After College Living: Manayunk (Philadelphia, PA)



Life after college: the bleak, inevitable plunge into the “real world.â€? A life imprisoned within routine and thankless independence. At this time, you are genuinely scared of what you are going to do, where you are going to do it, and who you are going to do it with (speaking, of course, of only real-world priorities—minds out of the gutter, children!) For some, moving home is a viable option as it saves money and grants time to meditate on the many possibilities you are presented with. For others (this author included), being away at school bred a no-return policy; not returning, that is, to roving parent eyes, drinking at bars you snuck in to in high school, or late-night social planning sessions at the local pizzeria. For this second group, there are a number of thriving areas across the country which welcome post-grads with open arms. One such place, which has gained ample attention within the last five years, is an area of Philadelphia known as Manayunk. Having just completed a year (directly post-grad) in Manayunk, I can attest to its social appeal and convenience. Often dubbed the Philadelphia equivalent of Hoboken (just outside of New York City), Manayunk is only a twenty-minute train ride to central Philadelphia. Where Manayunk trumps Hoboken, however, is in its self-reliance. Whereas Hoboken is sometimes used as a liaison for the Big Apple across the river (not knocking Hoboken because I have had some circus nights there), Manayunk is more content and apt to serve its residents without depending on central Philadelphia’s social scene. It is a huge confluence of post-grads, undergrads, almost all of them stunning looking, that come everywhere from St. Joseph’s University, Villanova, Philadelphia University, and Temple.

Manayunk is renowned for its strip of bars, lounges and restaurants on Main Street. Some of these places, including Grape Street Pub and the Manayunk Brew Pub, are known both for attracting great live music and riotous fun almost every night of the week. Beware, however, of an excess of jean shorts, Mustangs and Godfather-adoring crowds at the Brew Pub. Guido tendencies aside, this joint is nothing short of ruckus on the weekends, especially in the summer when the outdoor decks fill up. Grape Street Pub is more mellow and secluded and is thought to be one of the more prestigious places in Manayunk, Not surprisingly, both of these places can put quite a bullet-hole through your wallet. Thus, heavy pre-gaming is advised if you intend to end up at either of these locations.

A great alternative is 105 Social. Modest drink prices, pool tables, amazingly convincing shot girls and a folksy ambience are this baby’s draw. For a small place, it can also get quite rowdy. Other favorites include Kildaire’s Irish Pub (serving brunch, lunch and dinner as well as drinks), Sapphire (renowned for its happy hour specials and food), and Bourbon Blue, which has a yuppie feel upstairs and a club tinge downstairs. It is this split which makes Bourbon Blue the most enjoyable of all establishments in Manayunk. Friendly, attentive bartenders (a rarity in any city!) are the norm here and if unlike me you are not a benchwarmer for the toe-tapping, grinding members of civilization, Bourbon Blue is also a great place to get groovy.

Fancy a return to your college days? (even though you probably just graduated two months ago!) Then shuffle off to Pitcher’s Pub. Pitcher’s is soft on the wallet, heavy on the booze, and abound in eye candy. Pitcher’s also boasts boisterous beer pong tournaments and a jukebox soundtrack that would arouse any traditional bar-hopper/crooner (Journey, Bon Jovi, etc). Some more subtle spots, which are known more for their cuisine than their capacity for barstool antics, include Zesty’s (though their sangria is on point), La Trattoria, and Hikaru (about the best hibachi style restaurant I have ever eaten at).

One great element of Manayunk is its past, and how it comes into play in the dynamic between old-school residents and newfound college grads. Originally a mill town with a steep pride in its working class personality, Manayunk is now a yuppie haven, and for some older residents this is problematic. Nonetheless this somewhat joking rivalry, in which you can hear 65-year olds bellowing garbled insults (about every tenth syllable is understood) at collar-popping grads, makes for an extremely hilarious street theater. Let alone that these same 65-year olds are the ones you see glued to barstools on your way to and from work- their faces resembling Babe Ruth’s first baseball mitt and their teeth suited for an excavation.

Compared to Hoboken, Manayunk is considerably cheaper and just as enjoyable. For example, three of my college roommates and I were able to locate a prime spot on Levering Street (1 block off of Main Street) for $1600 a month: $400 base rent and with utilities barely exceeding $60 bucks a month. Let alone that we were right beneath a train station that takes you into Center City Philadelphia, and a plethora of mom and pop food spots (Sorrentino’s was my favorite) that offer a welcome reprieve from more customary venues. Had we shared similar priorities, my roommates and I would likely have re-upped our lease in allegiance to the many material and practical pleasures Manayunk offers.

For those scrambling for a continuation of their college life, and with a bit more leeway in their wallets because they have popped their real-world cherries, Manayunk is undoubtedly a perfect weigh station. Perhaps its lone social drawback is that all bars close RIGHT at 2 a.m.- a tragic reality not only in Manayunk, but the greater Philadelphia region as well. But this is not enough to qualify any naysaying that may go on about Manayunk because the purpose of fun is simply to have it, and this town could not be more receptive of such a blossoming attitude.

3 thoughts on “After College Living: Manayunk (Philadelphia, PA)”

  1. Jonathan Harra

    Yeah manayunk is all bright lights and shiny objects. Maybe its fun on the weekend for the trust fund villanova grad… but for those of us that work 5 days a week on post grade salaries manayunk "stinks" for lack of a better word….. there is nowhere to eat except high price establishments.. and the crows albeit attractive…are not very sociable…. can you say clicky..and feisty…

  2. For the record, Jonathan Harrar is a direct descendant of Dick Cheney and has benefited immensely from the bottomless pockets of oil tycoons worldwide. It's a shame he allocates his loot towards harp lessons and backgammon tournaments instead of rowsin' fun in Manayunk 🙁

  3. Within the next five years those of us who bought homes her because of the historic charm and cultural possiblities will be gone. One of the the all time (and I mean monumental on the scale of the Titanic)crimes is how developers and cynical home owners allowed Manayunk to turn into Spring Break Northwest for sub 1000 SAT under acheivers. As I speak, there are 31 places to drink on Main Street. We are blessed with 25 empty stores, 5 nail saloins, 14 hair salons and 2 tanning salons, one vibrator store and yes a Sleepy's. We have no book store no playhouse, no grocery store or hardware store and very little in the way of outlets for original music. So feel good about the supposed new direction of the Main St. economy. We've succeeded in creating a strip mall encased in 19th century arcitecture. We have a Ritas, a Pottery Barn and a Banana Rep.and 9 pizza outlets. All we need is a Cinnabon and we can challenege the Gallery at Market East for whose tackiest.

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