The Best Bars in Philly Right Now
Philadelphia is a city equally bound to down-to-earth dives and pearly, glossy cocktail bars, and chances are you’ll fit in at either one. Even as Philly garners continued recognition for the shifting and diversifying restaurant scene, you can find booze and cocktail concoctions with roots from around the world without even leaving city limits. From cozy corner pubs to bourbon-fueled jazz bars to European-style cocktails to Citywide-pushing dives, Philly can offer a little bit of everything (and probably more than you asked for). Take a look at the tried and true staples for any drinking-age adult in Philadelphia, along with our selection of the new, buzzworthy watering holes this season.
Corner neighborhood tavern with seasoned new owners
Sidecar Bar & Grill is far from new; it’s been a staple in the Graduate Hospital area since opening in 2005, and it has held its ground as the neighborhood continues to change. After a being a bit in flux the last few years, Sidecar fell into new hands -- and reputable ones at that. Michael Strauss of Mike’s BBQ and William Lindsay and Mike Metzeger of Stockyard Sandwich Co. bought the bar and are revamping the menu, featuring craft beer and cider taps as well as bottles, cans, and daily specials all with a local-first focus.
Seasonal French restaurant from Chef Chris Kearse
Chef Chistopher Kearse’s kitchen is serving experimental takes on classic European technique at Forsythia. The spot features an extensive wine list and wine-centric cocktails, which go down easy when matched with raclette cheese, escargot, and other French-focused starters. And don’t forget a digestif.
All-day Israeli cafe, restaurant, and bar
Mike Solomonov and Steve Cook are keeping the empire growing with K’Far Cafe, an Israeli bakery and cafe led by Camille Cogswell, a James Beard winner for her work at Zahav. The daytime eatery started selling out immediately, but now that they’re officially in the dinner sphere -- with a gorgeous bar to boot -- brace yourself. The bar focuses on lower proof spirits that pair well with dinner, as well as house cocktails and wines that work any time of day (no judgement).
Eclectic international-themed bar from the Johnny Brenda’s team
The folks behind Johnny Brenda’s opened a new space for sherries on tap, rare wines, obscure beers, and even more obscure liquors at the International. It’s a -- yup -- international themed bar that’s a boozy solution to when you’re in the mood to try everything, or at least enjoy a downstairs DJ while you stuff your face with Greek cheese and braised escargot.
Upbeat cocktail lounge for literary lovers
Writer’s Block Rehab and its glowing outdoor facade are a key stop for expertly named cocktails (and softer sips) in the Gayborhood. It offers equal parts cozying-up-with-a-drink ambiance thanks to very photographable library wallpaper, but also gets buzzing for mingling and socializing. You can pick your vibe from floor to floor, but either way you’re bound for creative cocktails infused with herbs and plants for a uniquely effective taste.
Upscale jazz bar with Southern cuisine and strong drinks
South helped herald in the ongoing North Broad Street revitalization, setting up shop long before the nearby Met Philadelphia lit up its marquee. South has so much to offer, from a packed jazz club to a mouth-watering menu. But, if you’re there for drinks, you’re equally lucky. Try the bourbon punch to really get in the spirit.
Kitschy American bar fare with upstairs dance party
The Chancellor Street bar can fit a number of going out priorities, whether you want to down a Kenzinger among medieval-inspired decor or you want to go upstairs with punch in hand to dance the night away. It makes an ideal destination for when you want to go “out out” but then you get tired and just feel like just sitting and throwing a few back with your friends.
Eclectic upscale parlor with expert bartenders
Serving expertly crafted cocktails with vintage flair, 1 Tippling Place is pretty irresistible. Settle in on some weird upholstery or hole up with your crew in the corner so you can start sifting through the endless menu of alternating cocktails fitting for the liquor of your choice.
Outdoor beer garden with German brews and fire pits
The architecturally stunning Frankford Hall is a staple in Fishtown any time of year, perhaps even more during the cold of weather, when you can walk through to instant enchantment at the power of outdoor heat lamps. This is a perfect place to go if you “only want one drink,” as their drinks conveniently can come in one-liter jugs, so cheers to you.
Retro whiskey bar with go-go dancers
This whiskey-a-go-go bar is a throwback to the free-lovin’ ‘60s and '70s, complete with rowdy dance parties upped by staff go-go dancers. The front bar’s specialty is whiskey and whiskey cocktails, plus you can stop in for happy hour, running from 5-8pm, or come by from 10-11pm for yet another happy hour, late-night edition, on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Lux speakeasy hidden behind El Rey
Behind the kitchen at El Rey, you’ll find the Ranstead Room, Stephen Starr’s luscious little speakeasy complete with some mature paintings and pricey drinks that go with the ambiance. There’s usually a waitlist to get in, but once you’re inside those worries float away as you sit and sip without any rush.
Cozy, dim beer hall with rotating brews
P.O.P.E is the perfect place to hole up in South Philly, complete with a dark, cavernous dining area and carved out fireplaces. Pick a song from the old school jukebox and one of the 14 microbrews on draft from around the country, or opt for one of the rare domestic and international bottles on the menu. The pub fare is fresh and seasonal, and on weekends you'll find one of the heartiest brunches in the neighborhood.
Laid back bar for craft beer, pool, and live music
Even as Philadelphia’s list of enviable bars expands, JB’s is everlasting -- and it’s not even because it had a cameo in Creed that one time. Come for cordial games of pool and stay for the curated local beer menu that goes great with the late-night kitchen hours. Most nights of the week you can find a show upstairs with cheap tickets to boot.
Small, laidback speakeasy with a mighty drink menu
This is the most approachable “speakeasy” of all time, sitting on the second floor of a stellar Ethiopian restaurant, Abyssinia. Upstairs you’ll find a very tiny bar that seats maybe a handful of people (maybe), but keeps you there with a surprisingly great whiskey, cocktail, and beer menu.
Elevated pub fare and craft brews in spacious corner tavern
Standard Tap just marked its 20th year in business, and what a stellar two decades it’s been -- for the taproom and for the Philly craft beer world. Standard Tap established itself as a go-to beer bar through a highly curated yet expansive collection of rotating local brews, showcasing the best of what the area has to offer, as well as scrumptious bar food, a huge space to accommodate any kind of vibe, and, of course, that awesome deck.
Funky South Street dive bar coated in graffiti
This Tattooed Mom is tough on the outside and sweet on the inside. Whether you park at the glowingly colorful upstairs bar -- fitted with twinkly lights and wall-to-wall flyers and graffiti -- or stay downstairs to nosh on vegan bar food among the lime green, you’ll find your place in this irreverently beautiful bar.
An expansive beer bible paired with burgers, frites, and mussels
Prepare yourself for Monk’s signature beer bible, packed with page after page of Belgian (and other-style) beers to go perfectly with your choice of mussels and pommes frites. You should also prepare yourself to flip through the beer bible while sandwiched between all the other locals who love Monk’s since the availability of personal space leaves much to desired. If you’re not down to wait for a table (the spot doesn’t take reservations), try Monk’s sister bar, The Belgian Cafe, in Fairmount. There, you’ll find a similarly expansive menu and all the frites you desire, along with the extra space.
Beloved New American restaurant with a great first-floor bar
The Rittenhouse restaurant made its long-awaited return after being sold in 2015, which was closed to make way for a complete rehab that now boasts gorgeous wood paneling and a marble bar, plus plenty of romantic lighting that creates the most perfect romantic winter escape. Despite its hiatus, the restaurant’s return stays true to what made the spot a mainstay in Philly’s drinking and dining scene to begin with, especially when it comes to cocktails. A tastefully curated wine and beer menu is completed by a seasonal collection of strong mixed drinks, like the apple brandy-infused Fibonacci in Autumn or the rum and cinnamon-tinged Blurred Line.
Cavernous dive and pioneer of the Citywide
The South Street stop has been kicking for 40 glorious years, pouring countless Citywide specials (PBR pounder and a shot of Jim Beam) and fostering many, many karaoke Sundays. It’s a party no matter what night of the week you’re there, but come through Friday and Saturday for live jazz, or Thursday for the weekly drag show.
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