By: Kristin Hunt
Credit: Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui
There are all kinds of things you miss after you leave your college for the real world. The outrageously cruel chants you yelled at rivals on game day. The sunny afternoons spent lying on the quad, forgetting all about that term paper you had due the next day. The house parties you and your roomies threw that got shut down by the police. But most of all, you miss spending several (maybe even seven) nights a week at these magical college bars. These are the kind of places with dirt-cheap drink deals, sticky booths, and time-honored traditions that you called home for collegiate years. They may not be pretty, but they probably had an excellent karaoke night. Or at the very least, a shot wheel. Get ready to cry into your prized alma mater sweatshirt in three, two, one.
In the A&M community, your college ring isn’t truly “blessed” unless it’s been through the Aggie Dunk. That involves ordering a 32oz mug off Dixie Chicken’s taps, bathing your ring in that beer, and then chugging the glass for good measure. It’s the kind of bar ritual only a college mainstay like Dixie Chicken has going for it, even if it was born out of accident.
University of Wisconsin
The Plaza Tavern
Some campuses are saddled with just one or two ho-hum bar options. UW is not one of those places. Madison is home to all kinds of bars and while some people will tell you to hit up Kollege Klub or Wando’s or Vintage, we’re sticking to our guns with The Plaza. That’s still in large part due to its famous Plazaburger, a quarter-pounder with a secret sauce that remains a delicious enigma. But the pinball machine, pool table, jukebox, and air hockey certainly don’t hurt.
William Paterson University
The Shepherd & the Knucklehead
Considering most college kids aren’t so much concerned with beer quality as they are with housing as many Natty Lights as they can, college bars don’t need to worry about an interesting and varied beer program. But The Shepherd & the Knucklehead wants those poor youths to know there’s a world beyond light lager, and it aims to educate with 90 beers on tap. That includes selections from 21st Amendment, Rogue, Anchor, Founders, Dogfish Head, Oskar Blues, and many other excellent breweries you wouldn’t expect coeds to drink. On the liquor side of things, there’s a whiskey list with Macallan 18 Year. Damn. These William Paterson kids are spoiled rotten.
University of Texas-Austin
Cain & Abel’s
The name would imply this bar is home to a UT-Austin chapter of Fight Club, but when you’ve got $1 beers every Tuesday, it’s all brotherly love. Cain & Abel’s is best known for its Texas Teas (a riff on the Long Island) and H-Bombs (Hideous liqueur and Red Bull). They’re frequently on special, and frequently the cause of regret the next morning.
University of Virginia
Yes, this bar is in a basement, and yes, the bathrooms will scare you. But you’re not going to Coupe’s for gleaming sinks – you’re going there to drink on the back patio (excuse us, garden terrace) with the rest of the UVA student body. Specifically, you’re drinking the famed F*****’ F***, a mixture of lemon vodka, peach schnapps, Malibu, cranberry juice, and sour mix. By round three, you’ll be saying its name an awful lot.
Larry has a lot to be proud of. His live music lineup is consistently rocking, the patio is ideal for soaking up summer beers, and the Two for Tuesday deal on Larry Burgers has without a doubt made many poor college students’ nights. Also, Aaron Carter performed there last August. If that isn’t an achievement, we don’t know what is.
Credit: Flickr/Dave Dugdale
University of Colorado Boulder
The Sink has been “on the hill” since 1923, but for nonagenarian, it sure knows how to have fun. The low ceiling is covered in the names and deep thoughts of so many UC Boulder students – students who love the Texas Onion Straw Burger and Buff Mac just as much as they love the $2 well specials. We could also mention Guy Fieri’s visit on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but we’d rather talk about the time the president just had to have his Sink fix.
University of Florida
This is the place that’s always packed on game day, and considering the walls of Gators memorabilia, spacious front patio, and, oh right, beer buckets, it’s easy to see why. The Swamp was originally a UF professor’s home, but after a fire nearly took it out in ‘93, it was revamped to serve as a student and alumni watering hole. On top of the requisite pitchers of Bud and Rolling Rock, the bar serves “Swampritas,” a rum-spiked “Swamp Juice,” and a Bloody Mary garnished with a mini burger. Clearly, it’s a Gainesville landmark for a reason.
Olde Queens Tavern
Olde Queens has been a haven for the Scarlet Knights since 1933, even on snow days. Like any good college bar, it has a whole slew of specials (i.e., the $3.50 “shot wheel” on Mondays) and goes the extra mile by giving away a pair of Yankees tickets each week. It also has its own food truck, The Outslider, which pumps out gourmet sliders to soak up those shots.
University of Pittsburgh
When a place is named after Papa Hemingway, you can bet it knows a thing or two about booze. But lest you had any doubts, this Pitt institution has 42 rotating taps, gummy worm shot pitchers, and spiked root beer floats in Mason jars. Hell, it even celebrates Negroni Week. Ernest would definitely approve of that menu, as well as the congregation of merry college kids burning down the house.
Penn State University
Picking the best bar at PSU is not an easy task, but our sources recommend this Irish pub. You’re not going in for heaps of Guinness, but rather, a few of the bar’s 200+ whiskeys, which include Irish hooch as well as Kentucky bourbons and Scotch. It’s also got 12 beers on tap and 70 in bottles if you’d rather stick to suds. Plus, there’s the late-night kitchen, which pumps out cheesesteak egg rolls and SC’s best Reuben.
Casey Moore’s Oyster House
Even though it’s totally haunted, Casey Moore’s is a popular destination for ASU students. They’re less into the oysters than they are into the daily beer specials and outdoor seating, but the seafood is there should anyone actually decide to class up the evening. The ghosts are also there, should they decide to test-drive their new Ouija boards.
Credit: Flickr/Matt Howry
Don’t be alarmed by the maniacal grin on that guy in the sign. It’s just Joe, and he probably looks like that because he dipped into EJ’s always $2.50 well drinks. The bar/restaurant/clothing shop has been an integral part of OSU since it first opened its doors in 1975 – the proof is in the annual anniversary bash, which is so big, it regularly spills into the streets. Stillwater’s “jumpin’ little juke joint” also has a long history of live music. Acoustic nights are every Wednesday, but if you’re more into the electric scene, you can catch those acts on the weekends.
University of Alabama
The Houndstooth Sports Bar
The Houndstooth wants to make sure you’re plugged into the Big Al action at all times. It’s got 36 flat-screens inside, four outside, a 120in projection TV, and even screens in the bathrooms. Obviously, this is a great spot to be on game day if you can’t be in Bryant-Denny, but it also finds ways to entertain the undergrads on the offseason. Namely, through trivia, bingo, pool, and the general mayhem thirsty college students bring.
The general stickiness, smelliness, and lack of windows is what earned this BC bar the nickname Scary Ann’s, but it’s meant as a term of endearment. While students have their pick of Hoop Fever, Big Buck Hunter, and Photo Hunt, the best entertainment is watching your friend scream Journey lyrics after too many $1.50 Busch Lights.
University of Kansas
The Wagon Wheel
Founded in 1955, The Wagon Wheel was serving beer, pizza, and “Wang Burgers” (stop laughing!) long before Old Crow Medicine Show co-opted the name. Undergrads and alums alike cluster around the flat-screens on game day to yell obscenities at the Longhorns. After the score is settled, they’ll stick around to flood the jukebox, dance on tables, and order that pizza (served basically 'til closing) or Wang Burger (supposedly named for a frat brother, Wanger) we mentioned.
University of Nebraska
If you’ve never seen one of these in the wild, did you even go to college? You definitely didn’t go to Duffy’s, which raises the bar on the undergrad Saturday night go-to by boasting 29 different fishbowls. Those are $14 during Monday happy hour, but the best special might be Tuesday’s $1 tallboys. Mostly because it’s called Dad’s Beer Night.
The case for Crunchy’s can be laid out in six essential points. One: every visitor has carved his/her name into a table… or wall. Two: the burgers are so cheap and delicious, they may just lure you away from that “class” you need for your “major.” Three: the gigantic sheets and/or nuggets of pizza. It has those. Four: karaoke. It has that, too. Five: the beer selection is actually pretty solid for a college bar. Six: it will put said beer in a mop bucket for you. And everyone knows beer is best enjoyed in a trough-like situation.
Don’t expect shot specials or wild DJ nights: Shenanigans isn’t a typical college bar. Instead, the ramshackle, bright blue spot has that well-worn, well-loved feeling of an English pub, which is exactly what happens when, for the majority of its existence, a bar is the only spot to order a beer in a town isolated on a plateau. That means, on any given Tuesday night, you have a very high chance of seeing a gaggle of students in bow ties and sundresses, each holding their own pitcher, chatting with the 5-year-old kid of their professor, who is eating spicy turkey melts with his family at the next table. That you’re more likely to see that than find any student who hasn’t spent two-thirds of their senior year sitting on the front steps or complaining about how it’s too cold to sit on the front steps, maybe just makes it the most college of bars possible. Barn-like appearance and all.
Credit: Flickr/Sherry J. Ezhuthachan
Top of the Stairs
This Virginia Tech destination is popularly known as TOTS, and you’ll probably want to house 75 of those after a long night of boozing at the Top of the Stairs. Ordering the “Rail” is a requisite, as is belting your best Bon Jovi at Tuesday night karaoke. If it gets too crowded in the main bar area (and it will), you can head down the wrap-around porch to the outside area. There you can play cornhole and hit up the bonus bar for more of those Rails.
Leave it to NOLA to spawn the college bar that puts so many others to shame. Oh, you stay open until 2am? The Boot sometimes goes 'til 6am. You love your $2 shot specials? The Boot gives them out for 50 cents on Tuesdays. We could also talk about the pizza and waffle fries, but in the interest of saving the other guys some face, we’ll just say it’s an excellent place that K-Fed(??!!) occasionally DJs at.
The name of this Hoya haven doesn’t refer to where grads wish they could bury embarrassing Saturday nights. Instead, it references the T.S. Eliot poem “Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town.” That’s a pretty esoteric origin for a college bar, but this is Georgetown. Probably the most famous program at The Tombs is the 99 Day Club, wherein seniors attempt to visit the place daily in the 99-day lead-up to graduation. Some have failed, but many have succeeded. The late-night menu of beer-cheese fries, nachos, and pork buns probably has something to do with that.
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Rick’s American Cafe
Of all the gin joints in Ann Arbor, Rick’s is the one most beloved by UM students. Only they’re not really searching for war-torn soul mates, or even drinking gin – unless it’s splashed in the potent house drink, the Mind Probe. While bands like the Pixies played there in the '80s, today it’s a massive DJ-run dance party. Who knows? You might actually run into your soul mate mid-Humpty Dance.
The fight for best SU bar has always come down to two contenders: Chuck’s or Faegan’s. While Chuck’s was making the stronger play for years, new management has turned it into a shell of its former self. So there really isn’t a debate anymore: Faegan’s is king. The place is home to two particularly great deals: Beer Tour and Flip Night. Beer Tour involves punching your way through a sudsy “passport” featuring beers of all types and origins. It’s on Tuesdays and if you finish before graduating, you get your name on a plaque on the wall. Flip Night is Wednesdays, and the rules are simple. Tell the bartender your order, then call heads or tails. He’ll flip a coin, and if you are wrong, you pay up. If you are right, your beer is free. Reckless gambling has never been so appealing.
University of Georgia
When a bar is named after NOLA’s infamous road, you can expect plenty of debauchery. But add in a bunch of tireless Georgia college students and you get scenes like the one above. Don’t be alarmed if you bump into a grown man in full jester regalia as you’re collecting your $3 pitcher. He’s supposed to be there.
University of Oregon
After Oregon students have dropped a depressing amount of cash on biology tomes at the campus bookstore, they can walk down the block to Rennie’s for a pick-me-up. The bar has a sampling of Northwest craft brews on tap, as well as the house favorite Rennie’s Lemonade if you’re into stiffer stuff. Also, if you miss out on the Saturday night mob scene, don’t sweat it. You can amble over on Sunday afternoon for a Bloody Mary and breakfast burrito.
Credit: Flickr/David Ellis
Harry’s Chocolate Shop
You won’t find a single bon-bon at Harry’s Chocolate Shop, but you will find throngs of undergrads on any given night. The former soda fountain is now the Purdue bar to beat; it’s so beloved by students, Harry’s frequently sells out of bourbon bottles (think Woodford Reserve and Four Roses) bearing its custom labels. If you’re at the bar, though, it has some truly lethal mixed drinks, like the Baltimore Zoo, a Long Island that subs the sour mix and Coke for beer and Sprite. As Harry’s would say, “Go Ugly Early.”
University of North Carolina
He’s Not Here
You won’t always see sleepy puppies at this Tar Heel hotspot, but you will see those blue cups. On Tuesdays, the trademark 32oz sippers are $5. But that’s not the only thing He’s Not Here has going for it. There’s weekly karaoke, trivia, and live music – plus the proud senior bar golf tradition. In this UNC bar crawl, soon-to-be-grads put on their preppy finest and earn a golf score based on which drinks they order at the bars on the list. He’s Not Here is usually the closer, and if you want that eagle, you’ll have to spring for Champagne.
Kilroy’s on Kirkwood
At Kilroy’s the amenities are insane. Stuffed breadsticks, outdoor patios, free T-shirts, and consistent drink deals (hey, $1 wells!) are just a few of the perks that keep the Hoosiers coming back semester after semester. Even if they should be spending part of those semesters studying for mid-terms, shot wheels will always be more interesting.
University of Southern California
901 Bar & Grill
The Galen Center is a 10-minute walk from the “Nine O,” as the kids call it, but if you start game day here, you might never make it to the arena. There’s a sweeping 25% off deal on food and drinks for any USC student from 11am 'til 4pm and nine 50in plasma screens displaying the Trojans at every possible opportunity. The two-for-one happy hour is also pretty choice, so you might as well save the money you would’ve spent on a ticket and blow it instead on the Nine O’s wings and whiskey.
University of Central Florida
Plenty of places joke about packing in the entire student body, but Knight Library could probably do it. This utterly massive space rolls three whole bars, a fleet of flat-screens and projectors, an enormous dance floor, and a patio for cornhole and beer pong into one seriously fun “library.” Regulars can sign up for library cards to get comped covers and cash back, although you probably don’t need them, considering the never-ending weekly specials often offer free booze.
University of South Carolina
As one eloquent Foursquare user put it, “Dollar liquor Mondays has talent.” And why wouldn’t it, considering the talent is paying a single dollar for liquor. You can enjoy that $1 booze out on the enormous patio, where you might also catch a live show. Or just hang inside and discuss the ethics of Ivan Pavlov’s conditioning experiments with your fellow patrons, because that’s definitely what everyone is talking about.
War Eagle Supper Club
We had to include this Auburn landmark for several reasons. One is the nearly 80 years it’s spent serving generations of coeds. Another is the graffitied “shot bus” out back. Another is the actually functional Supper Club Bus, which will give you a ride to and from the bar. But the most important reason is this might be our last chance to honor the War Eagle. It’s closing its doors this coming New Year’s Day, and while owner John Brandt is hoping to relocate, nothing’s set in stone. Make sure to soar extra high at the War Eagle this semester, kids.
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