Diving Into Philly – Part 2

Happy New Year! The beginning of 2023 also marks my first two months living in Philadelphia, and truthfully I’ve loved every minute of it (except the parking, that sucks). One of my New Year’s resolutions is to immerse myself in the city and get to know it, aggressively. As I’ve said over and over again to disinterested friends, the best way to become acquainted with an unpretentious burg like Philly is to visit the dive bars, and by visit I mean linger in them until you’re encouraged to leave, by management or the authorities. So, let’s throw another goal for this Philadelphia year on the board: order a beer in every dive bar in the city (I’ve already got a good start, I think). Here are four more stops along this gilded road.

Bob and Barbara’s famed “citywide.”

Bob and Barbara’s Lounge. I’ve been eyeing B&B’s for a while now. The mid-century modern barfront screams old school good times, the ones your parents used to have. Bob and Barbara’s interior is similarly nostalgic, choc-full of PBR signs, prints, and assorted chachkies from 1950-1970. You know, when bars were real. My friend and I ordered PBRs but were instead offered “the special” AKA the citywide by legendary bartender Butchie, which includes a shot of Jim Beam for $4. They invented it here, nbd (folks even made a podcast about it). I took the second one with Old Crow (you can read more about the bird here) which apparently is a favorite of bar regular Nick. Shoutout to Nick, my man. A padded bar top helps the committed drinker or ruminator lean for hours without bruises. The company is wild, with friendly regulars who’d rather be there than anywhere else. It was 5pm, so I didn’t take advantage of the pink-hued dance/live music area behind the main bar, but it looked like a fun time. I adored Bob and Barbara’s and can’t wait to waste/enjoy hundreds of hours here.

Johnny Brenda’s. Stepping into the legendary JBs, you are immediately illuminated by at least two disco balls. Feel free to snap your fingers and strut ala Saturday Night Fever. It’s just a party, with young partygoers mixing with super hip middle-aged people, like me. If you’re a billiards person your home is up front, with a nice table and invested gawkers welcoming you over. Justin Bieber played there! The space is big, with plenty of sit-down tables and a bar top running through it all. There’s also an upstairs, a fairly legendary Philly venue for live music. The only knock I had was JB’s doesn’t offer some of your favorite cheap, mass-produced beers, but I’ll allow it as long as the keep pouring drinkable cocktails like the JB Mule, which was solid.

Tattooed Mom. TMom was the first dive bar I visited when I was scouting out Philadelphia as a place to live, and it was a delightful welcome. A super friendly staff and clientele make this a great first or last stop for any Philly bar crawl. Absurdist, counterculture, and kitsch touches adorn every wall, transforming the space into a relentless feast for the eyes and an ode to South Street’s innate weirdness. They even have a bumper car! In addition to your tried-and-true cheap beers, TMoms has a long list of excellent canned and bagged cocktails perfect for lazy afternoon – the mule was my personal favorite. Also be sure to take a trip upstairs to the second floor – I loved the massive, distressed space, which will live forever in all my punk rock fantasies.

Dirty Frank’s. Pine Street is fast becoming my favorite Philly stroll with its quaint shops, parks, and period houses. I was walking through and Dirty Frank’s mural caught my eye – you’ve never seen a better rendered collection of famous Frank’s in your life. Inside, a maelstrom of Philly paraphernalia awaits. I lost about 15 minutes just staring at the walls and counting off the Philly luminaries who have come through. Frank’s customers were neighborhood as hell and from all ages and backgrounds, which gave me tons of warm feelings (read this excellent article from Drew Lazor on Frank’s storied history). A great range of beers your father used to drink including Hamm’s and Natty Boh, which brought me back to the DMV and Baltimore.

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