The Bar Hit List: The 15 Best Bars In Philly
The 15 best bars in Philly, according to us.
After checking out Philadelphia's newest spots and revisiting the classics we return to again and again, we’ve made a list of essential places to grab a drink. There are cocktail bars and dives, fancy restaurants and rooftops, and some places even have live music. But the one thing they all have in common is they’re Philadelphia watering holes that can turn a so-so night into a memorable one.
Let’s play a game. We’ll say a word, and you say the first place that comes to mind. Ready? Speakeasy. If The Ranstead Room isn’t one of the first thoughts that popped into your head, you haven’t lived in Philly long enough. It’s dark, underground (below El Rey in Rittenhouse to be specific), and they make great, strong cocktails. Plus, like pretty much every speakeasy ever, it’s prohibition-themed, with tufted red leather couches and jazz music playing in the background. So order whatever your favorite classic cocktail is or go for the Bartender’s Choice. Either way, it’ll take a few minutes to make and be one of the best drinks you’ve had in a long time.
photo credit: Jason Varney
When Andra Hem opened this year, they pretty much did the opposite of a grand opening: there was no viral slow-motion reel of a bartender pouring a drink (or even a sign out front). Instead, they made cocktails so good, word spread on its own. The Swedish-style bar is super intimate—it has movie theater-esque low lighting and leather booths, and you’ll hear everything from Earth, Wind & Fire to N.E.R.D. while sipping on a cocktail of Söderblandning-infused whiskey, Swedish punsch, fresh beet juice, and fig. If you’re hungry, go for a cheese board with pear butter and pistachio-cherry praline, sunflower sprouts salad, and a crispy potato pancake. No matter which cocktail you go for (the Jack Rose is our favorite), you’ll have a drink that’s blended beautifully while sitting in a place that makes you forget you’re in Center City.
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photo credit: The Rittenhouse Hotel
Library Bar At Rittenhouse
Located inside The Rittenhouse Hotel, the Library is a hidden gem of luxe cocktail bars. You'll feel a bit like you were transported to one of those lavish castles from a movie that’s set in a non-existent, vaguely European-sounding country. There’s a fireplace, ornate chandeliers, vintage books, and, most importantly, strong drinks to keep you warm. Their drinks and (limited) dinner menu change throughout the year, so even if it’s not fireplace season, it’s still worth a trip for a classic or creative cocktail—as long as you’re cool with spending $24 on a drink. It’s perfect to pop in for an aperitif on a romantic date night, or after you’ve eaten at one of the many restaurants nearby.
photo credit: Eddy Marenco
Grace & Proper
Grace & Proper is a European-style bar in Queen Village that tends to get as crowded as the Market-Frankford Line on a Monday morning. The cozy, buzzy bar offers small plates, including cured meats, fragrant cheeses, and meatballs in a blackberry romesco, along with an extensive drink menu. The cocktails range from $12 to $18 and the wine and spirits list may be one of the longest in town. But it’s their incredible signature drinks, like the Good Giving & Game with saffron-infused gin, honey, and 24-karat gold leaf that sets this place apart. Come for a low-key dinner or make this your launching spot for a night at Tabachoy, Fiorella, or anywhere else nearby.
Fishtown’s R&D cocktail bar is a great place to pass time while you’re waiting to get into Pizzeria Beddia and Suraya, or if you just want to unload your story about your train delay over a vodka cocktail mixed with crème brûlée and black cherry. It’s a dark space with deep amber lighting, filled with two-tops, candles, and a lot of velvet—making it one of the better places to take someone on a date. Outside of the eight rotating specialty cocktails that can range from paloma milk punch in the spring to the smoky and lemony Oaxacan Penicillin, they also have a small beer list with some drafts from local breweries and bar snacks like hummus, whipped ricotta, and a charred long hot labne.
Everything about Queen Village’s Le Caveau feels cool. It’s the wine bar you’ve always wanted in your neighborhood—where you can walk in unannounced on a Thursday night with a date and feel cooler than you actually are. The dark, moody spot sits right above another of our favorite places, The Good King Tavern, and is like its sophisticated, tattooed sister who only dates older French men. Their wine list is primarily made up of natural bottles and is divided between “France” and “Not France.” There’s also a short menu of bar snacks with things like a hot dog wrapped in a baguette and salted chocolate mousse.
photo credit: PHOTO CREDIT: NICOLE GUGLILMO
Yes, there is a lot of graffiti on the walls of Graffiti Bar, a small and colorful bar hidden behind Sampan in Midtown Village. It gets crowded (like the pit of a Doja Cat show-crowded), and a retractable roof—that means you don’t have to leave just because it starts raining. You can also order small bites like kung pao chicken wings and edamame dumplings from the Sampan kitchen.
Hop Sing Laundromat
Here’s the thing about Chinatown’s Hop Sing. The guy that works the door—well, he’s kind of an assh*le. And if you’re not wearing the right shoes or you itch your nose with your left hand instead of your right, he may just tell you to step out of line and walk away. It’s made us swear off the whole place more than once. But once you get past him, Hop Sing is one of the coolest and most unique bars in Philadelphia. The walls are covered in velvety red wallpaper and there are candelabras on every table that look like they’re about to jump to life a la Beauty And The Beast. Then there are the cocktails, which always have ingredients like Vietnamese coffee and flower-infused gin that seem like they’d make no sense together but, like Crocs and almost every outfit in your closet, end up creating something that weirdly that works.
McGillin's Olde Ale House
This Midtown Village bar is a Philly staple for one reason: it’s the entire city’s favorite place to day drink. There are rows of long picnic tables, big TVs playing whatever game is currently on, and no matter what time of year it is, you’ll see big groups cheers-ing each other with pints of whatever’s on draft—usually starting at around noon on the weekends. They also have two fireplaces, so it’s especially useful in the winter when all of the outdoor beer gardens are closed, but you still need a place to drink while there’s daylight left.
Other Half Brewing Co.
Along with some of the city’s best restaurants and parks, Fishtown also has one of Philly’s best breweries in Other Half. The large, dog-friendly astroturf patio is the perfect place to play games of cornhole, or hang out by the fire pits and bite into some pulled pork sandwiches, wings, and brussels sprouts coated in garlic-soy sauce. Inside there’s a big wraparound bar, lots of natural light from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and enough taps to keep everyone in your group happy. Choose from a selection of 20 IPAs, and a handful of sours, lagers, and ciders that you can sip on while watching the Phillies game on any of their large TVs.
Assembly is one of the coolest rooftop bars in Philadelphia. It has pretty much everything you could want from a place where you go to drink outside on top of a building—from good cocktails and a great view of downtown to semi-circle couches that you can throw your belongings across to save seats for friends who may never show up. The Logan Square spot also has an indoor portion of the bar that’s open in the winter, and when it’s warm enough, they’ll just turn the fire pits outside on full blast so you can pretend the groundhog either did or did not see its shadow—whichever means winter is almost over.
Attic Brewing Company
The Attic Brewing Company’s taproom feels like an antique roadshow collection spot, art gallery, and prohibition-era pub all rolled into one. Throughout the brewery, you’ll find basically every version of couch that’s ever been made, throwback wooden chairs, and a beer garden in the back courtyard where you can take an order from Deke’s Bar-B-Que (which is next door). And since Germantown is one of the most historic neighborhoods in Philly, it should come as no surprise that this was the first craft beer brewery in the city. There’s a large selection of hazy IPAs, lagers, pale ales, and even some bourbon barrel brews if you want something with a higher ABV.
A.bar is the companion bar to A.kitchen, and it serves similar food as A.kitchen, but in a less formal space. On any given night, it’s filled with a combination of first dates and people who work in the area stopping by for a whiskey sour with a couple of coworkers. But we also like it for a solo meal on the weekend after a long day of shopping and people watching in Rittenhouse. The menu is pretty solid all around, but the oysters and cheeseburger (one of our favorites in the city) are standouts.
Bob & Barbara's Cocktail Lounge
Just like how Philadelphia is the birthplace of America and Silicon Valley is the birthplace of the technology that’s stripped us of our last bit of personal privacy, this Center City bar is the birthplace of the Citywide. While lots of other bars have replicated it since Bob & Barbara’s invented it in the ’90s, no one does it cheaper (or better) than they do. Also, the live music and Thursday night drag shows make it an objectively fun place to hang out, so that doesn’t hurt either.
Tattooed Mom should really be categorized as a museum—one that just happens to have a bar inside it. The walls, top to bottom, are covered in years of stickers, spray paint, and sharpie, and it would take an exhaustive “I Spy” search to pick out all of the different murals by both famous and local street artists. It’s so quintessentially South Street in the way that pretty much anything goes—cheesy tater tots and burgers, drinks with cotton candy and pop rocks, or literally just scrawling whatever you want onto their walls without any concern for being thrown out.