NFT Philadelphia Nightlife

Philadelphia / Nightlife

The party is always in Philly, legally till 2 am, but usually much later. We love to drink, as evidenced by our freakish restrictions about buying booze (also known as "blue laws"). State liquor stores close by 10 pm, leaving us with two options: go to a bar or go to Jersey--and we can often be seen with swooshy fingers, taking out no-service-charge twenties at Wawa, having chosen (with all our might) to abstain from Jersey. Unfortunately, when Jersey is faced with the same dire choice, they choose not themselves, and can be spotted living--er, trashing--it up in certain special locales where spray-tans glisten with the metal sheen of the Camden side of the river. But this is just the drink talking.

In recent years, Philly's obsession with beer bars has led it to developing a massive gut becoming a premier city for beer snobs. Philly Beer Week, which takes place every June, is a veritable cavalcade of brewery tap takeovers, beer dinners, and pop up beer halls--we dare you to make it to the last day without calling out sick from work. During the other 51 weeks of the year, Standard Tap (Map 19), Royal Tavern (Map 8), Devil's Den (Map 7), South Philadelphia Tap Room (Map 9), Bainbridge Barrel House (Map 8), and the granddaddy of them all, Monk's (Map 2), are favorites for local beers on tap. For those who enjoy beer with your game night, head to Barcade (Map 19) or Garage (Map 8). If you're looking more for exotic beer than a night out, try making your own six pack at The Foodery (Map 19), Hawthorne's (Map 7), Bottle Bar East (Map 19), The Corner Foodery (Map 2), or Food & Friends (Map 2). For a more Irish perspective, go to Fergie's (Map 3); please be aware that there really is a Fergie and he is, in fact, quite Irish. Continue your European beer tour at The Victoria Freehouse (Map 4), Frankford Hall (Map 20), and Alla Spina (Map 18). Or stay right in your own backyard by sampling Philly's own revered breweries, Yard's Brewing Company (Map 20), Philadelphia Brewing Company (Map 20), and Dock Street Brewery (Map 13).

If you want to watch the game(s) and be where the action is (and cross "ride a mechanical bull" off your bucket list), head to the sports-bar-to-end-all-sports-bars--Xfinity Live (Map 12). Slightly less intimidating versions exist at the Field House (Map 3) and Chickie's and Pete's (Northeast Philadelphia). Alternatively, O'Neal's (Map 8) is relatively low-key as sports bars go, and you can even stay after the game to get your groove going. Tir Na Nog (Map 2), with its league of brash devotees, continues to host athletic adventures in athletic voyeurism. We hesitate to mention it because it's both small and one of our favorite spots, but when it comes to game time, Murph's (Map 20) is, as the sign promises, a comfortable place to be.

The Ritz-Carlton Rotunda (Map 2) is the end all be all of places to be seen. Red Sky (Map 4) glows magenta on Market with dessert martinis. Tria (Map 2, 3), from its knowledgeable servers, voluminous menu, anally chosen glassware, and artful food pairings, is wine perfect. Ranstead Room (Map 1), Franklin Mortage & Investment Co. (Map 2), The Farmer's Cabinet (Map 3) and Hop Sing Laundromat (Map 3) make the fanciest vintage cocktails this side of 1908, and bartenders there are walking liquor encyclopedias. The Continental (Map 4) in Center City is impressive for its swinging chairs and batshit roofdeck (which features terribly annoying clientele on the weekends). The Black Sheep (Map 2), meanwhile, will help you wind down in style. And if you consider yourself to be a person who enjoys the finer things in life/are named Ron Swanson, make yourself at home at Lloyd Whiskey Bar (Map 20) and Ashton Cigar Bar (Map 2).

We're not sure if a bar can still technically be a dive after being voted "Best Dive," but it takes two hands to hold Oscars' (Map 2) supercheap, supergigantic beers. Neighborhood obsession Doobie's (Map 1) is always good, especially if you like carpeting in your bar. And anything goes at Dirty Frank's (Map 3). If you find yourself stuck on South Street, beeline it to Tattooed Mom (Map 8), which has a smoking room and great drink specials--PBR pounders, anyone? Similarly, if you're stuck in Old City, check out Drinker's Tavern (Map 4) and ogle at the majesty of their frat house style basement. Bob and Barbara's (Map 7) will do you whiskey for cheap, and if the amazingly jazzy house band isn't putting your head back together as you systematically drink it apart, the juke box can rock, too. It seems pertinent to mention The Dive Bar (Map 8), which is the zest of the neighborhood (and by zest, we mean carcinogenic), but don't miss Saturday night karaoke with a mix of dirty hipsters and old neighborhood men at Ray's Happy Birthday Bar (Map 8) down the street.

Most of the big clubs in Philly, including anything on Delaware Avenue, are filled with Jersey kids and suburbanites--except for Morgan's Pier (Map 4), which has somehow managed to stay awesome with strong drinks, great DJs, and a view to die for. For some truer getting down during cooler months, how about The 700 (Map 19)? Also known as "Seven Hundies," this once-bastion of hipster dancing has lost a little of its edge, but it's still fun. If you're looking for the next big thing, though, try The Barbary (Map 19). Medusa (Map 1) basement of rank delight is a trip alright. And five cop cars aren't pulled up beside McFadden's (Map 19) on a weekend for nothing--there's a party inside, and it's trashy as hell--good for a joke night that turns black-eye serious.

Most of the alternative bars are in roughly the same area of Center City (lovingly referred to as the "Gayborhood"). The Bike Stop (Map 3) is not so dainty, and has whips to boot. Woody's (Map 3) is the mainstay of the gay community, and is large and welcoming for all. And to venture out every once and a while (we mean from the Gayborhood, silly) check out the weekly Thursday night drag show at Bob & Barbara's (Map 7).

Music Venues
Philly's music scene is as varied and wide-open as you could hope for. For down and dirty indie bands, check out R5 Productions' ( (occasionally all-ages) shows at the First Unitarian Church (Map 1), The Barbary (Map 19), and more. For the over-21 contingent, there's gigs at Johnny Brenda's (Map 20), Milkboy (Map 3), and The Khyber (Map 4), which hosts not only music but also events like comedy shows and the like. The Electric Factory (Map 19) and Union Transfer (Map 18) are larger venues in No-Libs, but not as big (or as obnoxious) as the Wachovia Center, which gets many of the big touring bands. For a more gentle vibe, the North Star (Map 16) and World Cafe Live (Map 1) are great spots to check out up-and-comers, and TLA (Map 8) on South Street is like a white canvas (okay, but black and a little used) where mid-level music acts make the space and crowd their own. The Trocadero (Map 3), legendary for its titty show days, now hosts a wild eclectica of music acts. And finally, for the jazz set there's Ortlieb's (Map 19), which was once rated as one of the top ten jazz clubs in the country by Playboy. As to whether it's funnier that Playboy did the rating or that one of the nation's top jazz cafes is in Philly, we're still not sure.

On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Craig Nelson
Photo:  Courtesy of Green Label

Trocadero Theatre
Do you like awesome '80s groovin' synth music from Montreal? Then keep reading because NFT and Green Label are teaming up to give away a pair of tickets to the big Chromeo show at the Trocadero on July 27th. Here's the deal: Sign up for the NFT newsletter, follow Green Label and NFT on twitter, and wait for the exciting trivia question that will be delivered in your email inbox very soon. Be the first person to answer the question, and you'll be the big winner! And if you don't win the tix, you can still get the new album dropping on September 14th. Click here to listen to a few sample tracks.

Posted By:  Nathan Fried
Photo:  Nathan Fried

The 700
I walk past the 700 club every day after work and just recently decided to give it a try. I don't really know what stopped me from entering before. Maybe it was the soccer playing on the widescreen. Maybe it was the horn rimmed glasses that seemed to elegantly sit upon most all noses at the bar. Maybe it was the laughter pouring out the 7 foot high windows that wrap the corner bar like a posh Rittenhouse restaurant. No, you know what it was? It was that damn affable intellect sitting at the window sill, foot kicked up, leaning back, and reading some stupid looking book by a guy named Jack Kerouac. Something hit me one day, however. I have that same book sitting on my shelf at home. My superfluous resentment of the hipster culture has less basis than their affinity for skinny jeans! That same day, I grabbed my wallet and, er--horn rimmed glasses, and headed out for an evening at the 700 club. Instantly welcomed into the fold, I quickly made friends and they introduced me to the upstairs which blew me away--an entire 2nd floor row home converted into a club that actually played house music, a gem when considering Philly’s obsession with Q102. The 700 club is a place to make friends, read a book, relax, watch the game, and dance for the sole purpose of dancing.

Posted By:  Nathan Fried
Photo:  Nathan Fried

The Fire
Damien Rice, My Chemical Romance, OK GO, Maroon 5, John Legend. Try to find any connection between these artists and you are likely to have an aneurism. Well, maybe not those living in NoLibs and frequenting The Fire. The first time I walked into this bar/music venue was freshman year of college. The Fire is best described as a dive, but not in that cool scenester style. It's an honest-to-god dump, but one you could easily fall head over heels in love with. I held my bag tight as I walked down Girard from Temple. It was an open mic night. I grabbed a soda pop--come on guys, I was under-aged and very responsible at the time--and headed into the dimly-lit back room where I heard, for the first time, a guy named Nate singing the blues. Next up was another singer who's voice and sound was reminiscent of Radiohead. He was followed by Physical Illusion, a regular who frequently sings about polar bears. Since that night, I have tried my best to always make it to the Monday Night open-mics. Every night of the week has some sort of performance, but it's always different. You might hear classic rock, beat-boxing, rap, spoken word, instrumental, or even folk. It's hit or miss though. Some nights are amazing, others are completely absent of life. The back room was recently revamped when they closed down for a short time this past year, but the bar would still be considered a dive.

Posted By:  Augustin Kendall
Photo:  Augustin Kendall

Locust Bar
For those who take cigarettes with their alcohol, Locust Bar is a breath of stale, smoky air. Since 2008, Philadelphia bars have been smoke-free zones, except for few and far between spots like this dive bar. On the inside, Locust Bar is much like you might expect from the outside. The beer is cheap. The regulars are old, young, strange, and often unnervingly friendly to strangers. It's right on Jefferson University campus, so you'll run into college crowds on weekends (and sometimes in the middle of a weekday afternoon). The bartender will remember you. If you like karaoke, Sunday's your night; quizzo is on Tuesday. It's dark, narrow, and stinky. What more could one ask for? Locust Bar is a haven in the middle of Center City's pretentious drinking spots.

Posted By:  Nathan Fried
Photo:  Nathan Fried

"Let's name our bar Liberties." "uh...why?" "...because irony is so much sweeter when it actually makes sense!" I can only imagine this was the dialog exchanged upon the inception of Liberties bar in the heart of Northern Liberties. Still, a rose by another name will prick you just as deep. i.e. the name don't matter. As a matter of fact, your mom was right. What really matters is what's inside, and what's inside Liberties is great. A classic Victorian bar; quiet on the nights you need to relax and full of excitement on the nights you need to have some fun. You won't find that uniquely tasting Belgian beer at Liberties, but you will find all the standard taps you see anywhere else in the city. What compliments this place is its food; good prices and great eats. The quesadilla is especially good as it is baked, not fried, easily tricking any health junkie that it's actually good for you! The bar hosts a few consistently good and always pleasing musicians throughout the week, quizzo, and big performances on the second floor. Oh, I can't forget the one golden aspect--unlike many places in No. Libs, you won't find hipsters or soccer playing here.

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