From dives to neighborhood taverns to spiffy cocktail bars, Philadelphia has plenty of drinking options, whether you’re looking for a local beer or an inventive mix of liquors. Philly already knows the best dive bars, cocktail bars, margarita spots, rooftop and patio bars, beer gardens, sports bars, happy hours, and bars with alcohol-free cocktails. Now, here are the 22 essential Philadelphia bars — the tried and true for every occasion.Read More
22 Essential Philadelphia Bars
From dives to cocktail bars, here’s where to drink in Philly
1. Frankford Hall
Walking into Frankford Hall in Fishtown feels like walking into a party — a party with liters of German drafts, ping-pong tables, and fire pits under string lights. Picnic tables, both inside and outdoors, make it a perfect spot for groups. Split a Bavarian pretzel with cheese dip or get a full meal from the menu of sausages, burgers, and schnitzel.
2. R&D Cocktail Bar
Aaron Deary — who is also behind the drinks list at Suraya — runs the show at R&D Cocktail Bar (formerly Root). Featuring a mid-century aesthetic and small bites on the food menu, the moody bar has a cocktail list that changes regularly, with themes like 1950s and tiki.
3. Johnny Brenda's
A Fishtown institution since 2005, Johnny Brenda’s leads the live music pack in showcasing independent bands. It’s home to several shows a day — upstairs and down — that feature local and visiting musicians. The kitchen is open late, so music fans can order burgers, salads, sandwiches, and snacks from the gastropub menu after the band’s done. When the weather’s nice, expect the patio to be bustling.
4. Philadelphia Distilling
The distillery behind popular craft gin Bluecoat (and a number of other boozy products) has a 13,000-square-foot home in an 1800s-era Fishtown warehouse. It’s open to the public not just for tours, but with a full bar, a patio, and a spacious lounge outfitted with leather furniture. Bartenders shake up and stir creative cocktails that feature Philadelphia Distilling’s signature spirits.
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5. Standard Tap
Standard Tap in Northern Liberties takes being a local favorite seriously. It sources much of its menu from local farms and growers, and serves draft beers exclusively from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Plus, it’s got one of Philly’s best outdoor seating areas on the covered upper deck. Take a look at the chalkboards around the bar to see what’s for dinner.
Part bar, part restaurant, and part jazz club, South is a whole night out in one venue. Head to the farmhouse chic destination on North Broad Street for a bourbon punch in the bar/lounge or get tickets for a performance — the full food and drink menus are available in the jazz club too.
7. The Trestle Inn
Set in a space that’s been serving drinks to working folk and travelers for over 100 years, Trestle Inn is a place for a good time. It’s Philly’s only spot with go go dancers shimmying and shaking every weekend. On the turntable, DJs spin vinyl soul, funk and disco from the ’60s and ’70s. The bar is known for its classic whiskey sour — plus a bunch more cocktails, 70-plus whiskeys, and rotating craft beers. Along with a generous 5-8 p.m. happy hour Wednesday-Saturday, get there for late-night drink specials at 10 p.m.
8. Hop Sing Laundromat
Put away the cell phone, please. This speakeasy has rules. Respect them for a chance to enjoy some of the city’s very best cocktails inside a candlelit spot national magazines have ranked among the greatest bars in the country. Legend has it owner Lê took a trip through 48 states, where he visited dozens of bars in search of the best one. Not finding it, he returned to Philly and opened his own.
This thimble-sized dive manages to be both totally unexpected and perfectly situated in its little nook upstairs from the laid-back Ethiopian restaurant Abyssinia in West Philly. It has a much, much bigger — and more interesting — beer selection than a bar of its size should be able to handle, plus an impressive whiskey list.
10. Ranstead Room
When Stephen Starr is involved, one thing is pretty much guaranteed: Everything is going to be on theme. Swing around the corner from his lively Mexican restaurant El Rey and down an alley to find the speakeasy-style Ranstead Room. Inside the intimate spot, choose a drink from a focused menu that takes its cues from spirit-forward, classic cocktails, including throwbacks like smashes and flips. Expect a wait to get in. When all the seats are filled, the host will take down your name and text you when something opens up.
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11. The Franklin Bar
Craft cocktails are the name of the game at the Franklin Bar, also known as Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company. A Prohibition-era bootlegging operation provides the name and inspiration for this bi-level, half-subterranean, speakeasy-style spot just off Rittenhouse Square. Downstairs is dimly lit; upstairs has a tiki theme.
12. McGillin's Olde Ale House
Philly’s oldest continuously operating tavern has been going strong since 1860. Open from lunchtime until late night, McGillin’s welcomes all comers looking for a bite, a beer, and a good time. No holiday goes unnoticed here: In addition to the what have become the standard drinking celebrations (Cinco de Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest, Mardi Gras), the tavern celebrates Flag Day (with a red, white, and blue cocktail), Bloomsday (with an annual reading of James Joyce’s Ulysses), and Tax Day (with $2 beers). It’s also great spot to meet a special someone. The bar has played a role in so many relationships that the owners keep a guest book of every happy couple who met or had a first date there.
13. Friday Saturday Sunday
Follow bartender Paul MacDonald on Instagram to see what he’s mixing up behind the Friday Saturday Sunday bar. He’s always got something new that’s seasonal, tasty, and photogenic. Dinner service happens upstairs, but the light-filled downstairs is a cocktail and wine oasis — a place where spending a couple of hours at a white marble bar feels just right.
14. Good Dog Bar
Center City staple Good Dog always feels welcoming, with multiple levels for grabbing a seat, ordering a local beer, and digging into the house burger, which is stuffed with roquefort cheese and piled with caramelized onions.
15. Barclay Prime
With one of Philly’s best happy hours and a location on Rittenhouse Square, Barclay Prime attracts a swanky crowd from early to late. The restaurant is an occasion spot, serving some of the best steaks in the city. But there’s no need to be craving a wagyu ribeye to head here: The classy front bar, with its leather arm chairs, dark wood paneling, and black-and-white checked floor, is perfect for sipping a Manhattan or glass of wine.
16. Franky Bradley's
With its burlesque shows, DJs spinning vinyl downstairs, dance parties upstairs, and food served until midnight, Franky Bradley’s in the Gayborhood knows how to draw a crowd. The downstairs bar’s walls are covered in conversation-starting tchotchkes, sexy posters, and medieval paraphernalia. It’s got a ’70s basement feel — in a cool way. With the drink menu running the gamut from Bud to cava, everyone is covered.
17. Knock Restaurant & Bar
Knock isn’t just one of Philly’s best LGBTQ bars, it’s one of the best bars in town. The drink menu is full of classy cocktails, high-end whiskeys, and after-dinner sipping liqueurs. Hang out in the bar area, enjoy dinner from the large menu at intimate tables, and then croon along in the piano lounge until closing time.
18. Monk's Cafe
Monk's Cafe is THE place for beer nerds in Philly. With 25 Belgian brews on tap and over 200 beers — often rare — in bottles, this always-buzzing spot is frequently recognized as one of the best beer bars nationwide. Monk’s is the OG: Founders Tom Peters and Fergus Carey (also the owner of Fergie’s, another Center City institution) opened it more than 20 years ago, before beer bars were cool. Grab one of the Beer Bibles and ask the bartender for ordering advice. When it comes to food, go for the mussels, which have beer in the broth.
19. Bob & Barbara's Cocktail Lounge
As the story goes, South Street dive Bob & Barbara’s invented that ubiquitous Philly combo called the Citywide, the Citywide Special, or simply the Special back in 1994, when the bar began selling a shot and a beer for $3. Now you can order a Citywide at dozens of local watering holes, but it’s worth heading here to throw back the original in a bar that hasn’t changed much since 1969. Today it’s also known for having some of the city’s best drag shows.
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20. Tattooed Mom
South Street is weird, but fun. With its green walls full of art and tchotchkes, vintage furniture, candy on the tables, and punk-leaning crowd, Tattooed Mom has fit right into its neighborhood since it opened two decades ago. Beer offerings — in bottles and on tap — are plentiful and the food menu is full of inexpensive fried snacks and sandwiches, including a very good vegan selection. Cocktail-wise, try a pickletini.
21. American Sardine Bar
The famed home of the $2 sardine sandwich, American Sardine Bar is a local favorite in Point Breeze. Its 16 taps and 50-plus beers in cans change regularly, so there’s always something new. The picnic tables and lawn chairs in the backyard are a big draw, as is the ever-changing food menu, which is short but makes sure to include something to please everyone, including vegetarians and vegans.
22. Triangle Tavern
Save a handful of hipsters and some quality vegan options, the new incarnation of Triangle Tavern, opened in 2015, isn't that much different than the 1930s version. Sit at the bar, surrounded by memorabilia-adorned walls, order off the list of negronis, and enjoy the crowd, which on most nights is a rare mix of old-timers and East Passyunk newcomers. If you’re hungry, you can order off the Italian menu at the bar or in the dining room.
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