The Best Restaurant Bars in Philadelphia

The rising reputation of Philadelphia restaurants has raised the tide for ambitious restaurant bar programs as well. Most focus on cocktails as their primary strength, but an unorthodox approach to building beer and wine lists is also in play. This list represents our favorites, but there are other worthy contenders, like The Dandelion, Ela, The Love, Oloroso, and Zahav, that could easily be on an extended list.

  • 1

    Oyster House

    The Mink family’s Center City seafood house has quietly positioned itself as one of the steadiest cocktail bars in the city. The bartenders are fast and friendly, the gin collection is formidable and the drinks touch on both classics (Philly’s own Clover Club) and nouveau favorites (the Kentucky Maid, via Milk & Honey).

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • craft beer
    • craft cocktails
    • singles scene
    • day drinking
    • oysters/raw bar
  • 2

    Pub & Kitchen

    Renowned for its burger but adept at so much more, P&K is the urbane establishment we all wish we had on—and in—our corner. As the neophytes fawn over the basics (for the record, that burger is damn good), pros explore the more elegant corners of chef Steve Eckerd’s menu, matching meals with selections from the short and sharp beer, wine and cocktail lists.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • cheap date
    • bar food
    • full menu
    • craft beer
    • craft cocktails
    • natural wine
    • day drinking
    • sports
    • singles scene
  • 3

    Southwark

    This Queen Village stalwart was doing the proper drinking thing before that Corpse Reviver was even a glimmer in your Jerry Thomas-loving eye. Under new ownership as of 2016, the look and feel of Southwark’s interior has changed, but they’ve retained the industry-friendly feel in the front room, home to one of Philly’s oldest, and most beautiful bars. Southwark is an industry favorite, and it’s also a top-flight restaurant in its own right—and the same goes for Ambra, chef/owner Chris D’Ambro’s ambitious tasting menu concept located in an adjacent space.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • full menu
    • craft beer
    • craft cocktail
    • low wine markups
    • lots of whiskey
  • 4

    Townsend

    The Francophilic fine-dining leanings of Townsend Wentz meet their playful match in the front barroom of the chef’s popular restaurant, where classic drinks are augmented with friendly bits of trickery. High-top seating here is a standout along option-packed East Passyunk Avenue.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • bar food
    • full menu
    • craft cocktails
    • natural wine
    • champagne
  • 5

    Vernick Food & Drink

    Greg Vernick earned 2017 “Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic” honors from the James Beard Foundation for his innovative cooking, splitting the difference between homey familiarity and flawless execution. But his restaurant’s equally excellent wine and cocktail programs have also contributed greatly to its reputation as a bona fide destination. Smart, dialed-in and constantly evolving, wine director Ray Gazdzinski’s list reflects a preference for terroir-driven wines from small producers and service that’s elegant yet casual. The same is true of the bar, which boasts some of the best bartenders in the city. (Their domain also ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • natural wine
    • craft cocktails
    • full menu
  • 6

    Rex 1516

    The cooking of the American South is the thing at Rex, and as such, the convivial rear bar executes the requisite Sazeracs and Mint Juleps remarkably well. But there is more to this beverage approach than just the classics. Yes, they've got the whiskey drinkers covered, but a slew of housemade elements and bottles well outside the canon means plenty of specials and off-menu meanderings.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft beer
    • craft cocktails
    • full menu
    • singles scene
  • 7

    Friday Saturday Sunday

    In 2016, owners Chad and Hanna Williams took over this Rittenhouse landmark, one of the older names in Philly dining, and brought it up to contemporary standards. A big part of this push toward modernity was bar manager Paul MacDonald, one of the city's most experimental drink-makers. He mines cocktail inspiration everywhere from Williams' intricate cooking to the mathematical parameters of the Fibonacci sequence.

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    KNOWN FOR

    • craft cocktails
    • natural wine
    • bar food
    • full menu
    • singles scene
  • 8

    Abe Fisher

    A restaurant that playfully reflects the multicultural cuisines of the Jewish diaspora does not exactly scream “best amari selection in the city,” but that’s exactly what’s going on behind the bar at this handsome Center City space, owned by prolific restaurateurs Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook (Zahav, Federal Donuts, Dizengoff, Goldie). A well-sourced approach to spirits of all persuasions, many obscure and cocktail-geeky, is just part of the program; they also offer flat-rate sections for wines by the glass ($12 for white, $14 for red) and by the bottle ($50 for white, $60 for red), encouraging guests to branch ...

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    KNOWN FOR

    • good wine
    • craft cocktails
    • full bar

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