My heels click against the rocky pavement as I turn the corner on 2nd and Market Street. Even from here, I can see the disco lights bounce back and forth through the windows of Cuba Libre. The bouncers that I’ve come to know (we’ll call them Will and Marley) are standing outside the doors, checking IDs and making sure everyone follows the dress code. What’s the dress code, you ask? Shoes that are anything but sneakers. For women, that means heels or platform sandals. For men, that means any kind of dress shoe (ditch the Yeezys please).
In the six months that I’ve been 21, I’ve started becoming familiar with Philadelphia nightlife. I’ve hit the classics, like Woody’s and Cavanaugh’s Riverdeck. I’ve gone to jazz bars like Time, and other live-performance bars like Leda and the Swan. The range is obscure, from classy and chill to borderline frat party. Through all of the mixes of bars, beer gardens, and clubs, Cuba Libre has my heart.
For one, it’s nice to have familiar faces like Will and Marley. A night at Cuba Libre always starts with a smile from Will, banter from Marley, and a combined evaluation of my outfit for the night. Quick tip: to skip the line, put yourself on the guest list!
When you walk in, you have two options. You can veer to the left and go straight to the dance floor. What stands out about this place is that there is actual music you can dance to. On the dance floor, you’ll see a mix of beginners (who don’t know the first thing about salsa), like myself, and the pros in all-things bachata. One of my favorite things is seeing the range in outfits. Personally, I like to be comfortable. I’ll always go for a cute top, boyfriend jeans, and my go-to chunky black heels. You’ll also see others sporting their highest stilettos and trendiest dresses. As long as you’re wearing heels (or really anything but sneakers), you’ll be good to go.
Overall dance floor rating: 5/5
Your other option is to go to the right, which is where the bar is. From my experience, Cuba Libre isn’t the best place to get drinks. One, the bar is always crowded, so it’s a long wait to get what you want. Two, the price leans towards the higher side. I wouldn’t spend $12 on a margarita when I can go across the street to JJ Bootleggers and get it for $8.
Overall bar rating: 3.5/5
One thing I will say is that Cuba Libre is not the best place if you’re looking for somewhere to sit/stand and chat with your friends. This club, especially if you go on a Friday or Saturday night, is very centered on dancing. The music is loud, the lights are dark, and it’s usually too crowded to have a conversation with someone. On the plus side, it’s great if you’re looking for a night of dancing. Just make sure you go on a Saturday night – Friday nights tend to be a little more lowkey.
A final note is the location. It is pretty far from the epicenter of Philly nightlife. On one hand, it’s nice to take a trip to Old City if you’re not from around the area. There’s also JJ Bootleggers across the street and other bars/clubs that I sadly have not gotten to know yet. On the other hand, you’d have to take Septa, which may not be the best option if you’re going between 12AM and 2AM. Your other option is to take an Uber or Lyft, which can be as expensive as $70 for a trip. So far, I’ve been lucky enough to not get such an expensive Lyft, but don’t be surprised if it’s expensive to get one when everyone is leaving at the same time.
Overall, it’s nice to take a break from DJs attempting EDM or rap that no one can dance to. I like the dancing element, actually good music, and the fact that you don’t have to drink to have a good time. Like I’ve said so many times before, this place is all about the dancing.
Overall club rating: 5/5
P.S., if you go, say hi to Will and Marley for me!