1. The Standard Tap
Credited by many as the inspiration for the current American gastropub phenomenon, the 11-year-old Standard Tap remains one of Philadelphians’ favorite places to drink and eat. Housed in a historic tavern in the Northern Liberties neighborhood, the bar features a tap-only selection of beer exclusively made in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. (The region has some heavy hitters, including Sly Fox, Victory, Stoudts, and Dogfish Head.) Classily executed hearty American fare like fried smelt, roast leg of lamb, oysters, and chicken potpie have inspired imitators, and there are darts, a rooftop beer garden, and a good jukebox to boot.
2. Monk’s Belgian Café
Monk’s is most often pointed to as one of the reasons Philadelphia became the beer mecca that it is. Co-owner Tom Peters has, for years, made pilgrimages to Belgium to meet with brewers and convince them to send their beer to Monk’s. “Everybody has lost count of the number of debuts of Belgian beers at this bar,” says Philadelphia beer writer Don “Joe Sixpack” Russell. Additionally, he brings in hard-to-find West Coast beers, like those from Port Brewing Company and Russian River. The Café even has its own private label beer, a Flemish-style red, brewed by a Belgian brewery.
3. Nodding Head Brewery and Restaurant
There’s nothing like drinking fresh beer made right on the premises, and Nodding Head is a brewpub with award-winning beer you can’t get anywhere else. It’s especially known for its Berliner Weisse, a sour, refreshing, low ABV wheat beer seldom seen outside Berlin. Relaxed and unpretentious, with a bit of a hole-in-the-wall feel, it’s a favorite hang for pro brewers coming through town.
4. Jose Pistola’s
A tiny, bilevel Mexican restaurant in Center City, Jose Pistola’s was started by two bartenders who wanted to add an ethnic twist to the city’s craft beer bar scene. You’ll want to throw out all previous notions of beers drunk with Mexican food: no Coronas, Dos Equis, or Tecates sold here. You will find Chouffe Houblon (on draft), Rodenbach Grand Cru (in bottles), and more fantastic American micros and well-curated craft imports. Good beer + Mexican food = Why aren’t more people doing this?
Brand-new Kraftwork brings a cool post-industrial chic to the formerly blue-collar Fishtown neighborhood: a giant saw with a hop leaf design cut out of it hangs over the bar; the walls are exposed brick. It’s got 25 beers on tap, both domestic and imports (highlights include Dales Pale Ale from Oskar Blues and St. Bernardus Abt 12). Ambitious food like crispy blood sausage, pickled ramps, and fiddlehead ferns have made an appearance since it opened in May, and the buzz is good that Kraftwork may be the next great gastropub in town. It wouldn’t be right not to mention that that they make chocolate Rice Krispies treats with bacon in them, aka “Pork Krispy Treats,” for dessert.
Named after three byproducts of fermentation (wine, cheese, and beer), Tria offers small plates like truffled egg toast with fontina paired with wine and unusual beers like Lancaster Milk Stout and the Bruery’s Saison De Lente. It has a romantic, classy rep and its two Center City locations are typically packed with “young people lookin’ swell,” as Don “Joe Sixpack” Russell observed. The restaurant also hosts a “fermentation school” at a nearby office building, where it brings in cheesemakers, brewers, winemakers, and authors for classes and tastings.