The best of 2012: Culture and nightlife

The very best of Philly's nightlife listed here for you.

All week long, Metro will be highlighting our selections of the city’s best — from bars to salons to dance parties — of 2012. Check back tomorrow for our picks in retail and fashion.


The dance party that’s most likely to be guest-DJed by your favorite DJ’s favorite DJ: Tastytreats

Philly’s longest-running dance night offers up a fresh spin on classics from hip-hop’s golden age. The monthly celebration is hosted by some of Philly’s freshest DJs — Mike Nyce, Rich Medina and ?uestlove, when he’s in town — and features appearances by their famous friends. Past guests have included Jazzy Jeff, 9th Wonder, Biz Markie and Q-Tip. Drink specials are plentiful, ladies are free before 11 and no one will judge you when you’re four shots in and busting out your most ridiculous moves. Three words make the party even sweeter: no dress code.

Every first Saturday at Fluid Night Club, 613 S. Fourth St.

Best place to see a basement show without worrying about an underage drinking bust:

Underground Arts

This cavernous, 12,000-square-foot venue beneath a converted toy factory in the up-and-coming Loft District — fondly known as the Eraserhood — has all the rebel-without-a-cause ambiance of a West Philly basement show with a full (and legal) bar. Offerings are eclectic, ranging from cabarets, spoken word, comedy nights and theater collective musicals about the dangers of fracking to music of all genres, and the door fee is generally $10 or less.

340 N. 12th St.,


Best place to rub elbows with a real-life poker pro: Parx

Not too long ago, the best poker sharks around camped out in Atlantic City or Las Vegas and waited for the little guppies to swim their way. Not anymore. Now home-game heroes and regular Joes can stop by after work and go toe to toe with the grinders. Wade into the water carefully.

3001 Street Rd., 888-588-PARX,


Best place to smash a beer can against your forehead and fit right in: Cavanaugh’s River Deck

Don’t just sit at home and daydream about nights spent fist-pumping with the crew from “Jersey Shore.” Get your Ronnie on at the banks of the Delaware River, just minutes from home. Grinding is mandatory.

417 N. Columbus Blvd.,



Best street for live performance: Sansom Street

InterAct Theatre Company and the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre have been holding court on Sansom for decades. Slowly but surely, more venues have moved to Sansom, beginning in 2006 when the Helium Comedy Club opened near the 20th Street intersection. Since then, InterAct has added the intimate Sky Box theater venue on the third floor of their complex. But the most drastic Sansom influx came a year ago on the 1600 block: Azuka Theatre, Mauckingbird Theatre Co., Brat Productions, 11th Hour Theatre Co., EgoPo Classic Theatre and Inis Nua Theatre Co. joined forces to shepherd the new Off-Broad Street venue into the Philly scene.

Best place to see a Phillie at 2 a.m.: Pen & Pencil Club

The only place you can slam down shots with Chase Utley and ogle a shirtless Pat Burrell.

1522 Latimer St., 215-731-9909,

Best incidental helicopters in a gallery: Gravy Studio

Snuggled into a nook of a Fishtown garage, Gravy Studio hosts what might be the city’s strangest, most charming First Friday openings. Art nerds mingle with motorcycle nerds (and both parties’ dogs) under a canopy of truly frightening looking vintage helicopters, and everyone goes home a little more interesting and interested.

2212 Sepviva St.,

Best reason to take it upstairs: Kung Fu Necktie

No offense to their downstairs bar and venue, but the second floor of Kung Fu Necktie is the fastest way to feel young and in love again. It’s too damn loud, the bar is set up in what used to be some unfortunate tenant’s kitchen and the windows are downright steamy — which is actually a plus, considering the view is the underside of the El. You’re going to feel awesome, and you’re going to pay for it tomorrow.

1250 N. Front St., 215-291-4919,

Best news for the Parkway: The Barnes Foundation

After years of bickering, rumors and all-out media fights, The Barnes Foundation finally high-tailed it out of Lower Merion and opened its new digs on the Parkway. And as sick as we were of hearing about all things Barnes, we have to admit it: The place is a world-class swankfest. An inspired layout makes the most of the storied collection, now easily accessible on the long-hungry Parkway.

2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., 215-278-7000,

Best news for the waterfront: Morgan’s Pier

As the Barnes propped up the Parkway, Morgan’s Pier was a godsend for our other oddly underused strip of prime real estate, Delaware Avenue. The perfect mix of serious tiki party and serious live music venue, its kitchen turns out some of the better food you’ll eat along Philly’s waterfront. High fives all around.

221 N. Columbus Blvd., 215-279-7134,

Arts organization with the most hustle: Mural Arts Program

Philly has its fair share of “Yeah, really?” murals — but the Mural Arts Program isn’t behind those. They’re behind the gorgeous Love Letter series, the inspired Philly Painting initiative and the Roots Mural Project. When they’re not giving this town a much-needed fresh coat of paint, the country’s largest public arts program is hosting community workshops, leading tours and scouting their next potential canvas.

Best job keeping history fresh: The National Constitution Center

A place called The National Constitution Center really has no business being interesting to the majority of us. But with exhibits on both Bruce Springsteen and Prohibition in 2012, they attracted a whole new crowd to the gorgeous Old City museum — and maybe even taught us a little something about the Constitution in the process.

525 Arch St., 215-409-6600,

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