Philadelphia Dive Bar Guide

Classic Architecture, Ancient Dives

Some cities are just built a little more friendly to dive bars and Philadelphia is one such city. The city’s historic architecture, the communal nature of its inhabitants, the area’s love affair with cold beverages, it all adds up to an environment that over the decades created and continues to cultivate some of the East Coast’s best dive bars.

On one end of the spectrum, take Dirty Frank’s, a Philadelphia institution opened in 1933 that the Philadelphia Inquirer once called a “crossroads for errant individuals.” That phrase may be the highest honor a dive bar can achieve, especially considering one such errant individual is rumored to be Bob Dylan who was supposedly thrown out the bar by the unaware owner at the time.

On another end of the spectrum, McGillin’s Olde Ale House, a dive bar crossed with a classic urban tavern that happens to be located down an alley. Or Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, obviously one of the best named dive bars in the city where original owner Ray Capozzoli started saying “happy birthday” in place of “hello” and the rest is history. Visit on your birthday and receive a Birthday Cake shot (naturally) served in a custom contraption complete with candle.

Compelling offers don’t stop there, Bob & Barbara’s coining “The Special,” a $4 combination of PBR and Jim Beam shot that has served regulars consistently since 1969. Bob & Barbara’s resembles Moe’s from The Simpsons on the outside and hosts the city’s longest running drag show inside, a mixture only a dive bar could produce.

The options swirl from there, of course, including Center City’s Oscar’s Tavern, a dive bar with a red brick exterior, red lights, red booths and red lamps that shows an impressive commitment to a theme. And throughout Philadelphia, more gems are ready to be found, the city the perfect breeding ground for niche, native, enduring dive bar staples.

Dive Bar Map

Philadelphia Dive Bar Reviews

Ranked Order

Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Dirty Frank's

Review Rating: 10 out of 10
Let the mural of famous Franks throughout history guide you inside.
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

McCusker's Tavern

Review Rating: 9 out of 10
South Philly in a microcosm, vintage plastic sign over the door.
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Bob and Barbara's

Review Rating: 9 out of 10
PBR hub and inventor of the citywide beer & shot special.
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Ray's Happy Birthday Bar

Review Rating: 8 out of 10
The best reason to skip Pat's & Geno's both for a beer.
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Oscar's Tavern

Review Rating: 8 out of 10
Red shingles in Center City with a sandwich-and-a-half cheesesteak special.
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

The El Bar

Review Rating: 8 out of 10
Aptly named South Kensington dive under the elevated track.
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

McGillin's Olde Ale House

Review Rating: 8 out of 10
Nothing says Philadelphia like a classic tavern crossed with a dive bar down a city alley.
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

McGlinchey's Bar

Review Rating: 7 out of 10
As smoky as it is historic, an ancient one-two combo with Tops Bar upstairs.
Johnnie's Glenn Avenue Grill - Columbus Dive Bar Exterior

Locust Bar

Review Rating: 6 out of 10
Classic corner dive under bold, red lettering in Philly's Center City.

Philadelphia Dive Bars Not Yet Reviewed

Must Visit Recommendations

Unfortunately, we have not yet been to every single dive bar in the city, but there probably a few more punch cards on our livers, so we’ll make it there soon. In the meantime, the curated list of dives below comes highly recommended by a variety of friends, online sources and drunks.

Bella Vista

The Dive Bar

947 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147
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Center City

Doobies Bar

2201 Lombard St
Philadelphia, PA 19107
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East Kensington

The Monkey Club

2101 E York St
Philadelphia, PA 19125
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Fairmount

Krupa's Tavern

2701 Brown St
Philadelphia, PA 19130
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Fishtown

Les & Doreen's Happy Tap

1301 E Susquehanna Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19125
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Rittenhouse Square

Locust Rendezvous

1415 Locust St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
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Other Dive Bar Options

12 Steps Down

831 Christian St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
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Atlantis the Lost Bar

2442 Frankford Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19125
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Big Charlie's Saloon

1953 S 11th St
Philadelphia, PA 19148
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Bonnie's Capistrano Bar

1503 S 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
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Dolphin Tavern

1539 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
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Donna's Bar

2732 E Allegheny Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19134
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Drinker's Pub

1903 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
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Fishtown Tavern

1301 Frankford Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19125
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Friendly Lounge

1039 S 8th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147
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J.R.'s Saloon

2663 E Norris St
Philadelphia, PA 19125
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Kung Fu Necktie

1248 N Front St
Philadelphia, PA 19122
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Las Vegas Lounge

704 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
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Lorraine

1502 Brown St
Philadelphia, PA 19130
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Murphy's Tavern

5892 Henry Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19128
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Paddy's Old City Pub

228 Race St
Philadelphia, PA 19106
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Perry's Place

2174 E Huntingdon St
Philadelphia, PA 19125
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Stoke's Sports Bar

2651 S 16th St
Philadelphia, PA 19145
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Top's Bar

261 S 15th St
Philadelphia, PA 19102
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What Did We Miss?

8 + 6 =

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