Hop Sing Laundromat is one of the best bars in the world*
The online travel publication has a soft spot for the quirky Chinatown watering hole.
* So says Conde Nast Traveler, which lists the Chinatown destination on its hot list of 30 establishments.
Hop Sing, which opened in 2012 on the site of a former Indonesian restaurant at 1029 Race St., is an original, all right. It manages to maintain an air of mystery in this know-everything world.
There's no sign outside - just a doorbell on an iron gate that summons a doorman who ushers you upstairs into a vestibule whose floor is coated in pennies. You sit in a church pew, across from a shoeshine stand, and submit your identification for inspection. And you wait. Inside, you sit at tables in a dimly lit room that resembles something out of The Munsters.
Even the operator is hard to pin down. It's run by a guy known as Lê, and it's not clear if that is his first name, his last name, or simply his nom de guerre. (The bar business is rough.) Lê even disguises his ethnicity - claiming in goofy social-media postings that he is North Korean. (In fact, he is Vietnamese by birth and fled the country with his family after the fall of Saigon.)
Lê also suffers no fools. He takes pleasure in denying entry to those wearing sneakers. Your cell phone and its camera is not welcome, either, but some people have started taking defiant selfies in the restroom.
Conde Nast Traveler presented the 30 top bars, not in any order.
Cody Goldstein, head bartender at Upholstery Store: Food & Wine in New York, wrote:
"My favorite bar changes all the time, but the most exciting spot I've been to in recent memory has to be Hop Sing Laundromat in Philadelphia. The menu pays homage, in one way or another, to America. With one of the largest selections of spirits in the country, you can find everything from your classic Maker's Mark right up through their specialty cocktails like 'Montana Payback' and 'A Failed Entertainment.' Plus, it's hidden behind an unmarked door and looks like what you would imagine having a cocktail in Hogwarts would feel like. In a true Philly no-BS style, the owner boasts very firm rules: no sneakers, no shorts, no photos or you're out!"
Reached by phone after Conde Nast published the list on the web, Lê said: "Long live Dear Leader. I just woke up." His phone was blowing up with well-wishes.
He later texted: "It's unfortunate that HSL, the world's greatest North Korean bar, got lumped in with 29 other Imperialist bars."
The list is here.