If there’s one thing that young professionals and singles love, it’s a great bar. Your local watering hole is not only the place to see and be seen, it’s hangout central for your friends, coworkers, and visitors from out of town who want to get the Philly nightlife experience. Fortunately for downtown dwellers, Center City is replete with fabulous places to down a drink and talk or dance the night away. From speakeasy-style clubs with hidden entrances to neon-plastered designer dives, there’s something for everyone on this list. Spot old favorites, or get inspired for pre-weekend pre-gaming tomorrow night… no matter what, a great time is guaranteed.
Must-try: Pisco Sour
There is no sign advertising this speakeasy-style hidden bar, just a doorbell. Once inside, the rules are explained – no phone calls, pictures, or gaming at the table. Texting is allowed. The owner’s philosophy is that people don’t spend enough time face-to-face. Also, dress to impress and leave the credit card at home – it’s a cash-only establishment. The staff is known for their brusque approach to customer service, but once you begin visiting regularly, the grumpy veneer slips off.
Must-try: The Saint
Religious iconography meets upscale bar at The Thirsty Soul, where stained glass, pew-style seating, and a drink menu divided into an Old and New Testament will all take you to church, metaphorically. For extra thematic points, there’s a confession booth (don’t be the messy one, friends) and a throne worthy of the Pope, should he decide to come back to the City of Brotherly Love. The adjacent Red Room, covered in crimson velvet, hosts live music which runs the gamut from rock to blues to country.
Must-try: Your own creation, born from the inventive mixologists
Short for “The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Company,” which was the biggest front for illicit alcohol running during Prohibition. This well-heeled speakeasy does due credit to the spirit of the original, with low ceilings, cozy booths, and glimmering candlelight that will make your date look even prettier. The wait staff are friendly and helpful and, along with the bartenders, more than happy to explain any menu offering, including some of their wilder cocktails.
Must-try: McGillin’s 1860 IPA
Holding the title of the oldest continually-running tavern in all of Philadelphia, McGillin’s is a beloved institution of the city. Over the course of the bar’s 159-year history, only two families have run the Ale House: the eponymous McGillin family themselves, who raised thirteen (!) children in the apartment above the tavern, and the Spaniak/Mullinses, who still own it today. Having survived the Civil War, Prohibition, both World Wars, and the birth of the camera phone, McGillin’s is still great at its specialty: turning out amazing house lagers created by local brewery Stoudts Brewing. The quintessential pub setting and sense of history draw all sorts of guests, from college kids to retirees. There’s none of the pretense that some Center City bars love to cultivate, which is refreshing.
Must-try: Ziggy Zaggy beer cocktail
Capturing perfectly the welcoming atmosphere of a German biergarten, this indoor/outdoor grub pub invites you to pull up a seat and join the party. And a party is exactly what it feels like, perpetually, at Frankford Hall, with crackling fire pits and dainty string lights illuminating the patio, ping-pong tables, and beefy German lagers served by the liter. Picnic tables invite you to gather with friends, whether old or new, and the food will keep you coming back for more: from Bavarian pretzels with beer-cheese dip to full dinners like schnitzel, you’re going to leave with a full belly and a twinkle in your eye.
Must-try: Tiki Kitty
If you want to drink like a local, Tattooed Mom is guaranteed to become a new favorite of you and your group. This place is weird in the best way possible, with mad hipster appeal combined with old-school toys and candy at the bar. The iconic green walls are covered in loud local art, which perfect suits the loud locals – mostly a young, punky bunch – who are the regulars here. Tattooed Mom is celebrating its third decade in Center City, and shows no signs of slowing down. The beer is inexpensive, the cocktails are wacky, and the food is cheap and delicious with a phenomenal vegan selection.