Where to Drink With Art: 8 Cafes & Bars With Art Galleries

By Danya Henninger  |  October 29, 2013

No matter how gorgeous the reclaimed, handcrafted decor is at your favorite bar or coffee shop, there’s one thing that’s true - it’s going to stay the same, visit after visit. Not so at venues that spice up the walls with paintings, drawings and photographs from local artists - these works add welcome, changing splashes of color or present scenes that make you think. Check out eight great spots where you can sip your beverage of choice while taking in new sights.

  • Earth Bread + Brewery

    The outside of this artisanal Mt. Airy brewpub-bakery is covered with murals, setting the scene for the art you’ll find adorning the interior walls. Accompanying house-baked flatbreads, house-brewed beers and housemade ice cream is a rotating show of works from the Northwest Artists Collective. Beers from other local microbrews and monthly live music events are other reasons to stop in and contemplate colorful interior scenes.

    7136 Germantown Ave.; 215-242-6666

  • Metropolitan Gallery 250

    Last October, Wendy Smith Born and James Barrett took over a space just down the street from Metropolitan Bakery in Rittenhouse and launched a full-fledged gallery. “There is a lot of crossover between the food scene and the art world in Philadelphia,” Born says, and shows have included creations by many restaurant workers. Adding to Saturday and Sunday open hours are First Friday gatherings that include nibbles like Little Baby’s Ice Cream and other good eats and drinks.

    250 S. 18th St.; 215-545-6655

  • Black N Brew

    The Isaiah Zagar mosaic that wraps glitteringly around this corner cafe on East Passyunk is a hint of what you’ll find inside. The tiny coffee and brunch spot is filled with nearly as many paintings as customers on any given morning, creating a cozy atmosphere that still somehow inspires creativity from the writers who prop their laptops along the tables. Even after six years in business, the frequently changing local art still manages to surprise and delight.

    1523 E. Passyunk Ave.; 267-639-6070

  • Dirty Franks

    A peek through the door of this iconic-but-dingy 13th Street dive bar, on the other hand, would provide only doubt that you’d find a curated art gallery inside, but there it is, running strong since 1978. With shows as well-curated as the rest of the bar is zanily unkempt, the Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks continues to prove you don’t need “artisanal” drinks to appreciate good art.

    347 S. 13th St.; 215-732-5010

  • Chapterhouse Cafe & Gallery

    In 2005, brother-and-sister team Chris and Shannon Frank turned a historical townhouse on the corner of Ninth and Bainbridge into one of the city’s first modern cafes. The coffee, pastries and small selection of sandwiches are all solid, but the service counter is tiny, leaving most of the space for a seasonally changing show of local art on the walls. Catch one of the quarterly opening parties, or simply stop in, take a seat next to the fireplace - or on the couch next to Chris’ dog, Jesse - and spend some time gazing at the walls as you sip.

    620 S. Ninth St.; 215-238-2626

  • The Grey Lodge Pub

    It’s probably not the local art on the walls that will get you out to this Northeast tavern, but when you make the trip for the beer, it’s definitely an added bonus. Mike “Scoats” Scotese runs what has been called one of the best beer bars in the country, and to complement pours of unique and rare craft brews flowing from 25 taps, the second-floor lounge has been turned into a gallery, showcasing pieces by a rotating array of artists. (P.S. don’t miss the colorful mosaic mural in the first-floor bathroom, full of beer-soaked wisdom.)

    6235 Frankford Ave.; 215-856-3591

  • Mugshots Coffeehouse

    At this Fairmount cafe, kids’ creations are allowed to take center stage. The walls are decorated with an ever-changing assortment of works from the Philly Art Center, which began nearby and has since expanded to a large facility in Queen Village. After-school and summer camp classes provide children with a chance to express themselves, and you’ll also find adult-student works to check out on the walls as you sip coffee and munch on bagels and wraps.

    1925 Fairmount Ave.; 267-514-7145

  • Aksum

    When proprietor Saba Tedla first launched this Baltimore Avenue cafe in 2010, she filled the walls with colorful art from her personal collection to go with the menu of bright Mediterranean dishes. As the West Philly neighborhood welcomed her, she began to feature local works on the walls, and she now changes the display regularly. The program has been so successful that she’s since launched standalone Seeds Gallery down the block.

    4630 Baltimore Ave.; 267-275-8195