Your guide to cheap drinking in Philly

McManus’ new book is available now.

After moving from Houston in 2005, it took about two years for Brian McManus to adjust to Philadelphia’s cold winters — not to mention the year-round surliness. But these days he’s as hard-scrabble as almost any McCusker’s Tavern regular.

“Now I’m just like every other Philadelphian: I both love and hate the city in equal measure, depending on the day,” says McManus.

That’s why Brooklyn-based publisher Gamble Guides tapped him to author the Philadelphia edition of their dive bar guidebooks.

“Philadelphia’s Best Dive Bars” is a compulsively thorough chronicling of Philly’s dive bar culture, from Oregon Avenue to Red Lion Road — and nearly every bacteria-laced draught­ in between.

“Some places embrace their dive identity, but others feel like dive is a pejorative,” says McManus, who serves as Philadelphia Weekly’s music editor during daylight hours. “I’d usually just tell people I was working on a guidebook for ‘neighborhood bars.’ That seemed to loosen people up. I learned not to say, ‘I’m writing a book on the city’s biggest s—holes. Congrats, you’re included!’”

The guide includes a one-to-five danger rating, a key element to any safe and fulfilling dive-crawl. “There’s only about a dozen that got the five rating. And that means, ‘Drink and be merry, for tomorrow you shall die.’ I was seriously worried about getting stabbed in the throat in a few spots.”


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