Sometimes you find a place
that's such a home away from home that
you fall in love. Visiting another bar
feels like you're cheating. And then,
like every relationship, a rift develops
and suddenly another bar catches your
For whatever reason, the
new place, with its oh-so-new pinball
machines and video games starts to take
up more of your time... and your old faithful
loses some of her charm. And the cycle
Below are ten watering holes
that we loved... and lost through the
years. A few were brief flings that came
in and out of our lives like a hangover.
Others still haunt us, making us toss
and turn in our sleep wondering where,
oh where, everything went wrong. From
time to time we visit these old flames,
but it's never, ever the same. You can
never recapture that certain special something...
Spider Kelly's (West Philly)
the great lost love of my drinking life.
I'm not sure who discovered Spider's,
but I think it was some guys from Blue
Train, a Philly punk band circa 1988.
Pretty soon we were hearing about this
great bar that was cheap beyond belief.
Never one to pass up a research project
we rounded up a group from the radio station
-- Pauly, Diego, Stan, Andy, me -- and
went exploring. What we found was nothing
short of our own Shangri-La...a
land of 25 cent Meister Brau drafts, free
food, and casual enforcement of underage
Even better than the ambience
were the patrons. A working class black
man's bar by its very location and nature,
Spider's attracted a colorful cast of
characters that could drink, dope, and
spin tales with the best of 'em. A few
stand out spectacularly, especially "Cool
Breeze," who introduced us to a ball
of hash that produced the most heavenly
high of my college years (on the morn'
of St. Patrick's Day no less) and desperately
wanted to coach the Spider Kelly's Chess
Team. His groundbreaking concept? Learn
to play stoned and drunk, then challenge
Ivy League teams. We bring the keg, they
Unfortunately, Jim -- the
bar's nightime tapman -- had a tendancy
to drink and smoke heavily as the evening
wore on. While it might've been a blast
for him, the cash register took a beating.
It seems that as quickly as we found Spider's
it was taken from us...but isn't that
true of all great loves?
CURRENT STATUS: RIP
-- June 14, 1988
The Khyber Pass (2nd Street in Center
all intents and purposes the Khyber was
my home away from home from the late 1980s
until I moved to Pittsburgh in the fall
of 1995. A dingy, dark hole of a bar,
it was also home to some of the greatest
punk and rock shows in Philly's checkered
musical history. (Especially the night
the Dwarves played a spectacular 10-minute
set that ended with Blag Dahlia triple-lindeying
into the drum kit, only to be dragged
off to the bathroom by his bandmates.)
While it would be impossible to rattle
off the names of every great band
that I watched -- or simply heard on really
busy nights -- grace its tiny stage, here's
an all-star ballot of pre-Green Day "alternative"
if ever there was one: Didjits, Pegboy,
Fleshtones, Junk Monkeys, Figgs (shown
playing at the Khyber in the photo above),
aforementioned Dwarves, Urge Overkill,
The Fluid, Bash & Pop, Lunachicks,
Original Sins, Boredoms, Neighborhoods,
Elastica, Bullet La Volta, New Bomb Turks,
Devil Dogs, Soul Asylum...and the list
Not just a great band bar,
the Khyber was also one of the oldest
bars in the city and sported a mind-boggling,
world-class selection of draft and bottled
beers due to its proximity to Penn's Landing
and the city's tourist/naval traffic.
Me, I just plunked down my $2.50 and had
me another Yuengling Porter. Oh yeah,
it was also purported to be haunted! How
could you possibly go wrong?
CURRENT STATUS: The
previous owners allowed the bar's liquor
license to lapse, and sold the building
to someone that turned it into a bar/restaurant,
removed the dart boards, probably
fixed the ceiling over the stage, and
reportedly had the bathrooms cleared of
the inch of standing water/urine. Bah!
3. The Pour House (Riverside,
essentially grew up down the street from
The Pour House, thanks to its location
mere blocks away from my Catholic grade
school. For us first through eighth graders,
the establishment possessed a fascination
that no other bar in my life would match.
We'd watch those doors open to reveal
an unearthly interior that looked to be
nothing short of pitch black. Patrons
entered, perhaps never to return (at least
not while we were standing there). Had
they put up some real glass in the windows
and a few cheerful curtains, perhaps I
wouldn't be in the state that I'm in today.
We truly discovered The
Pour House when a friend started dating
the bartender and they began a "$1
Import Night" to boost their mid-week
crowds. While living at home during my
senior year of college, The Pour House
was...well, another home away from home.
I must admit that I never ate their food
-- we usually ended up at the Golden Eagle
Diner for a late-night meal -- but I never
left The Pour House anything but satisfied.
CURRENT STATUS: Still
in operation, though I don't think I've
set foot in there since 1990.
4. The Towne Tavern (Riverside,
For a small, mostly blue-collar
town, Riverside boasts a remarkable number
of drinking establishments. Then again,
the town houses plenty of people reliving
their past glories and wondering how they
never got any further away than their
parents before them. Which probably makes
for great bar business all around!
The Towne resides only a
few blocks from The Pour House, and somehow
became our establishment of choice in
the period of the early 1990s. Though
they didn't feature the extremely potent
mixes of The Pour House, or that establishment's
dollar beer nights, they did have amenities
that couldn't be matched: a disc jockey
that played any request we dreampt up,
great food including the hottest wings
this side of Buffalo, and a cute bunch
of waitresses that we entertained thoughts
of getting somewhere with.
CURRENT STATUS: RIP
-- I passed by the other night and it's
called Murphy's Pub.
Troy's (West Philly)
Not so much a bar as a diner
with package goods store attached, Troy's
attracted members of our radio station
like flies to shit in the days before
Spider Kelly's. Walls of glass-faced refrigerators
greeted you when you entered, and your
latest take from Penn's medical experiment
studies could buy everything from Knickerbocker
to Yuengling, Old German to, well, Yuengling.
More importantly, Troy's
was home of the "Eggel," a fried
egg and cheese sandwiched between the
halves of a toasted bagel. Oh yeah, I
forgot the dripping grease and artery-clogging
additions like sausage or bacon or ham.
Many was the night we'd grab some Eggels
and a few pitchers, watch the static-ridden
b&w tv, and tune in WKDU on the box
that rested behind the cash register.
Much to the chagrin of program
directors and station managers, Troy's
was frequently our last stop before a
nighttime air shift, and it was never
too tough to get a delivery of Eggels
and beer as your stomach lining devoured
itself in search of nourishment.
CURRENT STATUS: RIP
-- date unknown. The folks at Troy's were
never too careful about carding, and that,
coupled with the "No Re-entry"
policy of the Chestnut Cabaret (also defunct)
spelled its demise.
6. Bacchanal (13th and
South, Center City Philadelphia)
I should probably have rotten
memories of this place. I won't go into
them now, suffice to say they include
my one and only mugging and the beginning
of a relationship that brought me nothing
but misery for four years. (Okay, I'm
lying. There was probably a great 10 months
over the course of those 48.) But Bacchanal
-- with its great band-room mural, artsy-fartsy
gutter-drunk crowd and Yuengling on tap
-- always made our list of places to go
on a Friday, or Saturday, or Wednesday
night back in the mid-to-late 1980s.
CURRENT STATUS: RIP
-- date unknown.
Firenze Tavern (Philly's Chinatown section)
Few clubs can boast the
show-seeing pedigree of the Firenze. A
bowling-alley like setup (a long, narrow
room with a door at one end, a stage at
the other, and a bar running its length),
the Firenze sticks out in my mind for
no less than two brilliant occasions.
The first was in August of 1990, when
we trecked over the bridge to see the
brilliant Happy Flowers (Mr. Anus and
Mr. Horribly-Charred Infant to you and
me, who should have their boots licked
by and liquor bills paid for until the
year 2000 by Ween) only to find out that
it was in fact their final live performance.
If you never saw "Mom, I Gave the
Cat Some Acid" performed live, you
have no idea what you missed. The second
evening was a spit-freezing cold Sunday
in February, though I can't recall the
year. Must've been 1995. I'd just watched
Mose Allison -- the only jazz artist I
enjoy -- blister a set at the Blue Note
when I hustled into the relative warmth
of the Firenze to suck back some Porter,
smoke some cigars, and watch Nine Pound
Hammer, the New Bomb Turks, and my beloved
Devil Dogs rip the lid off the suckah!
I even ran into some old radio station
friends that night...and the walk back
to my car wasn't quite so frigid.
CURRENT STATUS: Still
going, still doing shows...but I haven't
been back since the last show mentioned.
Dirty Frank's (Center City Philadelphia)
Frank's is a Philadelphia
legend, attracting a mix of newspaper
people, art students from nearby schools,
neighborhood residents, and mouthy punks.
We frequented Frank's on Wednesday and
Thursday nights during the late 1980s,
always closing the joint down, usually
flirting with close friends (bad move!),
and inevitably stumbling to the Diner
on the Square for "something with
eggs and English muffins".
Frank's also enters into
one of the ugliest nights of my life (as
does #10, where I'll relate the story).
The only background info you need is that
the apartment of an ex-girlfriend's current
boyfriend was across the street from the
bar's front door. See if you can fill
in the rest.
CURRENT STATUS: Still
9. McGlinchey's (15th
St., Center City Philadelphia)
I wasn't a big fan of this
place until after college, when I started
frequenting its dark environs on Saturday
afternoons after thrift shopping and record
buying in the city. My friend Jackie --
another 'KDU veteran -- was a bartender,
they served Yuengling Porter on tap (see
a theme devloping here?), and the jukebox
was among the city's finest (regularly
featuring Big Black, Replacements, Ramones,
AC/DC, and The Who).
It was also here that I
rediscovered one of the key figures from
#10. We never spoke of our bond, but our
eyes met knowingly on more than one occasion.
CURRENT STATUS: Still
going strong, though probably attracting
an artsier crowd than ever.
Some Go-Go Joint, possibly The All in
the Family Lounge (Center City Philly)
brother John (aka JT) is eight years older
than me. It wasn't until 1988 that
we had the opportunity to legally drink together during the time that I was living in Philly
and he visited from Oklahoma.
The night began
innocently enough at a Japanese grocery store where we pounded
Fosters Oil Cans (back when they were
actually canned in Australia) and
ate something, though this ocurred after
downing some beers at my apartment. We then made our
way to Dirty Frank's (#8) where we accosted
several turtle-necked art students by
telling them "The Joke" (an
incredibly long bit by Pee-wee Herman
from 'Late Night with David Letterman')
and asking, "If Martians came down
and challenged Earth to a game of basketball
for ownership of the universe, who's your
starting five?" (Our lawsuit against
the makers of SPACE JAM will be filed
The trip across the street
to the house of Rick K., then-current
boyfriend of my ex-girlfriend, wasn't
exactly pretty. The mugs we lifted from
Frank's dropped through my thrift store
trenchcoat and shattered on the street
-- surely puncturing someone's tires minutes
later -- and we gained access to Rick's
place. Somehow. It was then that I insisted
my 6'8" brother play Rick's guitar.
And he -- being much shorter -- quickly
It isn't clear how
we ended up at this bar, but this is where
the story truly takes flight. Imagine
a go-go bar where your mother and her
friends dance in nasty polyester lingerie
to the sounds of 1970s K-Tel albums. By the time we played Warren Zevon's "Lawyers,
Guns, and Money" for the eighth time,
we'd made a new friend.
He was a scary-looking drunk
with coke-bottle glasses and an Army fatigues
jacket, but we quickly dubbed him "Uncle
Pegger". (Don't ask me how we reached
this pseudonym for our new drunken compadre.)
The next thing I knew, we had The Pegger
purchasing drinks for us -- and anyone
that we deemed worthy (like the "toothless
old crone" that took a shining to
JT) -- and I decided I would give him
the shirt off my back... literally. My third attempt at removing my shirt resulted in the mutual decision between ourselves and bar management that we take our fun elsewhere.
At the next club we visited the doorman told us, "You don't
need to come in here." That may be
the only reason I'm not still in jail
CURRENT STATUS: Who
the hell knows?! I don't even know where
it was/is! However, Carbon
14 publishers Larry Kay and Leslie
Goldman have suggested that it was The
All in the Family Lounge, a name that
cuts through the booze-induced haze of
that night too many years ago.