Mention West Philly, and two things probably come to mind: the theme song from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and college. Or rather, colleges. But there are some great spots to booze and hang out in University City—whether you want to mingle with the co-eds or avoid them altogether. –Chelsea Karnash
City Tap House
It’s hard to resist a spot that has an outdoor setup as amazing as the one at City Tap House. Sure, the inside is nice too, but step onto the roof, and you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of a really sweet elevated park—there are fire pits and heat lamps, and the option to roast s’mores (yay!) with your crew. And you should definitely come with a group; CTH is perfect for lounging with friends and watching/laughing at the drunken high-jinks of the college (and grad school) crowd.
With an extensive whiskey list, live bluegrass and a plethora of sweaty hipsters on any given night, Fiume serves as an awesome introduction to Philly’s “underground” bar scene. Sign-less and nestled above Ethiopian restaurant Abyssinia, the décor features numerous strands of half-functioning Christmas lights and tables and chairs crammed into a place the size of a studio apartment. Chat up a friendly bartender—they’re all well-versed in craft beer and cocktail concoctions. This is the epitome of a dive, in the best possible way.
Yes, I’m actually sending you to a bar in 30th Street Station. Because it’s pretty awesome, especially for…well, a bar inside a train station. Have some time to kill before hopping on the train to the ‘burbs or the stadium? Have a drink. There’s a nice selection of both local and imported beers here, and the food specials are always interesting (elk, anyone?). And just as at water parks, casinos and the local Wal-Mart, the people-watching at a train station is just superb.
Dock Street Brewery
Dock Street, the city’s first micro-brewery and a serious West Philly gem, is housed inside an old firehouse and has only a few TVs—refreshing in a city of sports and sports bar fanatics. Here, wood-fired pizza, freshly-brewed beer and conversation take center stage, and in warm weather, the outdoor seating is lovely. Order the Flammenkuche pizza (caramelized onion, bacon, gruyere, crème fraiche and herbs—yum!) and pretty much any beer, and you’re set.
This is a big place that’s part college bar, part neighborhood dive and part live music venue. Sure, the acoustics are terrible, the stage is crammed into a corner, and some of the acts are pretty awful, but you go to Millcreek to throw a few back with the neighborhood drunks, play darts and eat wings on special. If your expectations are any higher than that, you’re in the wrong bar. Charming? No…and especially not around closing time (just FYI).
Two words: MASSIVE MARGARITAS. Or, as Mad Mex calls ‘em, Big Azz Margaritas. And they are that. Elbow your way through the college kids and take your pick from scrumptious flavs like kiwi, mango and black cherry. At one point, there was even a pumpkin marg—delicious! But drinkers beware: Have more than one of these babies, and you’ll be sloppy.