An ode to Philly’s piano bars

Clint Randall
Favorite Spot: Sunday evening at 1 Tippling Place
Neighborhood: Center City
Address: 2006 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103

I Am: A product of a Fitler Square childhood, former city employee, occasional tour guide, avid coffee drinker, and karaoke fiend.
Years in Philly: About 24 of the nearly 31 I’ve lived so far
Current Home: Fishtown

My Love Note

Dear Sunday evening,

Even in a city as charming and colorful as Philadelphia, you don’t always bring a lot to the table. Those that venture to Center CIty on a typical Sunday are likely to be greeted by thousands of Philadelphians doing their best to ward off Monday in one of two patented ways: boozy brunches or lengthy workouts. If you’re one to keep track of these sorts of things, I think you’d find that no other day of the week yields daytime drinkers or Schuylkill Trail-bound runners in such quantities.

And while there’s nothing wrong with either of those Monday preparedness techniques, I’d like to share a third. I share it not only because it’s quickly risen to the top of my Philly favorites list; I share it also because it’s Father’s Day, and it just so happens to include my father.

1 Tippling Place is a discreet and polished drinking establishment on the 2000 block of Chestnut Street. Nestled in a building that’s set ever so slightly back from its neighbors, its tiny sign and low-key vibe make it easy to miss as you run around town. It’s a reliably civilized place to settle into a well-crafted cocktail any day of the week. The mismatched vintage furniture, the large window out onto Chestnut Street, and the warmth of the proprietor all make for a setting that is at once supremely pleasant and refreshingly lacking any sense of “scene” or pretension. But on Sundays from 6-8pm, for two typically quiet hours, the sounds of an upright piano and bass tie a beautiful bow around an already near-perfect picture.

For many folks in my age bracket, the idea of a piano in a bar brings to mind two showmen dueling it out with Bon Jovi and Billy Joel covers. Or perhaps it’s sitting around the piano at a gay bar, hoping you remember all the words to every verse of “Memory” from Cats. As the son of someone who’s made a career of filling our city’s hotel lounges, office tower lobbies, classier restaurants, and many a private function with beautifully articulated takes on the American Songbook, I know better. Nothing wrong with Jovi or Joel (or Lloyd Webber, though I’d argue with you there), but this is Gershwin. Porter. Lerner and Lowe. Arlen. Timeless songs provided to enhance – not overpower – the experience of drinking, chatting, and gearing up for the week ahead.

In this day and age, it is increasingly difficult to find establishments – in any city – interested in offering what used to be considered a rather essential element of a sophisticated evening on the town. It is also distressingly tough to find musicians so well versed in this material. I’m proud to say that in 1 Tippling Place, and MarkRandall on piano, Philadelphia has both. So the next time you’re dreading Monday – which, if you’re like most people, will be every Sunday from now until you retire – might I suggest treating yourself to some well-constructed cocktails and tunes from 6 to 8. Sunday, you’ve met your match.


A photo posted by @mylesrules on

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