Maybe it’s because Philadelphians are humble at heart, or because the city is relatively flat, or because we were late to the modern skyscraper boom (though it appears to be coming), but Philly is definitely not a restaurant roof deck mecca. But, that just means we’ve got to take extra advantage of the rooftop bars we do have. In honor of warm weather (it’s coming, too…right?), here are the best places to eat and drink with the sky overhead and the sidewalk far below, along with hints of what to snap sunny pics of while you’re there.
This inside-outside bar at the top of the Hotel Monaco couldn’t be better positioned for great views — it’s right next to Independence Mall — but the unalterable historic structures on the roof block just about all of it. No matter, because the space itself is decked out in sculptures and lots of chic furniture. Place your barrel-aged cocktail on one of those square-edged surfaces and get the Beaux Arts detailing in the background for a great mod-historical juxtaposed capture.
Beer is the move at this college favorite pub in University City — there are 60 taps to choose from, and manager Andy Farrell is one of the most knowledgeable brewheads in the city. The bar itself is one the second floor of the Radian Building, so the large concrete patio is actually on the roof of the stores below. Prop your pint next to one of several fire pits or hold it in front of the grassy green roof at the deck’s center for a great shot. Photo from the City Tap House Facebook page
You have to take the private elevator to get to the rooftop bar at Stephen Starr’s tri-level hippodrome in Rittenhouse, and the room that greets you when you arrive is just as swanky as you’d expect. A glassed-in space features a circular bar and fireplace lounge that looks like it just arrived from the 1970s, but take your giant martini outside to snap an upwards-looking view framed by potted trees and glinting city lights.
More a balcony than an actual deck, the curved outdoor plateaus next to this restaurant on the 19th floor of the Bellevue boasts the best view of City Hall you can get without climbing on top of the Ritz-Carlton dome. Since it’s run by the Hyatt, this spot isn’t cheap, but a seafood tower from the raw bar set in front of Billy Penn’s silhouette will certainly make a pretty picture. Photo from the the XIX Facebook page
Just like the beers on the all-draft list inside, the iron trusses that hold the semi-opaque roof covering the deck at Philly’s original gastropub in Northern Liberties were made locally. Check the ever-changing chalkboard menu for housemade sausages or chicken pie to go with your pour, then place your pint on the wooden railing to snap a shot that looks out on Second Street down below.
Brand new on the open-air scene is the wood-planked piazza that summits the deep South Philly sister to the popular NoLibs bowling joint. Take a break from the dozens of lanes below and bring your basket of tater tots (or maybe funnel cake fries with peanut chew drizzle) outside for a shot against the relatively unobstructed sky. Photo from South Bowl’s Instagram account
During 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday-Friday, a free happy hour buffet is set up on the deck outside this R&B and soul food cafe on the Delaware River. Load up a plate with grits, greens, etouffée and skillet fried chicken, and set it next to a $2-off cocktail on a table beneath bright red patio umbrellas for a waterfront pic that’d make your NOLA friends jealous. Photo from the Warm Daddy’s Facebook page
You can just barely glimpse the top of the Ben Franklin Bridge from the porch that takes up half the second floor of this corner tavern in Old City, but you get a great view of the picturesque spire of historic Christ Church across the way. Don’t worry about getting it in your photo, though — instead, order a Neapolitan pizza from the oven made of white marble brick and capture it next to the colorful flower boxes that line the patio sides.
If bottle service and bed-like sofas are your game, you’ll fit right in at the skybar that tops this sleek trend-magnet in Rittenhouse (the bar itself is on the second floor, above sibling hookah lounge Byblos). A bottle of $250 Veuve Cliquot would make a perfect subject for a snap in front of the apartment tower–filled sky, but you could also go for a $14 cocktail full of colorful juice and fruit-flavored vodka.
There’s plenty of ground-level seating at this hipster party bar on the Delaware, but if you arrive early (and don’t bring too large an entourage), you can score one of the Adirondack chairs clustered in a bird’s nest deck atop the craft beer hut. The money shot is a hoisted can of 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon wheat beer backed by the dusty turquoise arches of the Ben Franklin Bridge (opens for business on April 30). Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philly
Photos by Danya Henninger unless otherwise noted.