Choosing Philly’s best bars is no easy task. With the city’s collection of watering holes ranging from out-of-the-way dives to sleek bottle service establishments, it all depends on what you’re looking for. Most of the time, I prefer things a little more low-key. I tend to stay away from the hipster heaven dive bars, sports bars, and places that make their bank from live music. What I do like in a drinking establishment is a good atmosphere and a full menu. These 3 gastropubs more than make the list.
Best Bars in Philly
Varga Bar – 941 Spruce St.
Situated at 10th and Spruce, Varga Bar is a bar, restaurant, and sidewalk cafe. I’ve yet to come here just for the food, but drinking trips here have yielded samples of some yummy cuisine. Varga Bar offers the best chili dog I’ve ever eaten, as well as some outstanding fries. Try out the mac and cheese, fancied up with truffles and bacon. More than a dozen local brews are on tap for you beer drinkers out there, but I prefer to sip on one of Varga Bar’s specialty cocktails – the Miss March. This is basically a root beer float with alcohol, and is beyond delicious.
The look at Varga Bar is as good at the food and drinks. Outside, the building looks like an unassuming cafe. Inside, the black-and-white checkered floor adds vintage charm, and a mural of classic pin-up girls grabs attention. The bar’s name is a nod to famed pin-up artist Eduardo Vargas, responsible for the WWII-era “Varga girl”. Check out this link for examples of his work.
Best Bars in Philly
Good Dog Bar – 224 S. 15th St.
On Good Dog’s website, this bar describes itself as “your neighborhood bar” in downtown Philly. It features a comfortable, unassuming interior – not unlike the look of fictional bar Paddy’s Pub on sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There’s a pool table, darts, arcade video games and lots of framed photos of dogs. From my experience, Good Dog lives up to its cozy neighborhood bar reputation.
The food at Good Dog is as comfortable as the atmosphere. The Good Dog burger is a local legend – I almost included it in my Philly burgers review. Unlike most burgers that are topped with cheese, Good Dog opt to stuff their ½ pound burgers with Roquefort blue cheese. Some other rib-sticking choices from their menu include meatloaf, stuffed pork chops and duck pot pie. Like Varga, Good Dog offers a selection of local and specialty brews in addition to standard cocktails and big-name beers.
Best Bars in Philly
The Grey Lodge Pub – 6235 Frankford Ave.
I first heard about The Grey Lodge from my sister, who worked at a neighborhood pizza shop just next door. When we went to try it out, I was pleasantly surprised. Northeast Philadelphia, where this bar is located, is home to a number of sports bars and Irish-style pubs. Not bad places, but not really my thing. Grey Lodge has elements of these atmospheres, but winds up being a lot cooler in general. For those who read my Philly coffeehouse review, the address of The Grey Lodge Pub might look familiar – it’s just two blocks down bustling Frankford Avenue from coffee hangout Espresso Yourself. I’m always excited to find good places closer to my own neighborhood, so Grey Lodge gets an extra thumbs up for that reason.
Grey Lodge is predominantly known as a beer bar, having secured some serious accolades from Beer Advocate and Esquire Magazines (visible on their website). At any given time, there are a minimum of 25 beers offered. Check out this list to see what’s currently on tap. Grey Lodge also submits itself as a whiskey bar, offering a rotating variety of scotch and bourbon from around the world. Another cool element to this pub is its inclusion of local art, offering rotating exhibits from hometown artists. Their bathrooms are also local art – colorful tiled mosaics full of inspirational words. There are two floors to the Grey Lodge – downstairs is where things get crowded and sporting events are watched on the flatscreen, upstairs is a little more intimate.
Whichever floor you’re on, The Grey Lodge Pub can serve you some great food to go with your drinks. Their fries were ranked Best of Philly by Philadelphia Magazine, and for good reason. Order them plain if you prefer – I like mine “Beefy” style, with brown gravy and cheese added. This concoction is commonly referred to as “disco fries”, and is somewhat similar to cult Canadian dish poutine. Grey Lodge also serves up seafood, cheese steaks, and sandwiches.
Good Dog Bar
The Grey Lodge Pub