Hot roast beef at Cherry Street Tavern

This city has no shortage of drinking establishments where you can get a fantastic meal, but sometimes you want to get away from the crowd. For those moments, or when you’re looking to try something different and new, check out these 11 Philly bars with secretly great food.

Murph’s Bar

Black truffle pasta at an Irish tavern
Black truffle pasta at an Irish tavern Credit: Instagram / @phillyfoodporm

202 E. Girard Ave., 215-425-1847
By the looks of it, this tavern on the east end of Girard is your typical Irish pub. There’s lots of polished wood and brick, and a host of good brew on tap (including a stout — not Guinness, but Murphy’s, of course). But there’s also chef Francesco Bellastelli in the kitchen, whipping up the cuisine of his native Italy with more talent than is really fair. Pappardelle bolognese. Strozzapreti with burrata. Lemon mascarpone cheesecake. Best part: It’s all super affordable.

Era Bar

Use your hands
Use your hands Credit: Facebook / Era Bar

2743 Poplar St., 215-769-7008
A Brewerytown dive bar before Brewerytown was cool, this beer-and-shot joint has a menu like few others in Philly — it’s Ethiopian. Instead of using your fingers to pick your way through hot wings, use them to cradle soft bits of injera bread as you scoop up yemiser (spicy lentil stew), doro tibs (skewered chicken) and kitfo (steak tartar). And don’t miss the housemade honey baklava for dessert.

Jovan’s Place

Stuffed cabbage is cooked in a sauerkraut brine
Stuffed cabbage is cooked in a sauerkraut brine Credit: Holly Moore

2327 E. York St., 215-634-3330
One glance at the food list at this family-run hangout on the north side of Fishtown and you’ll see that Yugoslavians know how to eat. Exhibit A: the pljeskavica, a “yugo-style” burger that’s a giant 12-oz patty topped with feta, and thick slices of tomato and raw onion. Exhibit B might be the huge rolls of meat-stuffed cabbage, or the schnitzel, which sees a pork cutlet stuffed with ham and cheese before it’s breaded and fried. Ask for a pull of PBC beer to wash it down and you’re good for the night.

Cherry Street Tavern

All about the roast beef
All about the roast beef Credit: Danya Henninger

129 N. 22nd St., 215-561-5683
At this century-old alehouse tucked between the Ben Franklin Parkway and the bridges to West Philly, the kitchen is hardly bigger than a phone booth (there’s one of those, too). Size notwithstanding, the roast beef that comes out of its tiny oven is second to none. Made fresh each morning, then sliced to order, dipped in jus and packed into a kaiser roll with cheese, it turns into one of the best beer-friendly sandwiches the city has to offer. There’s housemade soup and chili, too.

Madira Bar & Grill

Curred lamb sliders on swirl-top buns
Curred lamb sliders on swirl-top buns Credit: Instagram / @madirabarandgrill

1252 S. 21st St., 215-551-0107
There was a bit of buzz around this bottle shop and bar when it opened in Point Breeze three years ago, but now it mostly flies under the radar. Good news for people looking for easy tables and great samosas. Twists on other Indian dishes are scattered through the small bar menu, like mango-habenero wings with raita, curried lamb sliders and a chicken tikka cheesesteak. Don’t forget to pick a mixed six from the cooler before you head home.

Dagwood’s Pub

Tip: Go for brunch during hockey season
Tip: Go for brunch during hockey season Credit: Instagram / @jack.mcpeak

4625 Linden Ave., 215-332-3620
If you find yourself out in Torresdale or are driving by Northeast Philly on I-95, make a stop at this 30-year-old lodge. The classic pub menu is backed up by an extensive list of entrees (shrimp scampi, prime rib, chicken parm, seared salmon) but the kitchen is famous for its wings. Get ‘em garlic, get ‘em honey BBQ, get ‘em sweet-and-sour or Cajun, but make sure you also try them “Verne” style — doused in cayenne with a thick crunchy crust.

Kostas Bar

Greek delight in Fishtown
Greek delight in Fishtown

15 W. Girard Ave., 267-639-2417
Hidden in plain sight, this pool hall is smack in the middle of Fishtown’s hottest intersection. Not only is there one of the best citywide programs around — $4 for a PBR, ‘Gansett, Tecate or Highlife with a shot of bourbon or tequila — the kitchen also puts out a full array of Greek food (the spot started out as a diner, so it makes sense). Gyros, kebabs, spanakopita and moussaka, it’s all there, and it’s all seriously legit.

Green Rock Tavern

Pierogies with cheese sauce, please
Pierogies with cheese sauce, please Credit: Facebook / Green Rock Tavern

2546 E. Lehigh Ave., 215-203-0840
Post-shift brewers and day-off bartenders fill the stools at this cozy taphouse on a Port Richmond corner. They come for the good selection of inexpensive beer (everything from Dogfish 90 Minute to Amstel Light), and  for the eats. In homage to the neighborhood’s heritage, pierogies are a specialty, in seasonally-changing flavors. Polish food fans will also be thrilled to find zapiekanka, aka “zappies” — baguettes stuffed with mushrooms and cheese, then baked and served hot.

Ukrainian League of Philadelphia

Yep, Ukrainian beer
Yep, Ukrainian beer Credit: Instagram / @wallywaffles

800 N. 23rd St., 215-684-3548
This is a members only club, so you’re gonna need a Ukrainian connect, but once you find a friend, it unlocks the Ukie Bar, aka one of Fairmount’s best party dives. Not only are the giant glasses of beer and generous shots dirt cheap, there are spicy sausage sandwiches or stuffed cabbage to fill you up. Sit in the large round red booths — they’re the same ones from the Julia Roberts flick Mona Lisa Smiles.

Bomb Bomb BBQ Grill

BBQ extravaganza in South Philly
BBQ extravaganza in South Philly

1026 Wolf St., 215-463-1311
The name is a clue to this South Philly tavern’s history: In the 1930s, jealous business rivals bombed the place not once, but twice. Since then, things have calmed down considerably, but the fra diavolo pasta is just as spicy. Second-gen owner Frank Barbato added BBQ to the Italian menu because he loved it so much, and that dedication shows in the fall-off-the-bone ribs and smoked grilled chicken.

The Library Bar

A taste of the good life
A taste of the good life

210 W. Rittenhouse Sq., 215-546-9000
For a taste of decadence that doesn’t empty your whole wallet, slide into this petite but elegant bar off the lobby in the Rittenhouse Hotel. The menu of high-end sandwiches and snacks (quail egg with soy vinaigrette, anyone?) is executed by the same kitchen as Lacroix. Not that it’s any cheaper than the fine-dining restaurant, but you can sample without splurging on a whole meal.

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Danya Henninger

Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...