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August 20, 2015

Ten bars to explore in the Philadelphia suburbs

Where to get boozy in the 'burbs

Bars Suburbs
Verdad Bar Betsy Barron/From Facebook

Verdad Restaurant and Tequila Bar, located in Bryn Mawr, Delaware County, has more than 70 brands of tequila on hand.

Heads up: Not every great bar in the region takes up residence in city limits.

While Philadelphia has excelled in recent years as a destination for all sorts of bar styles -- that is, everything from the dive-bar-restoration of The Dolphin Tavern to the exclusivity of places like Ranstead Room -- it's also true that suburbia has held its own all the while. High-grade tequila cocktails, rooftop lounges, a poolside club that gives North Shore a run for its money -- drinking culture in the 'burbs is more than just mixing a glass of Tropicana with Smirnoff in your kitchen. 

Will Philadelphia's surrounding counties exceed the city's bar culture anytime soon? Probably not. All the same, it's host to more than a few watering holes worth hiking out to.

Below, find 10 suburban bars worth exploring -- broken down by interests. 

Where to drink with a rooftop view: Mas Mexicali Cantina

Mas Mexicali

Mas Mexicali Cantina's rooftop bar and lounge is a marquee lure for the bar and restaurant every summer. (Mas Mexicali Cantina / From Facebook)

Welcome to the only rooftop bar in West Chester. Located at 102 E. Market St. in West Chester, Chester County, Mas Mexicali Cantina's space overlooks downtown West Chester and features a full-service bar, doling out signature margaritas, specialty cocktails and all the usual beer-and-wine suspects. The rooftop, which seats 120 for dining, also plays host to occasional live music and a rooftop happy hour that nabs patrons who dine $3 drinks for a two-hour period of their choice. 

Where to find live music: Gypsy Saloon

Gypsy Saloon

The Spirit World (pictured) is one of many local acts to pass through Gypsy Saloon. In the past, the bar has been known to host live music as many as four nights per week. (Gypsy Saloon / From Facebook)

Gypsy Saloon, open since 2004 and located at 128 Ford St. in Conshohocken, Montgomery County, is owned by the same folks behind the well-received Stella Blu, Southern Cross Kitchen and newly opened Gypsy Blu. Though best known for its seafood dining (try the all-you-can-eat mussels), pop by on Fridays and Saturdays between 8-8:30 p.m. for a glass of wine and live local talent -- everything from acoustics to rock 'n' roll. Come for the funky gypsy vibe; stay for the jams.

Where to watch a sports game: Chap's Taproom

Chap's Taproom

Phillies fans at Jeffersonville hangout Chap's Taproom & Sports Grill. The bar's energy is electric during playoff events. (Chap's Taproom and Sports Grill / From Facebook)

A staple for the community since 1998, Chap's Taproom & Sports Grill, located at 2509 W. Main St. in Jeffersonville, Montgomery County, is home to a six-foot projection screen and 11 television monitors. Couple that attraction with a staggering 80 types of bottled beer on hand and 26 brews on tap, and you'll be nice and toasty for your next Eagles, Phillies or Flyers game.

Where to get your South Jersey karaoke fix: The Tortilla Press Cantina

Tortilla Press

The bar at Tortilla Press Cantina. (The Tortilla Press Cantina / From Facebook)

Tortilla Press Cantina, located at 7716 Maple Ave. in Merchantville, New Jersey, is one of few consistent karaoke spots you'll find in Camden County. Stop by every Friday night (and they do mean every Friday) at 9 p.m. at the bar, where you'll find a DJ hosting the off-pitch festivities. Come early -- between 3-7 p.m. -- to get your liquid courage at happy hour, which includes $4 margaritas and sangria. 

Where to drink local craft beer: Tired Hands Brew Cafe

Brew Cafe

Tired Hands Brew Cafe was founded by Jean Broillet IV, who previously brewed for Weyerbacher. (Tired Hands Brewing Company /

A beer first, food second kind of place, Tired Hands Brew Cafe has an impressive selection of made-in-house originals on tap: a fruity American pale ale brewed with oats, a delicious double IPA inspired by key lime pie (be careful: it has an 8.4 percent alcohol content) and a clean-tasting wheat beer conditioned on cucumber juice. Located in Lower Merion at 16 Ardmore Ave. in Ardmore, you can also hop on over to the recently opened Fermentaria at 35 Cricket Terrace, also in Ardmore, for even more homegrown beers and a more fleshed-out food menu.

Where to get a 'business lunch': Harry's Blue Bell Taproom

Bespoke Bacon

A sampler of bacon to soak up the midday brews at Harry's Blue Bell Taproom. (Thom Carroll / PhillyVoice)

This tiny-but-cozy bar and restaurant at 736 Dekalb Pike in Blue Bell, Montgomery County, is a quiet and casual spot for a "business lunch" brew. Harry's menu boasts 17 beers on tap and a lineup of sandwiches and burgers that won't break the bank if you're buying for your client. And, ideally, you'll want to couple all of the above with the bacon sampler from Bespoke Bacon -- pending your doctor's "OK," that is.

Where to sip wine: Dettera

Wine Dettera

Dettera, located in Ambler, has a selection of 50 reds and whites by the glass. (Handout Art / Dettera)

Located in downtown Ambler, Montgomery County, Dettera is a spacious restaurant and wine bar with no shortage of options. Owner Frank Lutter compiled a wine list of 50 by-the-glass wine selections and more than 200 options by the bottle. Bottles range from a $30 Pinot Grigio from Manteca, California, to a $285 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa. Shadowbox light fixtures, a fireplace, black granite bar tops and a suspended wine cellar make for a dark ambience conducive to sipping wine for as long as your palate demands (and your pocketbook can afford) another glass.

Where to lounge with a cocktail: Verdad

Verdad Restaurant and Bar

Verdad Restaurant and Tequila Bar, located on the Main Line, specializes in its tequila cocktail offerings. (Verdad Restaurant and Tequila Bar / From Facebook)

A sophisticated lounge spot on the Main Line, you'll get the most mileage out of your Verdad experience if you're a tequila lover: There are more than 73 (count 'em, 73) brands to choose from that are made from blue agave -- significant, because it reduces the likelihood of having a sugar-induced headache the next morning. Every tequila can be ordered straight-up, but you'll want to try them in their specialty cocktail form: everything from a classic margarita made with fresh-squeezed citrus to a tequila-based mojito. Verdad Restaurant and Tequila Bar, which celebrates its sixth anniversary this month, is located at 818 Lancaster Ave. in Bryn Mawr.

Where to day drink: Valley Beach Poolside Club

Valley Poolside

The 1,000-square-foot pool comes complete with a poolside bar. (Contributed Art / Valley Beach Poolside Resort)

Consider it a no-brainer for a daytime getaway: Private cabanas, a 1,000-square-foot pool, loungers, a "beach" area and a slew of tropical frozen drinks -- both classic and "layered" -- bring the Shore to King of Prussia. The pool opens at 2 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. A $10 cover charge will get you a day pass. The pool is located at Valley Forge Casino Resort at 1160 First Ave. in King of Prussia, Montgomery County. Satiate your daytime thirst at the pool bar while you still can: It closes for the season on Sept. 30. 

Where to get your dive on: Pickering Creek Inn

Pickering Creek Inn

The Pickering Creek Inn in Phoenixville, Chester County. (Pickering Creek Inn / From Facebook)

Dollar bills taped to the wall, dark wood paneling and LED lights strung atop the bar all add up to create the dive-vibe at the Pickering Creek Inn at 37 Bridge St. in Phoenixville. But it's the recurring Queenixville Variety Show on Monday nights and the extensive beer list that make it a go-to. Don't worry, though: They've still got $3.50 PBRs at-the-ready.