Dark Bars: Philadelphia

Have you ever gone out with a pimple on your face and felt mortified about the distinctly un-cute addition to your skin that still shined brightly despite all that concealer? Or headed to a bar for drinks while suffering from allergies and feared anyone noticing your red eyes would suspect you of smoking a doobie or bawling about that ex you're so over? These are times when the best thing you can do for yourself is to slink into a bar with dim lighting, where friends and strangers can make out your silhouette but not your facial details. At these bars, your aesthetic secrets are safe, thanks to the lights that seem to be practically engaged in a game of Limbo. You know ... how low can you go? (Photo courtesy of Pub on Passyunk East)

Updated: October 19, 2009

5 to Try

Eulogy Belgian Tavern

136 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

As if it's not hard enough to decipher the names of the hundreds of Belgian beers served at this Old City stalwart, the bartenders dim the lights, making it hard to see the beers themselves once they arrive. The upstairs bar is dark, smallish, well-worn in a well-loved kind of way, and only open on weekends, while the better known downstairs room is home to a few tables, a long bar and the brightest spot in the joint: a fridge carrying take-out brews with long Flemish names that are still unpronounceable, even when under the bright lights of the display.

Standard Tap

901 N Second St, Philadelphia, PA 19123

Beware of dogs at this Northern Liberties beer hall. No, it's not that the pets who are welcomed here may bite, it's more that you might trip over them as you make your way through the many levels and rooms in this dark space. And if you're one to think that dark rooms call for dark beer, you're in the right place; this was one of the first bars in the city to highlight local craft brews, many of which lose their light (and lite) properties as sunny summer wheat beers give way to deeper hued ambers and porters when the weather grows colder.


225 Church St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Bring your night driving glasses because it would be a pity to crash the bumper car you're sitting in just because you inherited your grandmother's inability to drive past dusk. Underground in every sense of the word, this windowless dive is dark and prefers it that way. It doesn't serve much food and word has it you can still smoke if the bartender's in a good (or bad) mood, making this one of the last bars in town that can still be described as dark and smoky.

Pub On Passyunk East

1501 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147

Resembling either a converted Mexican cantina or a high-school cafeteria, this vast cave-like lair was one of the first bars to bring good beer to South Philly. Parties sit at long benches, so the darkness gives you a great way to meet hotties if you can manage to keep a straight face when you ?accidentally? land at their table: "Oh, I?m sorry, it's so dark in here that I thought you were my friends. Well, now that I?m here, what are we drinking?"

Monk's Cafe

264 S 16th St, Philadelphia, PA 19102

A few lanterns light up the night at this old-style Belgian beer bar whose worn wood and close quarters might remind more than a few patrons of the monasteries where real monks have been brewing beers in Europe for centuries. Whether you choose the crowded front room or the more intimate back one, prepare to squint through the darkness to page through a beer menu that's as thick as the bible. Luckily, servers here are exceptionally knowledgeable and ready to guide novices and pros through the intricacies of ordering here at one of the most famous Belgian beer bars in the world.