Top Shelf: Classics
385 West Bridge Street, New Hope, 215-862-2081, theravenresort.com
Picture a corner taproom, with pool table, where every guy calls every other guy “sweetheart,” and you’ve pretty much nailed the vibe at one of the last remnants of New Hope’s gay golden age. The thumping techno that is de rigueur at almost every gay bar is mercifully absent here, perhaps a bow to the clientele, which consists of that rarest of breeds anymore: gay men over 40 with imperfect bodies. (On a recent night, a 50-something guy pranced in with his posse — including his mother.) In warm weather, the infamous pool serves up a runway of Speedo-ed eye candy preening for the daddies, but on most days the vibe is distinctly more laid-back — Cheers if Norm and Cliff had been dating. And at the bar you can still find glasses stuffed with pens and slips of paper, in case you need to get Mr. Right’s number and then, well, never call him.
239 Haverford Avenue, Narberth, 610-664-8655
You’ve taken a year’s sabbatical from drinking, for various reasons (not naming any names here). It’s Wednesday. The Phillies are doing their usual late-season maybe. You just went to your kid’s back-to-school night. The Phillies … Obviously, you need a drink. So you slip into your old watering hole, where you haven’t set foot for a year.
The bartender looks up from behind the beer taps.
“Hi, Bob,” he says. “Lager?”
That’s it. Like you were just in, say, on Monday. Which is all ye need to know, about why you drink, and why you do it here.
Okay, this too: Pop in post-work on a Friday to get the true mix of old-fart carpenters and painters with the newly minted Narberthian lawyers, part and parcel of how the once-designated “armpit” of the Main Line hasn’t — sure, Brian, another lager — done much scrubbing here.
6235 Frankford Avenue, 215-825-5357, greylodge.com
The Northeast can feel like The Land That Time Forgot, and Grey Lodge seems stuck in its Eisenhower-era surroundings — until you step inside. Here’s what you won’t find: outrageous prices, sucking-up conversation, anyone dressed in business-casual, snotty bartenders, or a raised brow at kids, wives, or your shot-downing little brother. And here’s what you will: a young owner (known only as Scoates) who’s come up with a well-researched, weekly-changing tap menu and crave-able gastropub fare, and a group of young-to-middle-aged folk chitchatting. The perfect place to bring a look-down-his-nose-at-Philly out-of-towner for a gentle repast and lesson. (Plus: awesome beer.)
McGillin’s Olde Ale House
1310 Drury Street, 215-735-5562, mcgillins.com
This bar is so freaking old that its celeb list reads like a history book: Will Rogers, Thomas Eakins, W.C. Fields. And they continue to come (Will Ferrell, Michael Flatley, Ty Pennington), because they’ll be doing exactly what people did in this same room almost 150 years ago — ordering and chugging cheap pitchers of beer, and getting rowdy.
Ott’s Greentop Inn
588 Route 73, West Berlin, 856-767-3534, ottsrestaurants.com
There are plenty of other bars with flat-screen TVs within a few miles of Ott’s, which is literally a house whose first floor was converted to a bar 11 years ago. But here, where well-to-do Voorhees meets rough-round-the-edges Berlin in South Jersey, you won’t find preppy trust-fund kids backing into parking spaces in their Escalades. You won’t find attorneys drinking imported lagers, and packs of cougars trying to pick them up. What you’ll get in spades is light beer by the (plastic) pitcher, a jukebox heavy on AC/DC and Aerosmith, shuffleboard and pool tables, one of those deer-hunting video games with a plastic 12-gauge rifle, and the occasional biker or two. In other words, a Philly-style booze hall, without the fistfights.
202 South 13th Street, 215-545-1893, woodysbar.com
Woody’s may not have started the Gayborhood movement, but it sure did help solidify its place in gay history. For nearly 30 years, this has been a self-described “nightlife complex,” i.e., a one-stop shop for gay everything in Philly: frozen drinks, karaoke nights, and bumping disco, complete with nearly-nude stage dancers, festive drag queens and (requisite) bachelorettes.