Where to Drink in Fishtown

Dives, dancing, date picks, and a cabaret club for good measure.

r and d cocktail serpiente

La Serpiente at R&D / Photograph by Alex Jones

Fishtown was once the center of Philadelphia’s shad-fishing industry (shocking news based on its name and fish-shaped trash cans, surely). But now the area is a key part of the city’s drinking scene. The next time you’re walking around the neighborhood in search of a bar, use this guide to help find your spot. The list — which ranges from classic dives to first-date picks and a modern cabaret club — focuses on each place’s drink selection and why you’ll like hanging out there. You’ll also find some restaurants with great bar programs and destinations for non-boozy options, too. Happy drinking, Fishtown.

Best for: A superstar bartending staff, date night, trying new cocktails.
The bar program at R&D is focused on creative cocktails that use seasonal ingredients, meaning a lot of the drinks here only stick around for a limited time. Take a recent digital menu, for example, which is based around dating profiles, but for drinks. It’s always hard to pick just one thing from their cocktail menu, and we usually rely on the staff to help make thoughtful recommendations. One standout cocktail to try is Behind The Bushes, featuring gin, apple brandy, honey, chamomile, citrus and egg whites. Bonus points if you show up on the second Wednesday of the month, when R&D hosts a drag and burlesque night called R&Divas. 1206 Frankford Avenue.

Les & Doreen’s Happy Tap
Best for: Drinking at a dive bar, exciting food pop-ups.
You could say Les & Doreen’s Happy Tap is the quintessential dive, and you’d be both right and totally wrong. This time capsule of a bar has video poker, karaoke nights, easy-drinking lagers on special (available in bucket form, naturally), and an interior that hasn’t changed in over 20 years. Les and Doreen Thompson are the second owners to run the narrow rowhouse bar. An adorable fun fact: they originally met at the bar prior to operating it. But what makes Les & Doreen’s Happy Tap stand out from other dives is that they host exciting, chef-driven pop-ups on the weekends. Admittedly, their social media presence isn’t super consistent, but ask if they have any food events coming up the next time you stop by. 1301 East Susquehanna Avenue.

Middle Child Clubhouse
Best for: Daytime hangs, coffee and non-boozy options, something for everyone. 
Middle Child Clubhouse is a coffee shop, bar, restaurant and neighborhood party all in one. When you’re here, expect to find a number of cocktails on tap, all of which are designed to account for the proper dilution ratio that you’d get from a shaken or stirred cocktail (so the bartenders don’t have to worry about that extra step). The bar program was developed by industry veterans and always includes seasonal offerings, classics, frozen and large-format cocktails, as well as a diverse wine list and a concise beer menu that incorporates options for everyone. MCCH also offers a full coffee program, plus non-alcoholic drinks made with fresh juice. If you work from home, this is a great place to post up — start with a coffee and end with a cocktail. 1232 North Front Street.

Memphis Taproom
Best for: A beer with lunch, outdoor seating, exploring new breweries.
This corner bar just so happens to be one of the best places in the neighborhood to try a beer you’ve never heard of, maybe something new from a brewery like Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Alchemist, or Widowmaker. Memphis Taproom also offers a solid lunch menu (which feels hard to come by these days) with tons of vegan and vegetarian options like fried-portobello sandwiches and smoked-coconut clubs. As for beer, Memphis Taproom serves a rotating list that’s only really current for a couple hours — since things are always being added and changed. Keep an eye on their website for events around Philly Beer Week and trendy breweries, as well as the cannabis community (these always start at 4:20 p.m., naturally). 2331 East Cumberland Street.

Interstate Drafthouse
Best for: The famed Fishtown iced teas.
Interstate Drafthouse is mourning the loss of the original version of their Fishtown iced tea after the tea brand’s recent discontinuation. However, the popular drink lives on, even without its classic cardboard Arctic Splash container. In addition to Fishtown iced teas, Interstate Drafthouse has an extensive beer menu with stalwarts like Sly Fox, Dogfish Head and Victory, as well as rare and hard-to-find beers. There’s always a secret menu of selections that you have to ask the bartender about, usually with drinks from Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen, Gueuzerie Tilquin, Rare Barrel and other regarded breweries in the United States, Belgium and beyond. 1235 East Palmer Street. 

Photograph courtesy of Fishtown Social

Fishtown Social
Best for: $10 wine flights on Tuesdays, date night, a thoughtful bottle selection.
Wine can seem intimidating sometimes. But Fishtown Social makes everyone feel welcome, inviting drinkers to explore their carefully selected biodynamic and natural wines (these sound like buzzwords, because they sort of are). The staff often finds wine produced by even the smallest makers who often use less-popular grape varietals from around the world. Every week, happy hour runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday through Sunday. Try a $10 curated wine flight on Tuesdays — these are the best way to really get a chance to taste and compare different styles, all in the name of research. 1525 Frankford Avenue.

Best for: City-wides, picklebacks, late-night Greek food.
If you’re from or live in Fishtown, you don’t just know Kostas — you know it well. Located right in the heart of the neighborhood, this Girard Avenue spot is perfect for the last stop of your evening. Order something from their special, city-wide menu featuring riffs on the Philly-area favorite. Drinks cost around $3 to $10, the service is fast, and they offer a huge menu of Greek food that you can snack on (like a $15 appetizer platter that comes with three spreads and pita). 15 West Girard Avenue.

Lloyd Whiskey Bar
Best for: Feeling like you’re drinking at someone’s house.
Lloyd Whiskey Bar will slightly remind you of your grandparent’s basement. That’s by design. In honor of the owner’s father, this neighborhood bar features the best in Dad Drinks. Think: variations on the Old Fashioned, local beer and whiskey galore, and 15 different combinations of city-wides. Try a Jack & Wendy with Jim Beam Black Bourbon, sweet vermouth, apricot jam, fresh lemon and sage — there’s also a non-alcoholic version called The Good Time. While whiskey is in the name and heart of the bar, there are a number of amazing cocktails if you prefer gin, mezcal, tequila and amaro. 529 East Girard Avenue.

Best for: A big night out with a date or your friends.
Fabrika made a big splash when they opened at the beginning of 2020 as a modern cabaret club in a once-empty warehouse space. Now, their weekly live shows continue to bring local and touring burlesque, singers, dancers, drag and circus-style performances. While the artists certainly steal the show, the drinks are really what make nights at Fabrika feel a little sexy. Try the Verano, which is made with chamomile-infused Don Q Cristal Rum, Aperol, mango-jalapeno simple syrup, lime juice and orange-blossom water. If you’re looking to have a night where you get dressed up and splurge on cocktails, carefully selected wines, or even bottle service, let Fabrika be your excuse. 1108 Frankford Avenue.

best bars Philadelphia

Nunu in Fishtown / Photograph by Aaron Ricketts

Cheu Fishtown/Nunu
Best for: The happiest of happy hours, snacking while you drink, sake and highballs.
Cheu Fishtown and Nunu are two connected restaurants with an incredible bar program. And you could totally show up here without ordering any food whatsoever (though Japanese dishes like black pepper yaki udon and rice crackers topped with spicy tuna complement the beers and highball cocktails well). The menu of whiskey highballs on draft includes fun combinations of flavors, like a traditional version with a lemon twist or a scotch version with Laproieg, honey and ginger. If you’re looking for sake, choose between 12 different options categorized by flavor profile — similar to what you would see for a beer menu. Both spaces have bar seats available, as well as table service and happy hour that runs until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 1416 Frankford Avenue.

Johnny Brenda’s
Best for: Live shows.
Johnny Brenda’s has been a staple of the neighborhood for over 15 years. It’s where you should go to see live music in Fishtown, certainly. But they’ve also been at forefront of the craft beer movement since opening, featuring breweries located within a short drive of the city (even before craft beer was easy to find). Find a show that sounds cool to you, then start with something like a Love City Lager and throw in JB’s Veggie Burger made with sharp cheddar, sauteed onions, romaine, dill pickles and harissa mayo. 1201 Frankford Avenue.

The Listening Room at LMNO
Best for: DJ sets, dancing, late nights.
Stephen Starr’s new-ish Mexican restaurant LMNO has a dedicated Listening Room with vintage speakers, nightly DJ sets, and an impressive sound system we don’t fully understand. There’s no photography allowed in here, nor can you make any music requests. But your $10-$15 ticket gets you five hours of a live DJ experience (you can book ahead of time on Resy) in a space that looks like a very cool person’s living room. 1749 North Front Street.

Bottle Bar East
Best for: Picking up drinks for later, adult slushies. 
When you walk into Bottle Bar East, a line of coolers greets you with a giant selection of beer, wine, canned cocktails and seltzers. Don’t stress about the potentially overwhelming number of options, their knowledgeable staff is ready to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re sticking around, there’s also a full bar available for draft beers, wine, plus straightforward cocktails and fun shots. Enjoy your drinks in the bar area, in the upstairs seating area, or outside in their beer garden. But this place is also useful for stocking up on bottles and cans to drink later. 1308 Frankford Avenue.

Fette Sau
Best for: Die-hard whiskey fans.
If you love the combination of whiskey and BBQ, Fette Sau is the place for you. Broken down into Bourbon, Tennessee, Rye, Corn, Sour, Canadian and Bottled in Bond, their whiskey menu features detailed explanations of each category, and you can easily find a pour around $8 or splurge for something over $100. We like to opt for a flight — which costs between $12.75 to $30 — or the featured tasting selection of the week. In news that won’t surprise anyone still reading this, the cocktail menu mostly features whiskey (however there are always gin and vodka options, including the standout Peach Whiskey Punch made with peach purée, lemon juice, and tea.) 1208 Frankford Avenue.

The International Bar
Best for: International drinks, daily DJs, boozeless and low-ABV options.
As the name suggests, this bar — which happens to be run by the people behind Johnny Brenda’s — highlights drinks and snacks from far-away places. Try something new-to-you while a DJ plays every day of the week on the first floor. You should know that the upstairs bar is secretly the best spot in the house: it has a few tables, a cozy bar that’s fashioned to look like a plane’s wing, and a number of wines and vermouths on tap. (In case you’re looking for something with low levels of alcohol or no alcohol whatsoever, The International Bar has plenty of drinks that fit those categories as well.) 1624 North Front Street.

Best for: Feeling like a kid again (but you can drink).
Most people know about Barcade — the NYC-based chain of bars filled with arcade machines — but you might not know that they collaborate with breweries to make beers exclusively for Barcade locations, and have been doing so since 2010. (A past standout was the Rye Score 2.0, a German-style Roggenbier from Victory Brewing Company.) Barcade’s Fishtown location has a small list of recommended cocktails and three wines to choose from, but the beer selection is definitely where this bar shines. 1114 Frankford Avenue.

Frankford Hall
Best for: Weekday beers, humongous groups, outdoor hangs.
To some, Frankford Hall is synonymous with Fishtown itself. Those might be the same people who patiently stand in line on the weekends for their spot to get inside. But we think the best time to enjoy this place is during the week when it is quieter. Frankford Hall looks like it was transplanted straight from Germany, complete with imported, malt-forward beers and hoppy American styles served in your choice of half-liter or liter steins. Grab some friends, order a stein, and enjoy the beer hall-style seating in the outdoor courtyard or around their fire pits when the weather is just right for that. 1210 Frankford Avenue.