The vibe is very post-work chicken wings and a beer, in a good way.
Urban centers can sometimes make for a slim dive bar selection, elevated and continuously redeveloped pieces of the city inhospitable to an unassuming corner pub. Such is not the case in Philadelphia’s Center City district, an area of the city dotted with a number of high quality dive bars, including Locust Bar, as classic a corner, neighborhood spot as there is in the city.
The signature feature can be found outside, the illuminated sign over the door marked by large, red block letters depicting the name of the bar on a white background, the classic look of the sign a good fit for the classic vibe to be found inside. A single neon sign sits in each of the bar’s four windows, the point where Locust Street and 10th Street meet punctuated by a bubbling cocktail glass directly above the front door cut into the corner of the structure.
The presence of a Philadelphia dive bar at this location dates back to at least the 1950s, the site operated as an apothecary prior to that time. Ownership cycled before landing in the hands of the Dinoulis-Koenig family, Nick Dinoulis taking over sometime during the 1970s before brother-in-law Tom Koenig took the reigns that he still holds today due to an illness that would ultimately claim Dinoulis’ life. Before taking ownership, Koenig worked two jobs, helping out around Locust Bar during the afternoon before working his full-time job.
When the naval base that Koenig worked at shut down, he decided to take full ownership of the bar and used some of the proceeds from his severance pay to fix up a handful of elements within Locust Bar, including the kitchen. Today, those renovations can be seen through the extensive, very non-dive bar menu offered by Locust Bar that hosts a wide array of selections that have evolved over the years. Throughout that time, the chicken wings have been a staple and are regarded as some of the best in Philadelphia.
The space itself is straightforward, a line of booths on one side of the narrow floorplan opposite the bar. Rows of framed posters and pictures line the wall above the booths, most of them devoted to Philadelphia sports teams. The area behind the bar features a classic dive bar mirror and a pair of beer refrigerators hosting what is a decently-sized collection of options. A handful of beer taps primarily dispense classic, domestic beers, illuminated shelves behind the bar filled with the Locust Bar’s liquor selection.
One quirk of Philadelphia bar law is the occasional allowance for smoking bars, Locust Bar one such institution. Owner Koenig, not a smoker, chose to apply for the exemption to ensure that those looking for a Center City drink had at least one choice where smoking was an option. All told, Locust Bar is as classic as it gets, a simple Philadelphia dive bar with good food to duck into on the way home, a place to spark a conversation among neighborhood regulars.