Dating apps are sort of like those scratch-off tickets that only cost a dollar. They’re accessible and momentarily gratifying, and you’ll almost immediately come to the conclusion that they belong in the trash. So the next time you delete your app after somebody tells you they hate Eagles fans, use this guide. It’s full of places where you have a good chance of meeting a real-life person who shares at least one of your interests, and hasn’t already read and judged your 120-character bio.
When you were still using dating apps to find suitable partners, we’re guessing you had at least one first date at Nunu. The bar is filled with bright red lights that make it feel casual enough to meet someone you’ve never seen in real life before, but dark enough that you won’t feel self-conscious about looking weird while you devour a plate of wings. All of these qualities also make this Fishtown spot a totally normal place to show up alone, grab a seat at the bar, and tip back a few of their on-tap whiskey highballs while you attempt to connect with the people around you. If you do find someone interesting, suggest splitting a katsu sandwich or some furikake cheese fries while you talk about your common love for old pugs.
Walk into the unmarked door on 2nd street with a lantern hanging out front and you’ll find Royal Izakaya - a fun bar that serves a bunch of small plates like yakitori skewers and shishito peppers. Behind that is Royal Sushi, an omakase-only sushi bar that’s owned by the same people, but that’s more of a 15th date move and you’ll have to make reservations lightyears in advance to get a seat at the counter. Royal Izakaya, on the other hand, doesn’t take reservations, which means you may have to start at the bar and work your way to a table later in the night, but that just means you’ll end up getting to know more people along the way.
The bar at Friday Saturday Sunday in Rittenhouse is the perfect place to mysteriously show up alone and order a Manhattan on the rocks. It’s tough to get a reservation at the upstairs dining room, but the dark bar downstairs is always easy to walk into. The menu is full of dishes that are great for sharing, like our favorites the carrot confit and dry-aged duck. And if you’re feeling bold, order one of the pastas and ask the person next to you if they’d like to split it, Lady & The Tramp-style.
If you’ve ever had a dream about going to a show and romantically locking eyes with someone across the room in the middle of a song, then you should go to Johnny Brenda’s on a show night. The Fishtown spot is a full-on concert venue, with a stage and small balcony upstairs where you can turn an accidental shoulder brush into a full conversation. And if jumping in a crowd of sweaty people isn’t exactly your scene, they also have a big downstairs bar where you can play some pool or just hang out with a few beers and some bar snacks.
Burg’s is a relatively dark and quiet tiki bar in South Philly where, unlike most of Philly’s Irish pubs and dives, you can actually have a conversation. Either grab a booth and chat with a friend, or sit at the bar and find someone who’s close enough to your type to talk to. In case you get hungry, they also have a small menu of things like vegetable spring rolls and kimchi mushroom dumplings - but really you’re here for the $3 Happy Hour drafts and to hopefully leave with someone’s number.
When you’re tired of trying to meet new people every week at your go-to neighborhood bar, leave your comfort zone and head to the upstairs bar at Double Knot. There’s a different crowd every night at this Midtown Village izakaya, and people come from all over the city to grab a drink and a few sushi rolls. The Japanese food and cocktails are great, especially the Savoy Knot (their take on a whiskey sour). And you’ll probably find at least a few people who are more interesting in-person than they would be if they were answering basic, predetermined questions on their apps.
Coffee shops are great for meeting people. But coffee shops that turn into bars around 2pm, like Milkboy in Center City, are even better for striking up a conversation. The spacious cafe downstairs has garage doors that open up when it’s nice outside, and it has free wifi, making it the perfect place to get work done. Then, once your work-from-coffee-shop day turns into a drink-from-coffee-shop day, you’ll have enough IPA-induced courage to go talk to the beautiful stranger in noise-canceling headphones across the room. Bring over a Jim’s cheesesteak (which you can order without having to go next door) to seal the deal.
The Rittenhouse location of this diner/martini bar has a sort-of-hidden rooftop bar that’s only accessible by elevator, and is usually filled with people grabbing a post-work Happy Hour drink or hanging out around the indoor fire pit. During the summer, they also open up the outdoor terrace, which has a few couches and tables scattered throughout the space. It’s a great spot if you meet someone and want a little one-on-one time to make sure they’re not a complete weirdo.
Out of all the gay bars around Midtown Village, Tavern on Camac is one of the best to meet people at - especially if you’ve swiped through every eligible human in Philadelphia. The first floor is an always-packed piano bar that’s full of people singing along to the entire Mulan soundtrack, while the second floor is a dance club that starts to get pretty busy at midnight. So whether you want to meet someone by bonding over your favorite Disney song or just by bumping into them several times on the dance floor, you’re covered.
You look good today, and you think you might be able to get the attention of someone who’s much cooler than you are. When you’re totally feeling yourself, head to Irwin’s, a cocktail bar that still feels trendy even though it’s not exactly “new” anymore. The bar is huge, with graffitied walls and mismatched metal chairs and, aside from the great cocktail menu, they also have a full menu of mostly Mediterranean small and shared plates. Everything about this place just screams cool - almost too cool that any other bar you go to after Irwin’s might feel like a let down.
If you want to meet people at bars, but can’t seem to stay awake past 9pm, you should just head to Hops - a newer place in Brewerytown - during the day. The huge space looks like a brewery that was given a makeover by the guys from Queer Eye, and there are a couple of lounge areas and pool tables that make it easy to talk to new people. When it’s nice out, the garage doors open up and the entire place turns into a kind of indoor/outdoor day party, complete with a full menu of things like burgers and tater tots.
Going to Doobie’s is basically like going to a house party that you had in your parents’ basement in high school - it’s super easy to meet people and half the stuff in there is from the ’70s. This cash-only spot in Fitler Square has some sort of weird power that turns any regular night into the kind you’ll be talking about for the next year. Play one of their many board games or choose a song from their old-school jukebox, and depending on how your night plays out, you’ll either end up arguing over whether “whizbang” is a real word, or standing on a chair and loudly singing along to an AC/DC song.