Not too long ago, everyone was opening a BYOB. Then came the recession, and people realized that restaurants were real businesses designed to generate profits. (Your average BYOB, alas, simply does not make much.) So restaurant operators turned their focus to alcohol, that age-old booster of cash flow and relaxer of inhibitions.
This year saw a bumper crop of bars/restaurants with higher-aiming food and beverage programs.
Here are a couple dozen top yearlings in the Philly region, in alphabetical order.
Civilized. Rittenhouse Square. Lovely selection of wines, served in 3- and 5-ounce pours, plus requisite cocktails and top-flight food; open for breakfast, too.
The Blind Pig
Neighborhood hang. Northern Liberties. Warm, welcoming staff. Don't skip the "balls" - deep-fried treats such as turkey with stuffing and potatoes.
Blue Bear Tavern
Happy-hour hot spot. Washington Square West. Want to find a Jefferson doc or nurse, stat?
Lively scene. Chestnut Hill. A bar/restaurant for the masses (plus a great patio) in the heart of Chestnut Hill.
Veddy British. Rittenhouse Square. Fresh-yet-old-school pub. (Yes, it opened Dec. 31, 2010, which means it's not technically a "2011 opening".)
Modern. Fairmount. Terrific cocktail selection, pairing nicely with a veg-friendly, organic menu.
Rustic. Washington Square West. Insane beer and cocktail selection at separate bars.
Warm neighborhood hang. Fairmount. Brand-new pairing of Supper's Mitch Prensky and the cocktailers of Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co.
Elegance. Chestnut Hill. Chip Roman's stylish, date-night American, built on inventive tasting menus.
Greek chic. Washington Square West. Updated Hellenic specialties and cool cocktails in chill, modern environs.
Main Line chic. Inside Wayne Hotel. Huge cocktail list and a bit of a bar scene in the plush lounge, in addition to the dining room.
Above it all. Avenue of the Arts. What every theatergoer wants: casual focus, and great beers, drinks and food at outstanding prices.
Summer scene. Old City. Hard to beat the roof deck, and its views of the historic district. Pizzas are fine, too.
Urban secret. Market Street West. A happy-hour and late-night haunt with 8 beers on tap.
Rustic chic. Avenue of the Arts. Kevin Sbraga's temple to American cookery, and don't miss the foie gras soup.
Airy, understated. Washington Square. At the indoor and outdoor bars, sustainable wines and sterling cheese plates rule.
Low-key and intimate. Queen Village. Solid neighborhood bar with a huge beer list and a broad, fair-priced menu that hits all the bases.
Naughty by nature. Loft District/Callowhill. The old go-go bar has been revived as a new go-go bar.
Soul. Society Hill. A Brit's take on a Southern blues and bourbon bar; live music and lots of rooms to unwind.
Rough-hewn elegance. Washington Square West. You will like your vegetables at this vegan paradise for all.