Great Philly Dive Bars

By Tim Connelly [ connelly.tim@gmail.com ]

Krupa’s (27th and Brown, Fairmount)

I will miss living near Krupa’s for its great prices (Yuengling pints $2.25, well drinks $2.50. Even a Jack/Captain & Coke is less than $4), eccentric sports fans, and friendly neighborhood bartenders. It does have drawbacks: it is small (three people is literally a crowd), there is no lock on the bathroom door, and the paper towels sit atop an arcade game. About once per week, though, Krupa’s is inexplicably the place to go in Fairmount, complete with young singles dressed to the nines and crowds of 20 or more in a space meant for a small family. Speaking of families, I’ve seen several people bring their children there on an afternoon. I’ve also seen a bachelorette party walk in, give a collective “Nope!” and walk out. A crowd usually gathers on Friday, after Art After 5 at the Art Museum lets out, and mingles with the sports fans pounding the bar and shouting at the TV. It is Fairmount’s box of chocolates.

Bob and Barbara’s (15th and South St, Center City)

This is the Pat’s and Geno’s of Philly dive bars. They proudly advertise the “City Special,” which is a shot of Jim Beam and a PBR can for $3.50 (apparently there are multiple locations in the city that offer this. I imagine you know immediately when you’re in one). This place has live jazz music with no cover most nights, a drag show on Thursdays, and a cocktail-table Ms. Pacman machine in the corner. Everything you need for a good time. Drawbacks: it might be too well-known to still be considered authentic – if you’re the type of person that hates bands once they get popular, Bob and Barbara’s might not be for you. There are also rumors of poor service, but they were no better or worse than most places while I was there.

Locust Bar (10th and Locust, Center City)

As post-docs, you’ve probably at some point been forced to listen to a low hum for so long you can’t even hear it anymore. Then suddenly the hum stops, and you’re both relieved but also kind of miss it. This is the same feeling I get after spending a couple hours in the dark, gritty Locust Bar, and then stepping out into bright fresh air. People here seem very friendly, like they’re constantly poised to blurt out to you anything from the circumstances of their sister’s recent surgery to that thing the neighbor did. $10 pitchers of Yuengling and some good specials help the conversations. Drawbacks: these days it’s jarring when I walk into a bar and somebody is smoking. Every single one of the booths had pretty large slashes in the upholstery. And if it has air conditioning, they’ve been stingy with it while I’ve been there. Come to think of it, when considering dive bars, these are all probably pluses.

Brownie’s Irish Pub (2nd and Chestnut, Old City)

OK. This one doesn’t qualify as “great.” But they actually have a few decent beers on tap, and a surprisingly well-felted, level pool table upstairs. A few regulars followed us up for a sporting match (we didn’t even rate as good enough to play for drinks). Drawbacks: again, smoking in bars has become a bit jarring. Also, there were hints that certain tabs may have been padded, which for me is red flag (hence the downgrade from great). However, their “classic dive bar” atmosphere is bona-fide.

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