Copabanana is a Philadelphia classic for a reason—juicy burgers and greasy fries all washed down with a jumbo–sized margarita. Arguably the best place to get sloshed for under $10 on campus, the affectionately nicknamed 'Copa' has been a favorite of Penn students since its opening in 2004. While we are most acquainted with the University City location (where “getting a double” is a rite of passage), the OG Copabanana is actually located in the midst of bustling South Street. Opened in 1978, the restaurant/bar has been a nightlife spot for decades, attracting tourists and locals alike.
Both restaurants decked out in South Beach–inspired decor serve up their iconic drinks à la martini glass and shaker. Still, there are notable differences between the two locations. According to employees at the South Street location, the two are no longer under the same management. While both spots are beloved by their regulars, which reigns supreme? Copa South Street or Copa University City?
Copabanana University City
When to go: Happy Hour after your exam. Regardless of whether you failed it or aced it, you deserve a drink.
What to order: Copa offers specials every day to cater towards the broke college kid budget. While less potent than their margaritas, Copa’s half–price mojitos on Tuesday are just as delicious.
Who you'll see: Prepare to see anyone and everyone at this hotspot. From exes to TAs to former NSO friends, Copabanana is a melting pot of different social circles. You may even witness a rare Penn couple sighting, as this is a common first–date spot on campus. Later in the evening as students trickle out, the restaurant transforms into a local bar for West Philadelphia residents.
Why go: Divya Rao (W '19) can be spotted at Copa weekly. Whether it be during lunch, happy hour or dinner, she is there regularly catching up with friends. “It’s similar to the bar everyone hangs out at in How I Met your Mother. Everyone just chills and talks, so it’s easy to spend many hours there.” As a quintessential Penn locale, Copa is a meeting ground for friends old and new.
Copabanana South Street
When to go: A slow night on campus. While everyone else is stuck in Van Pelt, enjoy a study break downtown to forget (just for the night) about the midterm season blues. That being said, if your weekend plans fall through, you can easily rely on Copa South Street as a raucous alternative.
What to order: While this location has a smaller menu, the food should not be missed. Their “Famous Spanish Fries” are notably crispier and thinner than University City’s, but are still served up with sizzling onions and jalapenos.
Who you'll see: Celebrating its 40th birthday, Copa South Street draws in an older crowd that have frequented the restaurant for decades. Later in the evening, expect to see the occasional character to stumble in after a wild night out. “We should have our own reality TV show, it’s crazier than the Jersey Shore. It’s all in good fun though,” said Matt, one of the bartenders.
Why go: While Sule, a regular at Copa, prefers Hennessey to tequila, he still visits often for a taste of nostalgia. “I’ve been coming here since I was 19, and now I’m 53. This is home, and this is my corner bar. I come here because all my friends are here, friends I’ve known forever." You can't deny, the place has character.
Copa UCity might be the go–to pregame spot, but Copa South Street is the main event. From the vibrant atmosphere to lively staff, the original Copabanana is worth the trip downtown. Grab a seat (and a drink) at the bar and enjoy a small piece of Philadelphia's history.