The 2015 Foobooz 50 Best Bars of Philadelphia


50 Best Bars in Philadelphia; #1 is American Sardine Bar | Photo by Neal Santos

We reached out to bartenders, beer reps, booze writers and professional drinkers of all stripes, asked them to pick their most-loved bars in the area, added our own favorites, and then did a little cocktail-napkin math. A whole year’s worth of drinking, and it all comes down to this: one list, 50 bars (in order of greatness) and no apologies. Bottoms up, Philly.

★ = A bar that’s been on all seven 50 Best Bars lists
❊ = New this year or back on the list after an absence

  1. American Sardine Bar, Point Breeze
    You only have to spend a night at the friendly side of the long, polished bar here to get why American Sardine Bar is the best in Philly. It’s warm and welcoming, loud but convivial. They’ve got a great beer selection, bartenders who know you better the longer you sit, tasty sandwiches coming from the kitchen, frequent specials to keep things interesting. All that, and then there’s also the backyard that’s just as inviting and twice as cool as yours is ever going to be.
  2. Khyber Pass Pub, Old City
    Where else can you get a po’boy, debris fries, and a Belgian tripel on draft? Only at the Khyber, which has long held its place as one of Philly’s most comfortable, most versatile and most dependably loved bars.
  3. A.Bar, Rittenhouse
    It’s amazing that a hotel bar ranks so high on this list — which is a testament to just how good A.Bar is. Attached to the AKA Rittenhouse hotel, it’s a sleek, modern little snug of a place offering excellent mixed drinks off an ever-changing menu and some of the best day-or-night people-watching in the city.
  4. Townsend, East Passyunk
    There are those among us who can’t imagine dinner out at a nice restaurant without stopping first at the bar. And Townsend, with its beautiful woody and welcoming space, is exactly the kind of place we’re dreaming of.
  5. Pub & Kitchen, Grad Hospital 
    From the beer selection to the cocktails, the kitchen and the floor, this destination gastropub is run better than any neighborhood bar.
  6. Monk’s Cafe, Rittenhouse 
    Tom Peters’s Philadelphia love song to Belgian beer bars has won so many awards that adding another to the pile seems a little ridiculous. Still, if you’re serious about your beer, this is one of those places you just can’t miss. From approachable Chimay Red (on draft) to rarities like Mahr’s Ungespundets Keller, there’s always something on tap here worth bragging about.
  7. Franky Bradley’s, Midtown Village 
    This sexy bar with solid drinks and food gets turnt up when you head upstairs to Center City’s best new spot for dancing. You know, if you’re into that sort of thing. Mostly, we just stay downstairs for the cocktails.
  8. Hop Sing Laundromat, Chinatown
    It’s got a well that would put any lesser bar out of business in a month and a liquor selection unparalleled by any local joint, and it just got named one of the best bars on earth by Conde Nast Traveler. (But we loved it before it was cool.)
  9. Fountain Porter, East Passyunk
    Home of the best $5 burger in town, it’s
    also the place to be educated by the most polite bar staff in Philly as you listen to music the old-fashioned way — one album side at a time.
  10. Varga Bar, Washington Square West 
    Behind the pinup girls, strange name and black-and-white tile (which drives some people crazy) sits one of the most consistently beloved bars in the city. Those who name it among their favorites do so because of the wonderfully curated beer list, well-trained staff, excellent bar snacks and finely wrought classic cocktails.
  11. Johnny Brenda’s, Fishtown 
    This Swiss Army Knife of a bar offers great local beer, surprisingly good food, powerful mixed drinks, and a schedule full of live music that will make you cooler just by listening. No matter what you need to make your night complete, the odds are good that Johnny Brenda’s has it.
  12. Fergie’s Pub, Midtown Village 
    Twenty years in, we can’t imagine a city without Fergie’s — or, more importantly, without owner and archetypal drinking man Fergus “Fergie” Carey himself.
  13. Sidecar Bar & Grille, Grad Hospital 
    The Sidecar packs ’em in from morning to night. From the 9 a.m. weekend brunch to the end of “Pork Me Sunday,” there’s never a time when Sidecar isn’t appropriate.
  14. Vernick Food + Drink, Rittenhouse 
    Vernick gets a lot of love for the food coming out of the kitchen. But the bar up front has always been an elegant place for pre-dinner drinks, for a quick glass of wine and a snack, or for settling in and watching night take hold of the city.
  15. Standard Tap, Northern Liberties 
    Seeing the burger and potpie on the chalkboard is like seeing old friends. And you’re also happy to see that Standard Tap is still taking care of itself, because that deck? It looks better than ever.
  16. Triangle Tavern, South Philly 
    It’s an old-man bar with a good Italian restaurant attached — that’s what the crew behind it wants you to think. But in truth, the Triangle is a neighborhood taproom offering adult water ice, an interesting beer list, and a roster of well-made cocktails, both classic and modern.
  17. Bob & Barbara’s, Grad Hospital 
    The place that made the Citywide famous is still the place where the Citywide is famous. A dive bar with all the class, characters and comfort that title implies. Let’s hope it never changes.
  18. Kraftwork, Fishtown
    This is a well-designed bar. From the industrial-strength bar stools to the 24 beers on tap, Kraftwork is built Fishtown strong.
  19. Jose Pistola’s, Center City
    Tacos and beer are like best friends. And Jose Pistola’s is where your two best friends are always hanging out.
  20. Garage, East Passyunk
    With all types of canned beer in the coolers, rotating food vendors and a very liberal BYO food policy, the Garage is serving the community exactly what the community wants it to.
  21. Loco Pez, Fishtown
    Another place to go when you need tacos and beer — in that order, and maybe repeated four or five times. Comfortable, welcoming, and only dive-y in a deliberate sort of way, it’s got cheap American and Mexican beers and 25 kinds of tequila behind the bar.
  22. Pub on Passyunk East, East Passyunk 
    Cozy nooks, tasty beer and a pleasant staff. Who needs more than that?
  23. Grace Tavern, Grad Hospital 
    Perfect for when last call is one burger, one shot and one beer.
  24. Heritage, Northern Liberties 
    Sure, you can come here for the live jazz, but we like it for its 36 rotating taps, compact wine list, wood paneling and admirable whiskey list.
  25. Olde Bar, Old City 
    Jose Garces took over the old Bookbinders space and opened a modern bar that knows its history. From the manhattans to the turtle soup, this place serves the kinds of cocktails and food that would’ve made your grandfather feel right at home.
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  1. Memphis Taproom, Kensington 
    Get schooled on Memphis’s beer list by the smart bartenders, then stun vegan and carnivore alike with the coconut club sandwich.
  2. South Philadelphia Tap Room, South Philly
    SPTR has always been a good place to drink, but the recent changes to the menu, which have made it lighter, healthier, more fun and more interesting all at the same time, have produced a required stop for hard-drinking foodies and drinkers with a taste for headcheese tacos and vegan spaghetti.
  3. Fermentaria, Ardmore 
    This airy new brewpub from Tired Hands has made Ardmore a must-visit beer destination. Which is really saying something, because, you know, it’s Ardmore.
  4. Fishtown Tavern, Fishtown 
    Yes, there are those who say the neighborhood is becoming Philly’s own mini-Brooklyn. But as Frankford Avenue gets more happening and hipsterish by the week, it’s nice to settle into a bar that’s just a bar.
  5. Devil’s Den, East Passyunk
    Just one thing to remember while you’re enjoying Philly’s best craft-beer happy hour: Don’t forget to eat.
  6. Sancho Pistola’s, Fishtown
    If you go too hard after these killer margaritas, you might miss just how good the food is. And that would be a shame, because the food here is almost as good as what’s coming from behind the bar.
  7. Jerry’s Bar, Northern Liberties
    We would’ve said Philly couldn’t possibly support another new/old neighborhood bar with Prohibition-era craft cocktails and a bunch of old-timey junk on the walls. But then Jerry’s opened, and we learned that was exactly what Philly needed one more of.
  8. Good King Tavern, Bella Vista
    Very good, affordable wines, excellent cocktails, and French food by David Ansill? It’s good to be the King.
  9. The Franklin Bar, Rittenhouse 
    Complex, literary cocktails served by a staff of well-trained bartenders who consider anything from fresh herbs to fruit jams to peanut butter to be perfectly acceptable ingredients for the shaker.
  10. McMennamin’s, Mount Airy
    It’s the energetic living room for Philadelphia’s most diverse neighborhood.
  11. The Industry, Pennsport
    What started as essentially a bar for Philly restaurant workers has become one of the best places in town for serious beer drinkers and dedicated fans of consistently interesting pub food.
  12. Donna’s Bar, Port Richmond 
    Step inside this Port Richmond bar and be reminded of Philadelphia’s European immigrant roots. Step inside on a Friday night and be ready for Philly’s best karaoke.
  13. Oyster House, Center City 
    The raw bar is solid and the punches will put you on the floor, but the best thing about this place is that in a city full of whiskey bars, it’s a serious gin joint with the cocktail menu to prove it.
  14. V Street, Rittenhouse 
    Not every city can boast of having two of the best vegan restaurants in America. Even more: Our second-best vegan restaurant also happens to have one of the coolest, most lively and most original bars in town.
  15. Petruce et al., Midtown Village
    Fine dining in a rough and rustic atmosphere is all well and good, but the cocktail-focused bar here has always been more refined than the wood-fired kitchen. The balance they’ve struck is ideal, and the wine list shouldn’t be overlooked, either.
  16. Alla Spina, Fairmount 
    Marc Vetri’s grafitti-spattered counterpoint to his namesake fine-dining
    restaurant. This is the place to go for awesome bar snacks, Italian beers, cocktails on tap and a laid-back industrial vibe.
  17. Brauhaus Schmitz, Bella Vista
    This bar makes it its mission to present all the best beers that Germany has to offer — including many that almost never see release on American soil. Even without these rarities, drawing from the best that Germany has to offer still means a lot of great beer.
  18. Earth Bread + Brewery, Mount Airy 
    The house beers never repeat at EB+B. But that’s fine, because for those in need of consistency, the flatbreads (especially “The Seed”) are always there.
  19. Emmanuelle, Northern Liberties
    Named for the French erotic film series, this tiny speakeasy-style bar focuses on artistic craft cocktails, serious punches and lightweight snacks. (Closing November 30th)
  20. Locust Rendezvous, Center City 
    The prices of the weekly specials are from another time, while the numerous TVs are as modern as they get. Together, they make for one of Philly’s great sports bars.
  21. Tria Taproom, Rittenhouse
    Cork dorks and beer nerds unite at this sexy bar for an all-draft experience.
  22. Forest & Main, Ambler 
    The two best things about this simple brewpub inside a house in Ambler are that they never make (or serve) the same beers twice, and that the beers they do make are some of the best in the entire region.
  23. Fiume, West Philly 
    This tiny, cash-only whiskey-and-beer bar with no phone is set atop an Ethiopian restaurant in West Philly — and is what every so-called “speakeasy” should aspire to be.
  24. Grey Lodge, Northeast Philly 
    Owner Mike “Scoats” Scotese is passionate about his bar, and it shows. How else do you make a Mayfair joint a destination for bar lovers from all over the city?
  25. McGillin’s Olde Ale House, Midtown Village 
    The oldest bar in Philadelphia is packed with history, but it also offers the drinker of today a comfortable respite from the bitters, hipsters and fads of modern inebriation.

Published as “The 50 Best Bars in Philly” in the October 2015 issue of Philadelphia magazine.