In order to help you figure out which new restaurants are worth going to, we created The Hit List, our guide to recently-opened spots that are actually worth your time and money. We actually get off our asses and scope these places out - just because a place is new, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good.
And now, we’re doing the same thing for bars. From a natural wine bar in Queen Village to a club behind a barbershop, check out the Bar Hit List below.
This South Street spot may look like a dive bar and serve all the classic dive bar food (nachos, burgers, etc.), but the biggest reason to hang out here is for the large selection of great natural wine. If you come here any day after work, you’ll find the loungey, retro space full of people drinking growlers of whatever is on-tap and enjoying all of their daily specials - like $10 for a beer, shot, and a burger on Wednesdays. On your way out, stop by the small wine store up front that’s stocked with most of the bottles they carry behind the bar.
Blind Barber already exists in a bunch of other cities, but this is the first location in Philly. The Center City spot is a barbershop during the day, but turns into a speakeasy at night, with bars on two floors that serve cocktails and snacks like grilled cheese. It might sound kitschy, but it’s also really fun - especially on a night when you want to go out out. It’s a club without the sticky floors and strobe lights, and as much as you want to hate it, you’ll probably find yourself here late-night often.
Le Caveau is the wine bar you’ve always wanted in your neighborhood - it’s somewhere you can walk in unannounced on a Thursday night with a date and immediately impress them just by knowing it exists. The dark, moody spot sits right above another of our favorite places, The Good King Tavern, and is like its sophisticated, cigarette-smoking sister who only dates older Italian men. Their wine list is primarily made up of natural bottles, divided between “France” and “Not France.” There’s also a short menu of bar snacks with things like a hot dog wrapped in a baguette and salted chocolate mousse. You could probably order enough food to eat a full dinner, but you should come here more for a glass of wine and to feel like you’re cooler than you actually are.
El Techo is 11 floors up from Condesa, one of our favorite new restaurants in 2019, and it’s run by the same people. The rooftop bar looks like it was airlifted in from Miami, with tropical plants, bright tiles, and lounge furniture everywhere. It also has a retractable roof, which means it even feels kind of like Miami, if you can ignore the bleak gray winterscape happening outside. Since Condesa does all the drinks and food at El Techo, you can expect to see a lot of agave-based cocktails and tacos with homemade masa tortillas. It also means that everything’s delicious, which isn’t something you can say about most Philly rooftop bars.
Before it was The Pearl Tavern, this Midtown Village space was just called Irish Pub, and it was Your Average Neighborhood Dive Bar for decades. But when it closed earlier in 2019, the people behind Townsend and Oloroso bought and reopened it without doing much work inside. The biggest difference is what they’re serving - they’ve got lots of craft beer, plus a small but diverse selection of wine and a few cocktails. In terms of food, you’ll see a mix of classic bar food like burgers and wings, along with a large seafood selection, including a raw bar.
Bloomsday is a natural wine bar in Headhouse Square, and it’s one of the first places in Philly to focus on interesting, local wine producers since Philly changed its alcohol laws. Their bottles range from a dry rose made from grapes grown in Pennsylvania to a txakolina from Spain that one waiter described as “the margarita of wine.” If you don’t have any idea what you want to drink, their staff is really good at helping you choose something - even if you have to try a bunch of samples. As for the food, the menu is mostly made up of small plates, and while the ham and cheese croquettes will do just fine for a first date at the bar, you don’t need to go out of your way to eat here.
The space above speakeasy Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. has been a tiki bar for the last few years. Recently, though, it was converted into Mexican and mezcal spot Encima. In addition to pouring more than 70 mezcals and tequilas, they also make their own low-proof tejuino (a beverage made from fermented masa) and tepache (a beverage made from pineapple peels). The food is good as well, with mostly small bar snacks like tacos, elote, and multiple types of guacamole. Come here to drink some mezcal out of jicaras (traditional Mexican drinking cups) in a windowless space where time seems like it slows down.
Lunar Inn might look like your average dive, but this Port Richmond bar has great food, and an even better selection of local beers, ciders, and wines. They also really like playing vinyl (and have a huge collection of it), and host local DJ sets a few nights a week. But maybe the coolest thing about Lunar Inn is their onsite wine store, Tiny’s Bottle Shop. It’s right behind the bar in a space that’s essentially a garage, and it’s got everything they sell in the bar, plus additional bottles depending on the season.