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Oscar’s Tavern Philadelphia – 1972 Called and Says Dive On In! Sansom Street btwn 15th & 16th

Posted on: March 9, 2018

While some people may want to call Oscar’s Tavern a “dive bar” in a bad way, Mod Betty has been to many a dive, and this is one she doesn’t mind recommending, if dive bars are your thing of course.

I mean, how many dives have been written up in Bon Appetit magazine, like Oscar’s has (even if it is occasionally cited for health code violations!)

While it is definitely less fancy than the upscale places surrounding it on Sansom Street, Mod Betty prefers to think of Oscar’s as unpretentious and welcoming, regardless of who you are (and she LOVES that it is a non-smoking bar, smoking inside is a dealbreaker for Mod B, FYI.) So when you see their backlit plastic sign and shingled overhang, dive right on into Oscar’s.

Oscar's Tavern Philadelphia PA Retro Roadmap

Immediately as you enter the bar you’ve stepped back into 1972 – much to a Retro Roadmapper’s delight. That is the year when most of the decor was purchased and installed, according to long-time manager Joe Mullen. The lantern shaped lights lining the bar and along the wood paneled walls cast a red glow upon all who enter, either for an inexpensive drink or quick bite, cooked on the grill located in the front window.

Oscar's Tavern Philadelphia PA

You know what to do here, right? Take your place at the bar, table or booth and settle in, even if the vinyl cushions are a little worn or split. Choose your soundtrack via the (sadly not vintage, but happily working) jukebox or be inspired (or appalled) by other patrons’ musical choices.

Admire the FABULOUS vintage paper placemats with awesome Cocktail Guide illustrations, but don’t be one of “those people” and order one of these drinks. Oh, they’ll make ’em for you, but, really?

Oscar's Tavern Philadelphia PA Retro Roadmap

Instead – act like a pro and get two of the things that Oscar’s is famous for: A 23oz “draught” beer, and if it is after 4pm, a cheesesteak and a half (the kitchen is open ’til 1am on Friday and Saturday nights.)

Oscar's Tavern Philadelphia PA Retro Roadmap

The waitresses and bartenders are prompt and friendly without being fake. If you’re starting a tab, remember Oscar’s is Cash Only but there’s an ATM onsite.

You may overhear interesting snippets of conversation and perhaps share some chips with a fellow barfly. After 23 ounces you may find yourself participating in an interesting conversation. No matter.

Oscar's Tavern Philadelphia PA Retro Roadmap

Put a few more quarters into the jukebox, cue up some songs from 1972 and wallow in the fact that while many places in Philly have changed or closed since that year, Oscar’s is holding down the fort for all of our benefit.