made of moss and unicorn farts.
21. Philadelphia Distilling • Northern Liberties ❊
This is the first time a distillery’s tasting room has made this list—a sign of the times. Drink directly from the source, in a luxe lounge.
22. Jose Pistola’s • Center City
Cold beer and cheap tacos are like best friends. Jose Pistola’s is where they hang out. And you have an open invitation to join them whenever you like.
23. Southwark • Queen Village
The new ownership has taken a bar that was already a neighborhood fixture and turned it into a place that’s indispensable.
24. Oyster House • Center City
At Oyster House, the seafood is fresh, the oysters take center stage (obvs), and the punches will put you on the floor if you aren’t careful. It’s so Philadelphian that we can’t imagine life without it.
25. Second District Brewing • Point Breeze ❊
Not many brewpubs could combine black tea IPA, Vietnamese coffee stout and vegan pork rinds into a single cohesive concept, but here, it’s done with aplomb.
26. Root • Fishtown ❊
Look, any bar in this town that has nine cocktails on its menu and four of them are gin and tonics is all right by us.
27. Frankford Hall • Fishtown
Philly has a thousand beer gardens now, but this one remains one of the best, welcoming everyone to its wide-open space full of German liters, Bavarian pretzels and ping-pong.
28. Franky Bradley’s • Midtown Village ❊
Franky Bradley’s has got everything—drinking, dancing, great bar food, a welcoming scene. But the best thing about it is that it still serves the only potato skins in the city that matter.
29. Bud & Marilyn’s • Midtown Village ❊
Hanging out here is like going back to 1977 to that one night in your uncle’s basement when all his friends were eating fried cheese curds and drinking CC and 7’s. And that’s exactly why it’s so awesome.
30. The Bike Stop • Midtown Village ❊
Because every city needs a gay bar made specifically for leather enthusiasts that also happens to have a weekend dance club (third floor) and be one of the best sports bars (second floor).
31. Garage • Fishtown ❊
Pool tables, Skee-Ball, and a canned beer list that runs to over 500 varieties: the Holy Trinity of millennial fun.
32. The Franklin Bar • Rittenhouse ❊
The Franklin remains a destination for those who want to see what happens in a world where bartenders are in charge.
33. Zahav • Old City ❊
It’s already one of the best restaurants in the city, but hanging out at the bar is one of drinkable Philly’s great pleasures.
34. Memphis Taproom • Kensington ❊
They opened a gastropub in Kensington back when the neighborhood had nothing of the sort, and a beer garden before they were cool. They were trendsetters. And now they’re family.
35. Grace Tavern • Grad Hospital ★
A simple place for simple pleasures—
burgers, shots, beers and good company.
36. Doobies • Fitler Square ❊
It’s been around since the ’70s: a neighborhood bar since back when that was pretty much all there was.
37. Tavern on Camac • Midtown Village ❊
The best piano bar in town, bar none.
38. Loco Pez • Fishtown
Good beer and tacos is a winning combination. Good beer and dollar tacos (one night a week) seals the deal.
39. The Trestle Inn • Callowhill ❊
They’ve got a fantastic whiskey list, go-go dancers, and a dance floor bumping more soul and funk than you’d expect out of a super-hip bar. It’s amazing everyone in the city doesn’t hang out here every night.
40. A.Bar • Rittenhouse
This tiny bar has been putting out intellectual cocktails for years and, with its big Walnut Street windows, has some of the best people-watching in town.
41. Fergie’s Pub • Midtown Village
Fergie’s has done more to inspire Philly’s community of bars and bartenders than any other joint in town.
42. Monk’s Cafe • Rittenhouse ★
Every serious beer city needs its Mecca, and Monk’s is ours. 264 South 16th Street.
43. Mission Taqueria • Center City ❊
Sitting above Oyster House and specializing in cheffy tacos and powerful cocktails, in that order.
44. The Monkey Club • Kensington ❊
A neighborhood tavern of the old school—cheap drinks, dim lights, a few snacks and a welcoming staff.
45. The Sidecar Bar & Grille • Grad Hospital ❊
Not every joint can pull off eight kinds of burgers, a goat cheese salad, and al pastor on a long roll on the same menu. Maybe it’s the unconditional neighborhood love that holds it all together.
46. Burg’s Hideaway Lounge • Point Breeze ❊
A comfortable space, a burger on the menu, a nice list of beers, a jukebox in the back—sometimes it’s okay to just be a bar.
47. Varga Bar • Washington Square West ★
There are two kinds of people in this city: those who love Varga Bar, with its pinup girls, excellent beers, classic cocktails and crab fries, and those who haven’t been there yet.
48. Dirty Franks • Midtown Village
So long as Dirty Frank’s is up and running, Philly never has to have any conversations about whether we’re losing our working-class soul to gentrification.
49. Watkins Drinkery • East Passyunk ❊
A cheery vibe, a stellar happy hour and a decent meat-focused menu (served late-night) make this one of the most approachable South Philly watering holes for neighbors and industry folk alike.
50. South Philadelphia Tap Room • Point Breeze ❊
SPTR may be our best example of the post-gastropub trend: The beer selection is choice, and the menu is more interesting than anyone would expect.
Published as “The 50 Best Bars in Philly” in the October 2017 issue of Philadelphia magazine.