PHLGuide

Where To Gossip In Philly, According To Kelsey McKinney

The ‘Normal Gossip’ host on the best nooks and crannies for secret sharing.
a woman with auburn hair wears a black top and blue jeans while sitting in a red chair

photo credit: Ashley Gellman

On the podcast Normal Gossip, host Kelsey McKinney spins small-stakes, everyday gossip into high-stakes drama that draws you in so quickly, you’ll forget you’ve never met any of the people in the episode IRL. Episodes (the sixth season is airing now) might feature the anonymized ins and outs of a pocket watch listserv or a years-long “how did an entire hot dog end up in a toilet” mystery.

Kelsey has lived in Philadelphia for the last few years, and because gossip is her literal job, she's done extensive research on the best spots around town to swap stories. “The main thing I'm looking for is a place where you won't be overheard or listened to,” she says of narrowing down her list of secret-sharing spots. “But I also think it’s nice to have an activity—especially something like dinner or drinks or a show.”

If you’re trying to overhear someone’s secrets or looking to safely spill your own tea, here are Kelsey McKinney’s recommendations for the best places to gossip in Philadelphia. And for those who have a weekly appointment with Normal Gossip (the show’s sixth season just premiered last month), there’ll soon be even more on offer when Kelsey's second book You Didn't Hear This From Me: (Mostly) True Notes on Gossip drops in February 2025.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Jason Varney

Italian

East Passyunk

$$$$Perfect For:Date NightDinner with the ParentsDrinking Good CocktailsDrinking Good WineImpressing Out of TownersSpecial Occasions

"It's a very, very old red sauce Italian restaurant that is also a social club—you need a membership to get in. When you show up, they have one of those doors with a window that they slide open to decide whether or not you can come in, which is very silly. But they also have a no phones rule—absolutely no phones. You cannot take pictures of your food, you cannot take pictures of other people, you cannot record. It is the perfect place to gossip because no one is going to be able to record or take notes. So in that way, it is one of the only places left that you can gossip in full secrecy. The menu hasn't changed since they opened except for specials. They have one raviolo. It's the biggest raviolo you've ever seen, and it's filled with ricotta and topped with brown butter. It's just like, ‘Yeah, that's what you want to eat.’ It was miserable to me that I couldn't take a photo of it. It was painful."

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

"Lorraine is a perfect dive bar. It's cash only. It's very close to the museums and the Met, which is a great place to see music. It's everything you want in a dive bar. They have a nice long tap list. Nobody's going to bother you. They have a big outdoor area. It's chill vibes in there. It's a neighborhood bar. So if you don't live in that neighborhood, it's a great place to take your gossip because no one cares what you're talking about."

photo credit: NICOLE GUGLIELMO

"I think they have one of the best chicken sandwiches in America. It's in West Philadelphia. The restaurant is pretty cute. They do a lot of their business on takeout orders. So usually you can sit inside which is nice. And I just think that if you're going to get into some really juicy gossip, you need energy. And a chicken sandwich is a great form of energy. It's Ethiopian, so the chicken sandwich is actually breaded in injera. It has a more acidic flavor profile. I sound like a sommelier."

"Mish Mish is probably my favorite restaurant in Philadelphia. It is a perfect restaurant to gossip in because it is very small and all of the lights are candlelight, so the light is very flattering. Also, they have an immaculate playlist on at all times—incredible vibes. It's great in the summer: they open all the windows so there's chatter from the street, which can be great if you're in the mood for eavesdropping. You can listen out the window and catch snippets of people's conversations, and that is really enough to fuel an entire dinner's worth of conversation. The menu at Mish Mish is pretty seasonal, but one of the things that's always on their menu is Armenian string cheese…this long, windy mozzarella cheese situation that you dunk into red sauce. It's incredible. And the batter is thinner, like a funnel cake."

"Sometimes you need caffeine to gossip. You need a little perk up. Herman's is a great coffee shop because they have incredible coffee and it's very cheap. And in the summer they have a frozen coffee or latte...I think there's an oat milk version and a regular version, which are very exciting to drink and feel just a little special. But Herman's also has an incredible snack situation. They have tons of drinks that you could buy and they have tons of little tins of fish, and cheeses, and little chocolates. It's a nice place to be like, 'Oh, we're just going to get a tiny snack and walk around.'"

"Grace & Proper is a perfect bar. It is modeled on Portuguese bars: it's a corner bar that's very dark. At night, it's loud and rowdy. They have meat and chips on the menu, which is just salted potato chips with pieces of salami in it—just incredible. They have a great olive platter and great snacks. In the morning they do pastel de nata, the egg tarts where it's a little torched on the top—they're so good. At night, there's a ton of outdoor seating and a ton of indoor seating, but it's also kind of cramped like Mish Mish, in a way that’s great for eavesdropping and gabbing."

"I think that a really underrated place to gossip is at a concert, which sounds crazy. There's a lot of downtime at concerts. You get there a little bit before it starts and you're just standing. And then in between acts, you're still just standing, and there's nothing better to do than to gab. Johnny Brenda's is small—they have a lot of punk and DIY shows. I saw Speedy Ortiz there. You can huddle together, and it's just fun to be in a group of people that are like, 'Who are you? What are you doing? What's your secret?'"

"The neighborhood bar of neighborhood bars—it really is. Local 44 is in West Philly. When I'm over there, that's my pick of where to go gab. They have stained glass windows, which is kind of silly, but it gives it a reverence. The bar is really dark wood. It's a very dark space, but it is just a classic neighborhood bar. You can eat there, you can talk there, and nobody is going to bother you. They have mulled wine in the winter. The last time I was there, someone told me the most insane story about shit they had seen on Nextdoor; they were pulling up Nextdoor posts and comparing them to posts on Instagram. And I was like, 'I love this.' Something about living in a city that is big but feels like the smallest town in the world is such a delight and truly a treasure."

"It's only open in the summer, so this is a summer gossiping spot. There are a lot of food trailers. They have a piña colada in a whole pineapple, which is very exciting. They also have a bunch of frozen drinks and elote, and all sorts of delicious little snacks. But my favorite part is that they have these hammocks that go out over the Delaware River. I think six people can sit in the hammock and you're kind of secluded and it's quieter because you're on top of the water. So you can have your big pineapple and gab."

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