Ben Franklin once said that, “in wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.” Hedge your bets and visit one these excellent bars in Pennsylvania. From dives to cocktail lounges, the Keystone State serves up some of the finest cocktails in the nation, both shaken and stirred.
The only thing in my mind that could possibly improve upon the time-honored idea of a “bar” is to give it a solid dog theme. Add impeccable service, and inventive cocktails and food, and you’re looking at perfection. Try the truffle cheese steak empanadas for a fresh and fancy take on a Philly classic.
Acacia is like that cool, mysterious guy we all went to high school with: Mildly aloof, deeply insightful, and uniquely good looking. This Pittsburgh speakeasy oozes sophistication, and manages to serve up cocktails outstanding enough to excuse the touch of pretension. Order an impeccable classic, or go off menu and truly experience the magic of mixology.
More mellow in its earlier hours, Ale Mary’s transforms late night into the place to be in the Electric City. A crazy good food menu (think deep fried bacon and duck cheesesteak sliders), wide selection of beer, and great happy hour deals earn Ale Mary’s an easy spot on my list.
For a true taste of the south in the heart of the Mid Atlantic, head to The Bayou. With an inventive, festive cocktail list and buzzing atmosphere, this Bethlehem outlet brings something new and most definitely improved to the area. Try some moonshine in the Apple Barrel, or the whiskey-based maple peach sour that is out of this world.
Ironic, isn’t it, that the decade-odd period of Prohibition gave birth to some of the best cocktails in the American bartender’s repertoire? In much the same way, some of the best contemporary bars rely on a 1920s theme, when giggle water was consumed strictly behind tightly closed doors. The Sturges Speakeasy is just such an incredible location with a truly delicious menu and strong, special cocktails. Great for happy hour, a sit-down dinner, or a late-night nosh (select apps ‘till 2).
Down and dirty in the best conceivable way, Gooski’s is the ideal prototype of a neighborhood bar. Great live music, ping pong tables, and cheap drinks earn this Steel City dive a slot on my list.
Grab some grub at Max’s Steaks, and bring it to the connected Eagle Bar for one of the best combos in the city. A Germantown staple, Eagle Bar is no frills, all fun. Visit for strong cocktails, good music, and some of the best bartenders in the city.
Long a favorite of Chester County, Jake’s Bar is perfect for students and other young people who may not have the funds or desire to seek out a more refined establishment. While the prices are low ($1 for select 10-ounce draught beers), the energy is high and the regular crowd feels more like family. Bring plenty of cash, this delightful dive doesn’t accept plastic.
There’s a reason they call State College “Happy Valley,” and Zeno’s may just have something to do with it. Grab a pitcher of beer and settle in for some trivia, live music, or general debauchery. Not the place if you seek something fancy, but certainly one of the best college bars in state.