Early in the evening, a row of casually dressed guys sat at the bar guzzling 32-oz. black plastic mugs filled with cold beer while a group of girls worked the dance floor to the familiar beat of 1990s hip-hop, interspersed with retro '80s tunes.
But by 11:30 p.m., the three rooms in the clubhouse at the Summit Park apartment complex in Roxborough really began filling up with young people looking to get loose on a Friday night. Two guys walked up the stairs to the center room, where a friend greeted them with a welcoming hug. Out by the pool, a group of four sat around a white table and smoked while sharing some light conversation.
Most of the party-goers were young professionals or graduate students, and the Friday-night jam of about 200 people was a welcome change from the rigors of the work week. But it wasn't just any Friday night – it was, in fact, "Mug Night."
For a mere $2, attendees could buy oversized mugs at the door, and have them filled inside for a buck. The party was not open to the public, but any of the residents at Summit Park were permitted to invite as many friends as they wished.
"It's like an extension of college," said Samantha Edelman, 24, a resident who tended bar at the clubhouse, as she does on most monthly Mug Nights. "We're in the age range where we're not ready to grow up yet."
Summit Park, a Philadelphia social landmark dating back to the 1970s, still proves to be a great place for singles to meet. With its high concentration of Jewish residents and its nightly series of happy hours, parties and communal meals, young Jews have found the 540-unit apartment complex a great place to meet a significant other.
"People call it the 'Melrose Place' of Philadelphia," said Summit Park resident Rafie Braunstein, 23, referring to the 1990s prime-time TV drama showcasing the interactions among a group of oversexed Californians living in the same apartment complex.
The city's social scene, however, extends far beyond Summit Park. Whether it's classy Center City establishments, the wide range of bars in Olde City and Manayunk, the hangouts popular with the punk-rock hipsters in Northern Liberties or even the local dives in plenty of other neighborhoods, Philly offers much in the way of nightlife.
But what to do on the weekend is only one facet of life for today's single man or woman. How exactly does Philadelphia stack up against other American cities? Does its economy offer incentives? Is the cost of living a draw for young professionals?
In Forbes magazine's "Best Cities for Singles" report last year, Philadelphia came in 15th out of the 40 cities listed. The study concluded that "Philadelphia offers its singles the diverse nightlife and culture of a much larger metro, but with a tighter sense of community."
The ranking proved not too shabby: Philadelphia placed among the top 10 cities in nightlife, culture and size of the singles population. On the flip side, it fell short in the more practical categories, coming in 35th in job growth and 38th in cost of living.
According to Forbes, the best locale for an active single life in America is the area bounded by the two Colorado cities of Denver and Boulder. The report found that the locale has something for everyone, from hiking and climbing in the Rockies to a diverse nightlife, featuring everything from suave, high-priced bars to fraternity-style beer blasts with relaxed dress codes.
Austin, Texas, earned a top-ranking as well, coming in third for 2004. It was the top city for singles back in 2003.
"It's a laid-back city," said Hayley Wasser, 29, general campaign director for the Jewish Community Association of Austin. "People are comfortable in their own skin, which is great if you're looking for a partner."
Wasser, who runs the Jewish community's Young Adults Program, believes that the college town, and Texas state capital, is a good place to get hooked up.
"Austin's a dating city," she proclaimed. "If you're interested in meeting people and putting yourself out there, it is easy because it's such a young city."
Wasser admitted, however, that Austin has its limits. While it has a great dating scene, its Jewish dating scene leaves something to be desired.
"If you want to meet someone Jewish, it might be tough," she admitted. "It's a relatively small pool."
Back in Philly, which actually scored higher than Denver and Austin by finishing sixth in nightlife and fourth in culture, the city is fighting to improve its sluggish economic standing among the young.