If you haven’t already experienced it in summers past, SIPS is basically a citywide Happy Hour with unreasonably cheap drinks and food. All of which sounds great, until you realize that the entire population of Philadelphia is just as excited about it as you are, and they all show up to the same beer garden in the same 15 minute time span. Instead of downing your $3 IPA and giving up on the entire concept, here are 12 places where you can have a good time with your discounted sustenance.
SIPS is fun, sure, but it’s also an excuse for interns to get really drunk off $3 beers in swarms that seem to double in size every time they move to a new bar. If that’s not exactly your speed, head to Balcony Bar. It’s a rooftop that’s only open to the public on Wednesday nights during the summer, and of all the places that participate in SIPS, this is one that always stays pretty calm. Plus the people behind Amada are running their food program, so you know you’re getting better stuff than you’d find at most of the other bars in Center City.
Like a lot of other beer gardens in the city, Independence Beer Garden is covered in greenery and has rows of long tables made for housing big groups of friends. Unlike most other ones, though, this one has a menu with things like burgers and tacos that you’ll like even before you’re four beers deep. It’s also one of the few SIPS spots that has lawn games like corn hole and bocce ball, in case just standing around and drinking with your friends isn’t cutting it anymore.
While everyone else is being stepped and spilled on at Uptown Beer Garden, you should be hanging out at Drury Beer Garden behind Opa in Midtown Village instead. It’s a courtyard with a bunch of mismatched tables and an old wooden bar that we’re pretty sure someone on the staff built back in 1995, where you’ll find good drinks, some great spanakopita to chase them with, and occasionally even live music.
We like 1225 Raw for sushi year-round, but we especially like it during the summer, when their patio is open and ready to welcome big groups of people who want to use their outdoor voices while consuming large amounts of sushi and sake. During SIPS, the already affordable spot becomes even cheaper, so it’s the perfect place to bring your entire kickball team for a post-game dinner.
Butcher Bar puts a few tables out on the sidewalk when the weather gets nice, and the two-story Rittenhouse spot also has floor-to-ceiling windows that they open up during the summer, making pretty much anywhere you sit here open-air. Their menu is full of little twists on bar snacks, like confit duck wings, sloppy joe poutine, and house-made beef jerky, and during SIPS a lot of them are half off.
Of all the places on this guide, Graffiti Bar, which is down a small alley behind Sampan in Midtown Village, might be the most crowded on a Wednesday night in the summer. But between the large-format scorpion bowl drinks, discounted small bites like kung pao chicken wings and edamame dumplings from the Sampan kitchen, and TVs for watching weeknight Phillies games, it’s where you want to be to have a Wednesday night that feels a lot like a Friday night.
Another pizza place worth taking advantage of during SIPS is Porta. They don’t normally run a Happy Hour deal, so the one that gives us $6 cocktails and $4 arancini is more than welcome. There are usually only a couple of tables on the sidewalk out front, so you’ll want to head straight here from work as soon as your boss leaves for the day at 4:30pm to grab one. Or you could just sit inside and altogether avoid the awkward moment where you stand up and there’s a huge sweat stain on your chair for the world to see.
When you want to meet someone for a drinks date but don’t want to spend a ton of money (or be swarmed by a ton of people with the same idea as you), grab one of the outdoor tables at Abe Fisher. Their drinks are generally on the more expensive side, but during SIPS you can get their cocktails for only $6. And if drinks are going well and you decide to stay for dinner, they serve their entire menu outside too.
SIPS at Nomad is basically just an extended version of their Happy Hour - which is one of the best ones in the city as it is, with $5-7 personal pizzas and $5 glasses of wine on a normal night. But on Wednesday nights during the summer, when everyone else is down the block at Woody’s doing “green tea” shots, you could be enjoying a pepperoni pizza and a $25 bottle of wine in an air-conditioned room.
Tradesman’s is part BBQ restaurant and part sports bar - and it’s huge. It can seat over 200 people between its two floors, but where you really want to sit during SIPS is at their outdoor-facing bar. There are stools lined up along the sidewalk out front so it’s like one of those swim-up bars they have at vacation spots in the Caribbean, except without the palm trees, water, and screaming children mad that it’s “adult hour.”
Tequila’s has been around for so long that sometimes people forget how great it is. And while it’s one of the best date night places in the area all year long, it’s especially useful in the summer, when they set up a bunch of tables on the sidewalk and quietly celebrate SIPS with $6 margaritas and half-priced appetizers. Because it’s located off the main Rittenhouse stretch, it feels like a little bit of a secret, which will make you seem more impressive to your friends when you can easily grab an outdoor table there while people down the street are waiting in lines just to get into Pagano’s.