April 2, 2018

Diversity Defines Queer Women's Nightlife In Philly

Where To Eat, Drink & Build Community In The City Of Sisterly Affection

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The Gayborhood isn't just for guys. Charlie was a sinner is a chill vegan bar along 13th Street. Photo by M. Fischetti for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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The Red Owl Tavern is the perfect spot to toast the accomplishments of lesbian activist Barbara Gittings, who led the Annual Reminders protests across... Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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OutFest, the nation's largest coming-out party, takes place each October in the Gayborhood. Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Located in what was once the city's only bar for queer women, the spruced up Franky Bradley's remains a hotspot for the LGBT crowd. Photo by J. Fusco for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Ever since Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny and other brave gay rights pioneers protested outside Independence Hall in 1965, Philadelphia has played a vital role in our nation’s LGBT history. That revolutionary spirit is certainly not lost on the current generation of queer women, who are working to build the city into a community for everyone under the rainbow. Today, lesbian, queer and transgender women have even more diverse ways to come together, with late-night dance parties, art collectives, dining out—and making a difference. Here’s a list of Philadelphia gathering spots and happenings of special interest to queer women:

LGBT Bars:

  • Toasted Walnut Bar & Kitchen – Philadelphia’s newest lesbian-owned bar has three 70-inch TVs perfect for viewing parties (hello, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”) and friendly staff who welcome a diverse clientele beginning at happy hour six days a week and earlier for Sunday brunch. Toasted Walnut’s back bar features beer pong; its mezzanine hosts popular DJ nights; its kitchen, meanwhile, offers small plates, flatbreads and a house-made vegan burger everyone’s talking about. 1316 Walnut Street, (215) 546-8888, toastedwalnut.com
  • Boxers PHL – This laid-back gay sports bar is perhaps best known for its uniform of skimpy gym shorts. Men and women pack the place, particularly on game nights and weekends for lively happy hours, friendly games of pool and a popular finger food menu with Boxer’s signature Buffalo wings. 1330 Walnut Street, (215) 735-2977, boxersphl.com
  • Stir – One block from Rittenhouse Square, this friendly, lesbian-owned hotspot has become popular for its happy hour and creative cocktail list. Night owls also hit up Stir for late-night parties (including dollar drink nights) and special DJ events. 1705 Chancellor Street, (215) 732-2700, stirphilly.com
  • Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar – Big games on big screens are the draw at this gay sports bar, known for some of the best happy hour deals in town. At night, guests enjoy a slew of live events on the second floor lounge—karaoke, drag shows, burlesque, quizzo, bingo and more. 200 S. 12th Street, (215) 964-9675, tabuphilly.com
  • Tavern on Camac – Philly has been singing the praises of this lively piano bar for decades. Tavern is home to an intimate pub-fare restaurant, an energetic piano bar and a dance club featuring DJ nights, karaoke and Showtune Sundays—all on one of the most charming streets in the city. 243 S. Camac Street, (215) 545-0900, tavernoncamac.com
  • Knock – This popular gay bar tends to attract an older clientele by day and has one of the best brunches in the city on weekends. A great place to catch up after work or at outdoor tables in warmer months, Knock serves top-shelf cocktails and a menu of flatbreads, salads and more meaty comfort food entrees. 225 S. 12th Street, (215) 925-1166, knockphilly.com
  • U Bar – This friendly neighborhood watering hole, offering American and European draught beers, is great for day drinking, happy hour or late-night antics. There are always light bites of casual American bar fare, hunky bartenders and a jukebox stocked with gay anthems. 1220 Locust Street, (215) 546-6660, ubarphilly.com
  • Voyeur – This after-hours club in the heart of the Gayborhood showcases nationally known DJs—well past last call. The main dance floor features a spectacular lighting and sound system, and the upstairs houses a VIP space. There’s also a basement lounge with more intimate weekly events. 1221 St. James Street, (215) 735-5772, voyeurnightclub.com
  • Woody’s – Multi-room, multi-level, multi-party vibes: At this LGBT landmark, gays, lesbians and allies make themselves at home, beginning every day at happy hour. The expansive venue boasts dozens of beers on tap on the main floor bar, two swanky cocktail lounges and an upstairs late-night dance floor with DJs spinning until last call. 202 S. 13th Street, (215) 545-1893, woodysbar.com
  • Otto’s Taproom – The owners of Tavern on Camac and U Bar opened this pub last year in the city’s Brewerytown neighborhood. Drafts and craft beers dominate the drink selection, along with a relaxed local vibe that’s ideal for meeting new friends. 1216 N. 29th Street, (215) 232-1108, ottostaproom.com
  • The Raven – At this historic gay and lesbian resort in New Hope, Bucks County, summer means cocktails by the pool. Throughout the year, LGBT visitors and locals alike enjoy cabaret, dance parties, dinners, billiards and special performances and events, less than an hour north of Philadelphia. 385 W. Bridge Street, New Hope, (215) 862-2081, theravenresort.com

LGBT-Friendly Spots:

    • The Barbary – Crowds line up for live music and dance parties at this off-the-beaten-path club that attracts the city’s queer and hipster sets to Fishtown. Popular DJs spin sets during special retro events, like old-school Goth and New Wave parties. 951 Frankford Avenue, (215) 634-7400, @thebarbary
    • Bob and Barbara’s – Queer revelers seeking a change of scene from the Gayborhood head to this legendary dive bar on South Street for drag every Thursday. B and B’s is known for inventing Philly’s famed Citywide Special (a shot of Jim Beam with a Pabst Blue Ribbon chaser) and hosting the city’s longest-running drag show, starring Miss Lisa. 1509 South Street, (215) 545-4511, bobandbarbaras.com
    • Bocconcini – This lesbian-owned Gayborhood bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) spot serves Roman-style pizza and pasta by chef Crystal Fox. The cozy venue is ideal for late-night bites and comfort food—Italian style. 1334 Pine Street, (215) 545-2482, boccoonline.com
    • Bud & Marilyn’s – Chef Marcie Turney’s and partner Valerie Safran’s retro lounge in the heart of the Gayborhood serves American comfort food and cocktails at their best. Turney and Safran have received rave reviews for all of their 13th Street restaurants—Barbuzzo, Lolita, Little Nonna’s and Jamonera. 1234 Locust Street, (215) 546-2220, budandmarilyns.com
    • Charlie was a sinner – The Gayborhood’s intimate, hip, all-vegan bar/eatery specializes in small plates, Kir Royales, Sloe Gin Bucks and a certain signature cocktail called “Girl with Grenade.” 131 S. 13th Street, (267) 758-5372, charliewasasinner.com
    • The Dolphin Tavern – This former go-go bar in South Philly attracts a gay crowd for nightly parties on its neon dance floor, with plenty of mingling at the massive front bar. Drink specials include a rotating selection of drafts, canned beers and specialty cocktails. 1539 S. Broad Street, (215) 278-7950, dolphinphilly.com
    • L’Etage – Upstairs from French creperie Beau Monde is a gay-owned, Parisian-inspired nightclub featuring underground drag, burlesque and LGBT performance acts from Philly and New York. 624 S. 6th Street, (215) 592-0656, creperie-beaumonde.com
    • Franky Bradley’s – The venue that once housed Philly’s premiere lesbian bar stays true to its roots with a regular lineup of LGBT-friendly events—including drag and burlesque—in its upper- level lounge. Kitschy artwork decorates the downstairs dining room, where patrons can mingle at the bar at happy hour or grab a table for a romantic dinner. 1320 Chancellor Street, (215) 735-0735, frankybradleys.com
    • Valanni – This popular little Washington Square West restaubar welcomes young professionals at its dimly lit bar for cocktails and Mediterranean-inspired small plates. Valanni’s brunch is always a weekend draw—especially in warmer months, for the sidewalk seating. 1229 Spruce Street, (215) 790-9494, valanni.com


Burlesque, Karaoke & Cabaret:

  • Bearded Ladies Cabaret – This queer theater troupe produces its own shows and appears often at special events, such as Bastille Day at Eastern State Penitentiary. Barbara Streisand and Edith Piaf are among the international divas who’ve inspired the group’s beloved signature productions. beardedladiescabaret.com
  • HoneyTree Evil Eye Burlesque – A devoted lesbian crowd follows this out burlesque dancer for events she hosts around town. Her provocative monthly show at Franky Bradley’s, Honeygasm Sundays, regularly features a cast of queer performers. @honeytree.evileye.9
  • Peek-a-Boo Revue – The neo-burlesque troupe is an adults-only pastiche of singing, dancing, comedy and classic striptease, embodying all that is vaudeville entertainment with an injection of modernity. Founded in 1998, Philly’s longest running burlesque show performs at clubs all over town. peekaboorevue.com
  • Sing Your Life Karaoke – For decades, Sara Sherr has hosted one of the best karaoke nights in the city—and has a loyal LGBT following to prove it. Bob & Barbara’s, 1509 South Street, (215) 545-4511, @singyourlifekaraoke

Parties, Art & More:

  • Lesbians Who Tech + Allies – This nationally based networking mixer connects Philly lesbians in the tech industry via happy hour meet-ups across the city. lesbianswhotech.org
  • Queerality – This new LGBT arts and education agency addresses social issues through community building. With intersectionality at its core, the women behind Queerality recently opened a community space where special events, such as art exhibitions and workshops, welcome women from all walks of life. 1042 Pine Street, (215) 309-2355, queerality.com
  • Sex Dwarf – WXPN DJ Robert Drake hosts this popular New Wave dance party every first Saturday of the month in the Gayborhood. Sex Dwarf transforms Cibo restaurant into a 1980s-style club, with retro tunes spinning to a sweaty dance crowd late into the night. 1227 Walnut Street, (215) 923-8208, @phillysexdwarf
  • Sip City Mixer – Mover-and-shaker Rebecca Kenton organizes this free-entry extended happy hour for queer women. Her goal: Gather and celebrate diverse LGBT women in the community every three to five weeks by socializing at some of the most popular venues in the city. @sipcitymixer
  • Stimulus Philly – Women of all persuasions frequent these fashionable parties created by lesbians who wanted to create an alternative to the usual nightlife scene. Stimuls’ most popular events—Back 2 Basics and the new Sunday Tea Parties—happen every month at different locations. @thestimulus
  • William Way LGBT Community Center – The hub of LGBT life in Philadelphia recently introduced new women’s programming. The ultimate community center, William Way hosts live entertainment, gallery exhibitions, outings, support groups and more. It also has a library and archives of LGBT history. 1315 Spruce Street, (215) 732-2220, waygay.org

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