Philly has a ton of bars (just not as many as... ugh, Pittsburgh, which has more boozers per capita than any city in America), including some of the oldest bars in the country, but not all of ‘em are created equal. That's why we’ve rounded up the 14 most important bars -- the ones that have made the biggest impact on the city’s drinking culture -- in Philadelphia. You’re welcome...
The 14 Most Important Bars in Philly
Don’t be fooled into thinking the Khyber is just some Downtown dive bar. With a beer menu that includes everything from Yuengling to Bayerischer Bahnhof Leipziger, it can take a while to comb through your options if you’re not sure what you’re feeling that night. The Cajun-tinged menu surpasses your run-of-the-mill pub food too, plus bacon-grease popcorn isn’t so bad to munch on while downing your esoteric beer of choice.
Philadelphia’s oldest continually running bar is a city staple, whether you relish the passing PBR pitchers or reluctantly find yourself there on Wednesdays for cheap tacos and intense karaoke battles. The Irish pub has been around since 1860, and considering how difficult it can be to maneuver through its crowd any weekend night, it’s not going anywhere... especially when you consider all the celebs that have visited its hallowed halls -- everyone from Tennessee Williams to Backstreet Boys’ resident blondie Nick Carter has visited the storied spot.
Bob & Barbara’s has been a South St favorite since it opened in the wonderful year of 1969. Since then, it’s helped pioneer the Philly special and has become notorious for its rowdy Thursday night drag show. It’s the perfect place to make your last stop on a night out, especially if you want to catch some free live blues.
Besides rocking one of the best burgers in the city (and a basically all-around-amazing food menu), the revolving local beer menu at JB’s is the perfect place to sip your way through the tri-state area. Head upstairs to the quirky concert venue to catch some local bands, or shoot some pool in the bar room between beers.
Washington Square West
This kitschy, long-running hole in the wall has called Philly home since 1933, and though it’s changed names a few times, what’s great about it never changes: to-the-point bartenders who don’t have time for your indecisive nonsense, random wall and ceiling trinkets, and a vibe that attracts any Philadelphia stereotype: old dudes, hipsters, neighborhood regulars, Phillies phans, Main Line transplants... and beyond.
The local favorite deserves its ranking thanks to its dedication to local beer, offering Philly, Jerzzzy, and Dela-where brews only. Weekday happy hour deals mean $1 off all drinks, and warm weekend nights mean crowding the outdoor space and looking over NoLibs like boozed-up royalty.
The sorta-secret speakeasy is still elusive despite its increased popularity, and you can still fully expect to get your iPhone taken to cellphone jail if you try to so much as Instagram your experience. This is not the place to go if you want a quick drink, but regulars laud the spot for carefully crafted cocktails made from an endless selection of bottles.
Whether you opt for the no-thrills divey atmosphere on the first floor or the graffiti-happy, arts-centric atmosphere on the second floor, Tattooed Mom is another Philly mainstay approved by almost everybody. Cheap drink specials, pool games, and the jukebox are staples of the place, but the beer list (seasonal beers alternate the menu) and 1am waffle fries make it an extra special gem.
McNally’s is well known in Philly for a couple wonderful reasons: it is one of the oldest bars in the city, which means it’s been serving its legendary Schmitter sandwich to the satisfaction of Philadelphians and trolley station passersby for many, many years. The cozy spot has been making people happy since 1921 and still stands as a great piece of local history.
This Stephen Starr beer garden is an architectural masterpiece flooded with natural lighting and a sprawling outdoor space that somehow makes the delicious German cuisine and beer even better. You might have to brace yourself for a line to get in on the weekends, but it’s well worth it once you find yourself beneath twinkly lights with a beer cocktail in hand.
One of the best beer bars in America, Monk’s is brimming with over 300 bottles from around the world (heavy on the Belgians) and 20 taps that alternate seasonally and taste great paired with the spot’s signature mussels and other pub fare.
This dimly lit speakeasy (which you might also call the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.) is hardly a secret -- you’ll probably have to wait to get in -- probably because it’s impossible to keep quiet about the libations they serve here. Made by suspender-wearing bartenders who often also boast ironic facial hair, the drinks can feature anything from absinthe to... um, stuff we totally have heard of, and sport interesting names like "Kill Yr Idols" and "...With a Baseball Bat."
The kitchen stays open 'til 1am on weekends at Prohibition, which makes it the perfect place to go before or after a show at nearby Union Transfer. Even better is weekly Sunday BYOV (bring your own vinyl, as in record) during which you get 20% off your bill and some hipster cred.
This neighborhood craft beer bar is revered for its next-level brunch, and for offering a seriously sweet selection of local beers from the likes of Tired Hands, Free Will, etc. It also makes its own line of signature brews, and when you’re done you can swing next door to the Local 44 Bottle Shop, which has over 500 choices for when you just can’t find what you need.
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1. Khyber Pass Pub56 S 2nd St, Philadelphia
2. McGillin's Olde Ale House1310 Drury St, Philadelphia
3. Bob & Barbara's Lounge1509 South St, Philadelphia
4. Johnny Brenda's1201 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia
5. Dirty Frank's347 S 13th St, Philadelphia
6. Standard Tap901 N 2nd St, Philadelphia
7. Hop Sing Laundromat1029 Race St, Philadelphia
8. Tattooed Mom530 South St, Philadelphia
9. McNally's Tavern8634 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia
10. Frankford Hall1210 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia
11. Monk's Cafe264 S 16th St, Philadelphia
12. Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.112 S 18th St, Philadelphia
13. Prohibition Tap Room501 N 13th St, Philadelphia
14. Local 444333 Spruce St, Philadelphia
The KPP is a late-night joint offering some fan-food favorites from down South, like red beans & rice and even beignets. And oh-so-much beer.
Imagine: the year was 1860, Lincoln was elected, and McGillin's Olde Ale House first opened. It's safe to say they place is doing something right, because generations of people can't be wrong. This is the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philly. They have since changed the beer taps, we promise.
Bob & Barbara's is the original home of "The Special," a can of PBR and a shot of your good old friend JB. Why not take two?
Johnny Brenda's features all kinds of local beer and plenty of live music out of their divey, Fishtown digs.
Dirty Frank's got everything you need to get the job done, cheap pitchers, darts and Mrs. Pac Man.
Some fun facts about the Standard Tap, they have tons of craft beer on tap and every menu item is a special while supplies last. Now stop reading and go eat something!
Stop into this semi-hidden haven in Chinatown for Prohibition-inspired cocktails, accented with a speakeasy vibe. This much-hyped, semi-mysterious spot-- patrons line up down the block for a chance to sample enigmatic owner Lê's signature libations, and you can't use cell phones or cameras inside the bar (don’t think that rule won’t be enforced if someone catches you)-- offers literally hundreds of liquor options, from Johnny Drum Private Stock bourbons to 15-year aged El Dorado.
Inexpensive beer that isn't PBR?! This South Street dive bar has got that plus great food and bumper cart seating. Yes, bumper cart seating.
This historic tavern was established in 1921 and is known for their signature steak-and-grilled-salami sandwich, the Schmitter, which you can also score at Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field.
One of the only year-round beer gardens, Frankford Hall is also the most traditional German biergarten. The brick-walled Fishtown spot has a menu that features German classics like spätzle, schnitzel, and six different types of sausages. Additionally, the draft beer list has over 10 different German beer selections, all available in large, liter steins. It's especially popular in the summer months, when an opening at one of the picnic tables is harder to find than a parking spot in Fairmount.
This Philly beer bar will provide you with a variety of craft draft labels (Lost Abbey, Tired Hands, Port Brewing, etc) and offers an unrivaled bottle catalog, carefully cataloged in their Beer Bible. Monk's is a Philly institution, not only for its crazy-extensive collection of Belgian beers (of which there are 300+), but also for its congenial atmosphere, and way above average bar food.
Practically bursting with classical style and a tasteful ambiance, FM&I Co. stands out as one of the classiest bars in Rittenhouse, serving a number of finely tuned cocktails that any patron can appreciate.
The kitchen stays open 'til 1am on weekends at Prohibition, which makes it the perfect place to go before or after a show at nearby Union Transfer. Or, if you're simply craving a pub burger set to jukebox throwback tunes, this is the spot: the burgers here are 100% grass-fed local beef and topped with Hope Springs cheddar, lettuce, haystack onions, all on a snowflake bun. Oh, and Sundays are BYOV: Bring your own vinyl record and you’ll get 20% off of your bill.
This bar (on the corner of 44th) is all about beer, which is never a bad thing. They keep a selectoin of over 500 choices in their Bottle Shop next door, but at the bar they have an impressive list of options. The brunch has developed quite the reputation, and make some of their own signature beers.