Independence Beer Garden Credit: Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

We know about the Center City Sips stereotype: Every Wednesday from June to September pretentious clientele pack into crowded bars, all to get a $3 Miller Lite and gnaw on reheated pretzel bites.

For those unfamiliar with how the Center City District promotion works, every participating establishment offers at least one $3 beer, $4 wine and $5 cocktail from 5-7 p.m. on Wednesdays. This summer, Effen vodka is sponsoring Sips, so most every bar is offering a mixed drink with Effen.

So yeah, ~some~ of the deals at Center City Sips aren’t that great. Look over the lists of specials and you’ll see the majority of establishments offering domestics like Bud Light or High Life for $3. In other words, the prices aren’t much better than you’d find at a regular happy hour — or in South Philly any time.

But there are a few exceptions. (Turns out crowded bars and pretentious clothing don’t preclude you from getting a good deal, hey!) This guide showcases the best beer, wine and food deals at more than 40 Sips participating restaurants and bars.

Note: We weren’t able to collect information from every bar offering a Sips deal. If you think you know a deal deserving of being added to the list, send a note to

The best deals are at Nomad and Spice 28

Credit: Danya Henninger/Billy Penn

Two bar/restaurants stand above the rest when it comes to Sips this summer: Nomad Roman and Spice 28. Both offer $3 beers you won’t find anywhere else, plus some great-sounding eats.

In the Gayborhood, Nomad will be changing its specials menu with the season, but it’s starting out with a bang. The brews going for $3 a pop are Wyndridge Farm Mojito Cider, Troegs Sunshine Pils and Free Will Community Kolsch — all locals you won’t find at this price anywhere else. The wood-fired pizzeria is also offering two original cocktails for $5: House-infused blueberry apricot vodka and a house-infused rosemary cucumber Gin Fizz. Wines on special are Sangiovese and Pinot Noir, and the food deal is close to half-off several of the Neapolitan pies.

Spice 28 stands out because of the sheer number of low-priced apps and drinks. Among the food deals are $2.50 edamame, $3 various dumplings, $3.50 Peking duck buns and $4.50 chicken lettuce wraps. Mixed drinks going for $5 include nine specialty cocktails and all well pours. For $3, you can get a Dogfish Head IPA or an Asian beer like Asahi, Sapporo or Kirin.

The most surprising deals

People tend to frequent certain Sips locations. Places like Independence Beer Garden and Uptown Beer Garden are always packed — due to the chance to eat and drink al fresco as much as anything. For good deals, however, consider two places you’d normally never think to go: Maggiano’s Little Italy and Tavern On Broad.

Maggiano’s, favorite “Little Italy” haunt of The New York Times, offers three options for $4 wine and eight for $3 beer, including Peroni, Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale and Goose Island IPA. Flatbreads are half off, and you can get 15 percent off your entire check if you stay and order dinner after 7 p.m.

Tavern On Broad is doing something unique with this promotion: Offering Sips prices on drinks until 10 p.m. (the official cut-off is 7 p.m., though some other bars extend the deal through 8). Discounted beers include Leinenkugel Summer Shandies and a rotating choice from Neshaminy Creek. The $5 cocktail? Water ice flavor of your choice mixed with vodka.

The best $3 beer deals

Credit: Caribou Cafe / Instagram

Here are spots where you can find a brew for $3 that’s not just Yuengling, Bud Light or something similarly routine:

  • Aqimero: Sly Fox IPA
  • Balcony Bar at the Kimmel Center: Yards drafts
  • Bru/U-Bahn: Founder’s All Day IPA and Jack’s Pear Cider
  • Caribou Cafe: Kronenbourg
  • Charlie Was A Sinner: Great Lakes Dortmunder Pils, River Horse Roly Poly Pils
  • Devil’s Alley: Lancaster Kolsch
  • Fieldhouse: Goose Island IPA
  • Fine Palate: Wolters Pilsner
  • James: Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale, Longboard Kona
  • Jane G’s: Tsing Tao
  • Maggiano’s Little Italy: Goose Island IPA, Sam Adams seasonal
  • Milkboy: Sly Fox Royal Vice
  • Nomad: Wyndridge Farm Mojito Cider, Troegs Sunshine Pilsner, Free Will Community Kolsch
  • Pagano’s: Goose Island IPA
  • Pennsylvania 6: Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale
  • Smith’s Restaurant & Bar: Victory Summer Love
  • Suga: Brooklyn Lager
  • Tavern On Broad: Neshaminy Creek rotation
  • The American Pub: Brooklyn Summer Ale
  • Time: Goose Island IPA
  • Uptown Beer Garden: Coppertail Orange Creamsicle, 2SP Solar Baby, Pizza Boy Uptown IPA
  • Veda Modern Indian Bistro: Jacks’ Abby Lager
  • Vesper: Victory Summer Love
  • Wrap Shack: Brooklyn Summer Ale

The best $4 wine deals

Most places offer house wines — or medium-quality brands for their wine deals. You’re not going to be able to get Napa Valley’s finest for sips. You can, however, go to a few places with a better selection of wines, starting with gay sports bar Boxers. Boxers has nine wine varieties available.

Here, we’re highlighting places with many types of wine or a particular kind not available at most other Sips restaurants/bars.

  • Boxers: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Blend
  • Irish Pub: Red and white sangria
  • Maggiano’s Little Italy: Cavicchioli Dolce Lambrusco
  • Max Brenner’s: Alamos Malbec, Fess Parker Station Pinot Noir, Villa Pozzi Pinot Grigio, Clean Slate Riesling.
  • Nomad: Siglo Sangiovese, Pio Pinot Noir
  • Time: Sycamore Lane Merlot, Avia Pinot Grigio

The best appetizers
  • Devil’s Alley: $6 BBQ brisket flatbread and jerk chicken tacos
  • Finn McCool’s: $6 wings, Philly cheesesteak spring rolls
  • Moriarty’s: $5 nachos, $4.50 chicken fingers, $4 mozzarella sticks
  • Nomad: $6 for margherita pizza and $8 for various pizzas with meat, $5 fried seasonal vegetables.
  • Opa: $4.50 chicken and pork souvlakia
  • Spice 28: $2.50 edamame
  • Veda Modern Indian Bistro: $5 Awesome Sauce Wings, Calcutta Pork Ribs, Crispy Spinach Chaat, Lassoni Gobi, Ragda patties

The best $5 cocktails

The great majority of establishments are offering some kind of mixed drink with Sips sponsor Effen vodka. A handful are branching out:

  • Misconduct: Blood Orange Moscow Mule
  • Nomad: Blueberry Apricot House Infused Vodka and House Infused Rosemary Cucumber Gin Fizz
  • Opa: Antho (Cucumber, vodka, lemon, dill)
  • Spice 28: Ginger Cosmopolitan, Sapphire Saketini, Shisojito, Long Island Iced Tea
  • Tavern On Broad: Water Ice and vodka

The best places to drink too much

  • Finn McCool’s: It’s offering all well drinks for $4.
  • Las Vegas Lounge: Pretty much everybody is offering 12 oz. or 16 oz. beers as part of the $3 special. Not Las Vegas Lounge. For $3, you get a 20 oz. Miller Lite or Yuengling draft.

Full list of beer/wine specials

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Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...