Philadelphia is full of great dive bars. For cheap drinks and a no-frills experience, check out the bars listed below.
12 Steps Down
831 Christian St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
12 Steps Down derived its name from the number of steps you have to walk down before entering this basement bar in South Philly, which is as friendly, welcoming and unassuming as you can get. 12 Steps Down has darts and pool tables (pool is free every Monday night) and an impressive selection of bottled and canned beer along with 10 taps of ever-changing and unique drafts. The food here is a step up (no pun intended!) from the usual dive bar, with amazing fries and sandwiches. And in true dive bar fashion, smoking is allowed.
1309 Sansom St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Bar might me the most difficult place to Google — in addition to having the most obvious name for a bar in history. Saying you’re going to “Bar” also might be followed with the question “which bar?” but if you’re looking for a dive right in Center City, this no-frills establishment is certain to meet your needs and expectations. Downstairs, you’ll find a fun jukebox and a great craft beer selection. Head upstairs for games and a smaller bar. In keeping with its dive bar rep, food is not served here (unless you want a Cup O’ Noodle, that is!) and the drinks are some of the cheapest in Center City.
The El Bar
1356 N. Front St.
Philadelphia, PA 19122
Named after the Market-Frankford subway tracks found directly above it, this bar’s cheap food, cheap drinks, friendly resident bar cats and interesting characters make it one of the most beloved and entertaining dive bars in Fishtown. The citywide special of a pounder of PBR and a shot of whiskey is only $3 here, and the bar is known for its “Kensington Happy Meal,” which includes two hot dogs, a 16-ounce PBR, a bag of chips and a toy for only $5. Head outside to the huge (and smoking-permitted) backyard patio, and bring your dog if you want.
Related: Best Philadelphia Dive Bars
229 S. 45th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
This hidden gem is quietly tucked away in West Philly. Barely noticeable and sign-less, it sits on top of the Abyssinia, an Ethiopian restaurant. It’s tiny and dimly lit and offers all things a dive bar should: great craft beer, diverse crowds and the citywide special for only $5. Live music is played on Thursdays and Sundays, and this bar is popular for its bluegrass nights on Thursdays. The bottled beer (draft beer makes an appearance occasionally) comes from a single refrigerator and Fiume is cash only.
Related: Top Dive Bars In Philadelphia
Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar
1200 E. Passyunk Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar first opened its doors 75 years ago and has been serving the South Philly community ever since. It hasn’t changed much since it first opened and still consistently sells cheap drinks starting bright and early at 7 a.m. There’s no food served here, but that won’t be a problem, since this dive bar is in close proximity to a pizza shop, a Mexican food restaurant and the famous Pat’s and Geno’s steaks. Ray’s has no problem with you bringing in food either, but be warned that smoking is permitted. Ray’s also has great karaoke and live music on weekend nights, and if it’s your birthday, you’ll get a free drink!
Kelly Neilson is a freelance writer living and working in Philadelphia. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.