Inked Out: Black Vulture Gallery

As I continue my journey checking out some of the coolest tattoo parlors in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and wherever the hell else I happen to see a shop that interests me, this month I find myself in the Fishtown area of Philadelphia. Once again, my wife and I were going to grab something to eat and we came across another tattoo shop. If you read this column every month, you must think my wife and I are fat slobs since I always find tattoo places when we’re going out to dinner. That just goes to show you that tattoo parlors are becoming like bodegas—one on every street corner.

Anyway, we walked by this shop on our way to dinner and I didn’t even realize it was a tattoo shop until my wife pointed out, “Oh, look! A tattoo parlor!” I was like, “Where?” From the looks of the storefront, I thought it was a restaurant. The sign on the awning said Black Vulture Gallery. So, it simply could’ve been an art gallery too. To this day, I wonder what made her think it was a tattoo parlor? Either way, I’m grateful that she pointed it out to me and grabbed my hand to drag me in to check this place out because it was fantastic! We only stopped in for a few minutes, which was all I needed to get as much info that I needed for this month’s column.

So, we walked into this waiting room that looked more like an art gallery than a tattoo shop. There was your typical portfolio on the wall with flash art, which I’m sure was just an homage to your typical tattoo parlor. Other than that portfolio on the wall, there was framed artwork all over the place. The wall to the left was filled and even the brick wall on the right was filled with paintings from front to back. At first, it was a bit overwhelming, but as I settled in, I got it. This was an art gallery setting, hence the name, Black Vulture Gallery, where you can also get tattooed. Oh, and by the way, they have live local music playing here regularly on Saturday nights. So, there was art, tattoos and music? This place is awesome!

Black Vulture Gallery was pretty busy the night we stopped in, but we briefly had a chance to meet a guy named Hoode, who I later learned was the shop owner and an extremely nice guy. We also spoke to an artist named Rachel Shelly. Rachel and Hoode were two of seven artists that tattoo at the Black Vulture, but the night we were there, it seemed only four artists were diligently attending to their clientele. The other five artists include a dude name Bird Reynolds (love that name!), Shlak, Chad Knight, Sean Rhodes and Dave Moyer. After looking at all of their portfolios, this is a talented crew Hoode has put together.

The location was a spacious one that was immaculately clean, which is what I like to see when I first walk into a tattoo shop. All of the tattoo stations were more toward the back of the shop, but there is enough room so that no one is on top of each other. Hoode told me he only opened the shop back in 2010 and all of his artists are local and extremely versatile. If a client can bring it in, they can tattoo it. He confidently said that they were a very experienced shop and can pretty much handle anything brought their way. I was pretty impressed scrolling through each one of their portfolios. The lines and the colors they used were pretty amazing. You can tell these guys were true artists.

Rachel was telling us that the shop does welcome walk-ins and will take them if they can, but the shop has been pretty busy lately, so appointments are preferred. You won’t find any minors at Black Vulture because the shop abides by all state guidelines, which includes sterilization of their machines and needles. When I asked Rachel about the local bands they have in there, she told me they usually have local unsigned bands come in on a Saturday of their choosing, they set up in the back since there’s so much space, and they perform for anyone who wants to come in. She went on to say that so far, it’s been a pretty fun time.

Like I said earlier, I was virtually in and out of the Black Vulture because they seemed pretty busy. I never got to ask about prices, but when you see the artwork posted with this column, you’ll realize that any price is worth getting tattooed by one of these artists. If you’re ever in the Fishtown area of Philadelphia, I highly recommend stopping in at the Black Vulture Gallery just to check it out at the very least. They are located at 208 East Girard Avenue in Philly. They are open Monday through Saturday 12 p.m. until 9 p.m. and closed on Sundays. If you wish to call the shop to make an appointment or for a phone consultation, you can call them at (215) 423-3666 or check them out online at, where you can also find out their band schedule. I still think it’s totally awesome that there’s a tattoo shop that has bands performing in their back room on the weekends. Their neighbors must love them!

Well, I’m off to check out my next tattoo spot! Who knows what state it will be in! If you have a tattoo shop that you want to suggest, please e-mail me the name of the place and whom I should ask for at