Philly’s speakeasies offer foodies experiences and menus outside the city’s iconic cheesesteaks. Among them is a private bar that survived Prohibition, whereas others are passion projects. If you want delicious drinks in an intimate atmosphere, check out some of the best speakeasies in Philadelphia.
This artisan brewery is located in Philadelphia’s West Kensington neighborhood, and it may be one of the best kept secrets in the Philly beer scene. Frequent patrons might be upset that Fermentery Form is on a list for everyone to see, but the beer is so good that it would be a shame to keep it under cover. This small brewery is only open on Saturdays from 2-8pm. Additional hours are usually announced via Instagram either the day before or the day of. Visitors may have a hard time finding the brewery since it’s located down a side alley with no sign. It’s right next to Keystone Mini Golf & Arcade, and the glow of a green lightbulb will identify the door. Most of the patrons are brewers from other breweries, or staff from local restaurants. Their conversation is very industry and beer-heavy. Sip a Farmhouse Ale by the wall of barrels, and make sure to taste the SLO-MO, a beer aged on blackberry and cherry purée. Try to get there early because once they sell out of a beer, you won’t be able to get it. Cash only.
This Chinatown cocktail bar can’t be seen from the street. The small, Japanese-style hideout can be found in the back of Chinatown Square, an unassuming food court on Race Street. Upon entering, it still isn’t clear that the bar exists. Visitors will have to walk past food stalls, the bathrooms, and the steps leading up to a Korean restaurant. In the back, next to the KTV is Hi Kori, also known as the Bao Bar. The wooden awning looks like the sloping top of traditional, Japanese buildings, and the station is manned by only two bartenders. The beer list features Asian favorites like Tsingtao, Asahi, Tiger beer, Sapporo, and Kuninocho. Their Happy Hour specials include a Tsingtao and a shot of Baiju, Sapporo and Sake shot, or a Hite and Soju shot. Their speakeasy-style cocktail list features alcohol infused with matcha, green tea, oolong tea, and ginger. They specialize in Japanese street food which pairs perfectly with the drinks.
This speakeasy cabaret and social club was founded in 1914, giving it over a hundred years of history. The club can be found in Philly’s Northern Liberties neighborhood and is only open Thursday through Sunday from 10pm-3am. It has two floors and houses a vintage, speakeasy bar, dance floor, and theatrical stage. While the club is open to the public frequently for shows, it’s membership-only, costing $35 for the year. Members get reduced after-hours admission, as well as the ability to rent the space for private events and parties. Open an hour later than most bars in Philly, Ruba is where artists, industry professionals, and neighbors gather for once last cocktail.
According to its website, this is one of the oldest operating press clubs in America. The bar only serves working members of the press, and the people who support them. The general public usually can’t get in, unless they happen to befriend a local writer or journalist. Established in 1892, the bar was able to stay open during Prohibition due to its connections. In 1892 Philadelphia had nearly a dozen newspapers, and the journalists behind them needed a place to drink, complain, and swap ideas. The bar hosts book talks, wine tasting events, and poetry nights. While the club has a speakeasy atmosphere, the drink menu sticks to classic Philly beers like Yards and Yuengling. From the outside, it looks like nothing more than an abandoned warehouse. The red, fluorescent P&P sign in the window is the only thing that gives it away. The lighting is dim and the decor gives off a dive-bar feel rather than a sophisticated speakeasy. It’s a laid-back watering hole for Philly writers who need a place to unwind.
Plush, red leather booths, ornate wallpaper, and a chandelier give this speakeasy an elegant atmosphere. Visitors venture down an alleyway and look for the black door with two Rs on the outside. Once inside, guests are met by a hostess who will make them wait until a seat opens up at this tiny establishment. It’s dimly lit with photographs of classy nude women, framed in gold. The bartenders are dressed in white button-down shirts with ties, and they look like mad scientists as they concoct drinks. The drink list features artisanal options like Love on the Rum, made with egg yolk, apple juice, rum, rye, and butter maple syrup. If you want a traditional, speakeasy feel, the Ranstead Room won’t disappoint.
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