After moving from Houston in 2005, it took about two years for Brian McManus to adjust to Philadelphia’s cold winters — not to mention the year-round surliness. But these days he’s as hard-scrabble as almost any McCusker’s Tavern regular.
“Now I’m just like every other Philadelphian: I both love and hate the city in equal measure, depending on the day,” says McManus.
That’s why Brooklyn-based publisher Gamble Guides tapped him to author the Philadelphia edition of their dive bar guidebooks.
“Philadelphia’s Best Dive Bars” is a compulsively thorough chronicling of Philly’s dive bar culture, from Oregon Avenue to Red Lion Road — and nearly every bacteria-laced draught in between.
“Some places embrace their dive identity, but others feel like dive is a pejorative,” says McManus, who serves as Philadelphia Weekly’s music editor during daylight hours. “I’d usually just tell people I was working on a guidebook for ‘neighborhood bars.’ That seemed to loosen people up. I learned not to say, ‘I’m writing a book on the city’s biggest s—holes. Congrats, you’re included!’”
The guide includes a one-to-five danger rating, a key element to any safe and fulfilling dive-crawl. “There’s only about a dozen that got the five rating. And that means, ‘Drink and be merry, for tomorrow you shall die.’ I was seriously worried about getting stabbed in the throat in a few spots.”