1. Hop Sing Laundromat

After a lengthy hiatus, Philly’s most heralded speakeasy is back. If not for the line of well-dressed patrons waiting outside, Hop Sing Laundromat’s unmarked entrance would be nearly impossible to spot. Pass through the wrought iron gate, though, and you’ll find a spot that’s been dubbed one of the best bars in America. Home to one of the largest collections of liquor in the country, Hop Sing offers expertly crafted cocktails and a setting so intimate and lovingly curated, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped through a time machine. Led by mononymous owner Lê, the good folks at Hop Sing do put up vibe killers, and they’ve got a list of banned patrons to prove it. The bar maintains a strict set of house rules, which you’ll learn upon entering. Here’s a start: Bring cash, tip well, stash your phone (no photos allowed), and, if you can manage it, don’t wear shorts. These days, you’ll also need your vaccination card. Not a picture of it. The real thing.
How to get in: Look for the door with the wrought-iron gate and stainless steel buzzer between 10th and 11th on Race Street. If you go on a weekend it won’t be hard to find, since you’ll likely be joining a queue of people waiting for a seat.

2. Kontrol
Midtown Village

The corner of 13th and Juniper is hard to miss on a Friday night, thanks to Bru and Tradesman’s, two concepts from Teddy Sourias’ growing monopoly on Philly’s nightlife scene. These bars and restaurants attract the masses with satiating grub, generous beer lists, and rollicking energy. Underneath the party, though, you’ll find another, more low-key spot to chill. Kontrol, Sourias’ cocktail concept, has no street entrance. It’s in a subterranean passageway that connects Tradesman’s to U-Bahn (another underground establishment from Sourias). Hit up Kontrol’s for industrial vibes, bratwursts and barbeque from the aboveground establishments, and refreshing cocktails from Craft Concepts’ Alexis Alman.
How to get in: Enter through either Tradesman’s or U-Bahn. If entering through Tradesmans, take the stairs down. If entering through U-Bahn, look to your right at the bottom of the stairs. You’ll find Kontrol waiting.

4. Graffiti Bar
Midtown Village

We can’t vouch for every alleyway or darkened corridor in Midtown Village, but if you follow the one near the Northwest corner of 13th and Chestnut, you’ll find something awesome at the end. Graffiti Bar, named for its street art-inspired decor, is the year-round, outdoor hideaway established by restaurateur Michael Schulson. Attached to Sampan (Schulson’s contemporary Asian restaurant concept), Graffiti bar offers Asian fare, a lively crowd, and an extremely cool setting for a birthday celebration, weeknight jaunt, or to catch the game. You’ve just got to find it first. The 30-seat, open-air bar is known to fill up early, likely due to its generous happy hour menu. Monday through Friday, 4 pm to 7 pm, head to Graffiti Bar for dumplings, bao buns, and spring rolls under $5, as well as specials on cocktails, wine, and beer.

How to get in: This one is hiding in plain sight: Look for the red neon “Graffiti Bar” sign next to Sampan, then make your way down the narrow alley and hang a right.

5. The Pen & Pencil Club
Midtown Village

While most of the spots on this list are newish ventures seeking to invoke a Prohibition-era mood, the Pen & Pencil Club is an OG speakeasy and one of the oldest press clubs in the country. Since 1929, the club has offered much-needed drinks to journalists, reporters, radio hosts, and other media types. It’s off-the-record, too, if that means anything to you. P&P’s laidback, divey vibe is perfect if you’re looking for some real conversation and a stiff drink (we hear you should ask for the Emeritus Manhattan). Plus, its members-only status means the club stays open much later than Philly’s typical 2 am curfew. Hungry? Brace yourself. P&P is (in)famous for its crockpot of hotdogs. Fun fact: The late great Anthony Bourdain took a shot of Pen & Pencil hotdog water in 2012 after losing a game of rock, paper, scissors.

How to get in: Pen & Pencil club is members-only and largely attracts press, attorneys, and service workers. However, current members are pretty chill about sponsoring a newbie. Head to 15th and Latimer, look for the neon “P&P” sign, and see if anyone is feeling generous.

6. Ruba Club Studios
Northern Liberties

You never know just what you’ll find at Ruba Club, one of the city’s most storied social clubs, Established in 1914 as the Russian United Beneficial Association, Ruba began as a speakeasy for Russian immigrants. These days, the bi-level event space has become a destination for burlesque, cabaret, film screenings, and more. Ruba Club is known for its after-hours crowd, usually filling up around 2 am with partygoers who aren’t ready to call it quits. On off-nights, you’ll find plenty of pool and pong on the first floor. No fancy-schmancy food or drink lists here. Just affordable beer and cocktails for an interesting crowd.

How to get in: Short of having a membership to the Russian United Beneficial Association, or tickets to a show, you’ll likely have to pay a cover to get in. Head down Green Street toward 4th. There will be a darkened courtyard on your left side. Look for a weather-beaten upright piano.

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