October 5, 2018

Philadelphia's LGBTQ Nightlife Scene

A Guide To Where To Eat, Drink & Party In & Beyond The Gayborhood

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Woody's, one of Philadelphia’s best-known—and busiest—gay bars. Photo by A. Ricketts for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Charlie was a sinner., an intimate vegan bar along 13th Street. Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia
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Boxers PHL, a popular destination for sports fans with plentiful plasma TVs and a pool table. Photo by VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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Barbuzzo, one of 13th Street's most bustling bistros. Photo by N. Santos for VISIT PHILADELPHIA®
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LGBTQ revelers of every stripe meet their nightlife matches among the buzz-worthy bars, restaurants and nightclubs in and beyond Philadelphia’s Gayborhood. After dark, partying patrons enjoy laid-back vibes and delicious cocktails at recent neighborhood addition BarX, at the well-rounded club scenes of Woody’s, Voyeur and Tabu and at bar-nightclub hybrids—venues with bars on the first floors and dancing on the second—Franky Bradley’s and historic Tavern on Camac. Then, there’s the late-night food scene, featuring stylish go-tos like Bud & Marilyn’s and Charlie was a sinner along the restaurant row that is 13th Street, plus quick noshes in the wee hours.

Here’s a lineup of Philly LGBTQ hotspots that get even hotter as the night gets later:

Bars & Nightclubs:

  • BarX – The latest addition to Philadelphia’s LGBTQ bar scene, BarX is a low-key neighborhood hangout that prides itself on a friendly bar staff and generous happy hour, Monday through Saturday, 6 to 8 p.m. DJs come in on the weekends for sweaty dance parties in the basement. 255 S. Camac Street, (267) 639-4100, xmarksthebar.com
  • The Bike Stop – Open since 1982, Philadelphia’s lone gay leather bar sits on a quiet side street, just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the Gayborhood. Bartenders (usually clad in harnesses and chaps) serve beer and straightforward cocktails on three levels. On weeknights, locals congregate around the pool table on the top floor, and on weekends, the basement “dungeon” gets particularly steamy. 206 S. Quince Street, (215) 627-1662, thebikestop.com
  • Bob & Barbara’s – One of Philly’s most legendary dive bars is not gay, per say (nor is it in the Gayborhood), but Bob & Barbara’s is home to the city’s longest-running drag show, which takes place every Thursday night. Patrons seeking the authentic experience should order a signature $3 “citywide”—a shot of Jim Beam with a Pabst Blue Ribbon chaser. 1509 South Street, (215) 545-4511, bobandbarbaras.com
  • Boxers PHL – Shirtless mixologists man the well-stocked bar at this Gayborhood spot known for its craft beer and ample spirits. This popular, New York City-based mini chain has become a destination for sports fans thanks to its plentiful plasma TVs and pool table, plus brick-oven pizzas and kitschy cocktails such as the Watermelon Skull Crusher and Strawberry Jolly Rancher. 1330 Walnut Street, (215) 735-2977, boxersphl.com
  • Franky Bradley’s This self-described “house of weird” from the owner of Silk City breathes new life into former lesbian bar Sisters Nightclub, which inhabited these digs for 17 years. Bar owners keep the spirit alive with kitschy art from the original location and bawdy drag and burlesque performances upstairs, while the downstairs dining room and bar offers a more low-key experience with beer, cocktails and a full menu of American fare, including must-have smoked chicken wings. 1320 Chancellor Street, (215) 735-0735, frankybradleys.com
  • Knock Restaurant and Bar Gay baby boomers congregate around Knock’s bright bar for conversation and well-made cocktails. Guests in the adjoining dining room are treated to piano tunes and a menu of new American fare, and, during warmer months, patrons populate tables outside for weekend brunch and some of the best people watching in the Gayborhood. 225 S. 12th Street, (215) 925-1166, knockphilly.com
  • L’Etage This stylish Bella Vista bar offers an LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere atop French Creperie Beau Monde. Known for craft cocktails, small plates and crepes, L’Etage fills up on weekends for DJ dance parties, comedy shows and occasional queer entertainment, including the monthly Martha Graham Cracker Cabaret, a must-see for drag connoisseurs. 624 S. 6th Street, 2nd floor, (215) 592-0656, creperie-beaumonde.com
  • Stir Center City’s only LGBTQ-specific bar outside the Gayborhood manages to be both sleek and laid back. On a quaint side street near Rittenhouse Square, the brick-walled bar and kitchen hosts Throwback Thirsty Thursdays, a jam-packed weekly party featuring $1 drinks and DJs spinning ’80s and ’90s dance tunes until 2 a.m. 1705 Chancellor Street, (215) 732-2700, stirphilly.com
  • Toasted Walnut Bar & Kitchen Owned and operated by the former manager of Sisters Nightclub, this uber-welcoming lesbian bar and 3,800-square-foot performance venue serves all the usual drinks, plus tacos, skewers, sliders and other snacks available late-night. Patrons who swing by on a weeknight might stumble upon any number of drag and variety shows, TV viewing parties or meet-ups. 1316 Walnut Street, (215) 546-8888, toastedwalnut.com
  • Tabu – Philadelphia’s original gay sports bar recently upgraded to a brand-new space one block south of its original location. Now spread over a whopping three levels, the new venue includes a sports bar, nightclub lounge, cabaret performance space and, open during warmer months, a rooftop deck. Throughout, bars dole out ample draft and bottled brews and pour a menu of signature beer-and-shot specials. 254 S. 12th Street, (215) 964-9675, tabuphilly.com
  • Tavern on Camac Tucked along cozy Camac Street is the Gayborhood’s three-in-one special, featuring a handsome first-floor piano bar, a haven for songbirds who gather nightly for show-tune sing-alongs; the upstairs Ascend lounge for weekend dancing, karaoke and occasional drag shows; and a basement-level restaurant featuring upscale American fare available until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 243 S. Camac Street, (215) 545-0900, tavernoncamac.com
  • U Bar The Gayborhood’s most “Cheers”-like locale serves as a no-nonsense drinkers’ refuge. Through evening hours, the kitchen churns out light bites like hummus, as well as heavy hitters such as bratwurst and meatloaf 1220 Locust Street, (215) 546-6660, ubarphilly.com
  • Writer’s Block Rehab In this dimly lit, comfy hangout with Scrabble-lettered walls and a bound library book for a menu, bartenders serve exquisite, Instagrammable craft cocktails of both the woodsy and floral variety, along with beers and a plentiful selection of wines. Upstairs seating is available for libations-enhanced reading sessions and casual conversation. 1342 Cypress Street, (267) 534-3134, facebook.com/writersblockrehab
  • Voyeur Nightclub After 2 a.m., club kids with energy to spare come here for after-hours fun. The 15,000-square-foot, tri-level complex offers multiple bars and three dance floors illuminated by stunning light shows and thumping with tunes from local and international DJs—plus, during part of the year, a weekly “RuPaul’s Drag Race”-esque competition. 1221 James Street, (215) 735-5772, voyeurnightclub.com
  • Woody’s Seems anyone who’s club-hopped in Philly has been to Woody’s, the city’s best-known gay bar with one of the busiest weekend scenes: Gents squeeze in on Friday and Saturday nights to dance and mingle in a sea of muscle shirts; the upstairs dance floor comes with disco balls, strobe lights and Top 40 tunes blaring from the DJ booth; downstairs, patrons revolve around the central bar for beer, cocktails and heavy flirting. Two additional cocktail lounges, Rosewood and Glo Bar, open on weekends and are accessed from inside Woody’s or via separate entrances on Walnut Street. 202 13th Street, (215) 545-1893, woodysbar.com

Late-Night Dining & Drinking:

  • Barbuzzo One of 13th Street’s busiest bistros rolls out a low-priced late-night menu of signature burgers, wood-fired pizzas, draught beers, house-made sangria and wine every Sunday to Thursday from 10:30 p.m. to midnight. The rest of each day, chef Marcie Turney and wife Valerie Safran’s restaurant serves a full Mediterranean menu—including a must-have budino dessert. 110 S. 13th Street, (215) 546-9300, barbuzzo.com
  • Bud & Marilyn’s On Friday and Saturday nights, the bar at this retro-American joint stays open until midnight for locally brewed Bud’s Best Pale Ale, the house take on Bob & Barbara’s “citywide”—a Yards Bud’s Best and shot of Jack Daniels—and a night owl menu of crispy cheese curds, buttermilk pretzel rolls and fried chicken on a bun. 1234 Locust Street, (215) 546-2220, budandmarilyns.com
  • Charlie was a sinner – This moody cafe and bar holds sway as the neighborhood’s vegan specialist. Menu standouts include avocado toast, artichoke frites and potato croquettes, while the cocktail list is both classic and adventurous. How about a wheatgrass shot mixed with green chartreuse liqueur? The bar is open until 2 a.m. every night, with food served until 1 a.m. 31 S. 13th Street, (267) 758-5372, charliewasasinner.com
  • Double Knot – This atmospheric hideaway stays open on Friday and Saturday nights between midnight and 1 a.m., when the bar serves beer, wine by the glass and revivifying cocktails that include a handful of coffee-infused concoctions. Edamame dumplings, a selection of sushi rolls and pork belly bao buns from the izakaya kitchen are available until midnight. 120 S. 13th Street, (215) 631-3868, doubleknotphilly.com
  • El Vez The crowd is lively and guacamole bowls overflow at this flashy corner spot. Cali-Mex dishes (heaping nachos, mahi-mahi tacos), plus 10 margaritas (classic to smoky mescal) are on offer until midnight Fridays and Saturdays. 121 S. 13th Street, (215) 928-9800, elvezrestaurant.com
  • Graffiti Bar Philadelphia meets the East Village at this colorful, snug outdoor hangout serving sake flights, bottled beers and Pan-Asian satay, dumplings and pork buns until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 124 S. 13th Street, (215) 732-3501, sampanphilly.com
  • Lolita A low-lit, rustic vibe welcomes patrons to chef Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran’s contemporary Mexican restaurant that dishes out tostadas, tacos and a handful of heftier entrees until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Best-loved beverages here: margaritas by the glass or pitcher, tequila flights and sangria. 106 S. 13th Street, (215) 546-7100, lolitaphilly.com
  • Maison 208 The gorgeous two-floor restaurant from Sylva Senat stands out both for its menu of refined, modernized New American fare and its bar—the first in the city with a retractable roof. Dinner is served until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays; the bar’s open until 2 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday for ethereal cocktails such the “bitter truth,” combining blended whiskey, campari, fennel-infused simple syrup and lemon. 208 S. 13th Street, (215) 999-1020, maison208.com
  • Mixto Along comparatively quiet Pine Street, this two-level restaurant and bar buzzes with energetic crowds who pile in for Latino cuisine and mojitos. The latter come in a dozen flavors that range from traditional to jalapeño, coconut or basil-infused. 1141 Pine Street,
    (215) 592-0363, mixtorestaurante.com
  • Nomad Roman Club-goers often start their nights at this intimate spot near the Gayborhood bars. The focus here is local and organic ingredients in salads, vegetarian small plates and a dozen varieties of oven-fired pizzas, along with wine, beer and essential spirits. Nomad closes at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, but regulars know to arrive before the last seating at 11:45 p.m. 1305 Locust Street, (215) 644-9287, nomadpizzaco.com
  • Tiki Mai Tais, daiquiris and zombies with little umbrellas—along with shrimp dumplings and pork bao—are the specialties of the neighborhood’s go-to for all things tropical, bringing Polynesian vibes to the Gayborhood until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2 a.m. on weekends. 102 S. 13th Street, (215) 309-3435, tikiphilly.com
  • Tredici Enoteca Open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, this trendy, sophisticated bar and dining room ushers in passersby for small plates and seafood dishes with a Mediterranean flare. The bar is extensive, with a standout wine list and a selection of classic and specialty cocktails and beer. 114 S. 13th Street, (267) 928-2092, tredicienoteca.com
  • Valanni Mediterranean- and Latin American-inspired tapas flow from the kitchen until midnight on weekends at this attractive neighborhood spot one block from the Avenue of the Arts. The bar serves up craft cocktails, a hefty wine list and selection of beers until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 1229 Spruce Street, (215) 790-9494, valanni.com
  • Vintage Open until 2 a.m. nightly, the Gayborhood’s go-to for oenophiles is a rustic French bistro pouring more than 60 wines by the glass and flight options that allow guests to sample multiple varietals. A French-inspired menu featuring cheese and charcuterie, duck fat fries and a burger is available until midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 129 S. 13th Street, (215) 922-3095, vintage-philadelphia.com
  • Zavino Artisan pizzas are the star of the show at this bustling intersection in the heart of the Gayborhood. The menu, available until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, also features a selection of meats and cheeses, tapas-style small plates, small-producer wines, plus beer and fruity drinks. 112 S. 13th Street, (215) 732-2400, zavino.com

After-Party Eats:

  • Pizzeria Cappelli Conveniently located across the street from Woody’s and around the corner from after-hours club Voyeur, this spot is popularly recognized as the late-night pit stop that serves “Gay Pizza.” Open until 4 a.m., the shop attracts a long line of slice seekers before they head home. 209 S. 13th Street, (215) 309-5490, pizzeriacappelli.com
  • Wishbone Fried chicken is the name of the game at this craft fried chicken kitchen that cranks out buckets of the good stuff until 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. Think of it as a fancy-pants KFC, with buttermilk-batters, pretzel-crusted white and dark tenders and wings and sides such as biscuits, coleslaw and mac and cheese. 210 S. 13th Street, (215) 309-3667, wishbonephilly.com

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