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about 2 months ago

Hookah Wars: Chrome vs. Chronic Town

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Ever since Chronic Town reopened in April 2010, it stood unopposed as the most popular hookah bar in State College. Now that Chrome has become a fairly prominent competitor in the nightlife scene, it is only natural for somebody to juxtapose the two and highlight the exclusive features that stand out in both hookah hot spots. These features have been divided into six categories: hours, aesthetics, music, food/drink, smoking experience, and price.

Hours: At Chronic Town, doors are open from noon to midnight Sunday to Thursday and noon to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Chrome usually operates on bar time: They are open from Tuesday to Saturday between 8 p.m. and 2 a.m. However, one thing about Chrome to take advantage of is that it will open early to broadcast big soccer matches.

Aesthetics: As you walk down the stairs into the basement that is Chronic Town, you become possessed by the dimly lit atmosphere, surrounded by carpets and pillows on elevated platforms, wooden booths and benches, and walls of vinyl records ranging in all genres. With a number of pinball machines and a mini head shop, this hookah bar acts like an underground dojo for postmodern beatniks. A red glow looms around the perimeter of the lounge, which gives the smoker a sense of calm.

Chrome has a nightclub layout from the lighting to the furniture. A U-shaped bar sits on one side of the room facing a cluster of tables, booths, and high tops. There is a small DJ booth in the corner and flat screens, which on the night I went, was playing basketball. This spot has a much more lively energy about it compared to the mellow mood at Chronic Town.

Music: While at Chronic Town, the music playing was a blend of artists like Lorde, Major Lazer, and Matt & Kim, many of the songs have relaxing and melodic sounds that fit the mood. The racks of vinyl around you reassure that you are in the company of a staff with eclectic taste.

Chrome’s music repertoire catered to the EDM and hip hop music playing throughout my visit. There was a small open space that served as a dance floor where one group was celebrating a birthday. The music can get loud at times making it hard to carry a conversation, but it’s a drinking environment worth noting, and the rap music varied from Kanye West to D4L.

Food/Drink: Although Chronic Town sells bowls of cereal, they are more like a coffee shop than an eatery, with drink options like tea, coffee, espresso, and even Coca Cola in glass bottles. However, outside of that, there’s nothing. Chronic Town is about the hookah.

Chrome’s main appeal lies in its liquor license. It has a wide selection of beer and liquor, has daily drink specials, and has a happy hour every night. The bar also offers a variety of finger foods like bruschetta, crostini, hummus, and more. There’s no contest in this category, as Chrome is clearly superior.

Smoking: Chronic Town’s “California Dream” kept its flavor throughout the entire session. The luxury of having two hoses made it convenient to smoke at your own leisure instead of waiting for the hose to be passed when with a friend. After getting a second coal, the hookah lasted over an hour. It was also much smoother than Chrome’s hookah.

At Chrome, you could only get one hose, which initially disappointed me. Two interesting features that I did like about Chrome were the three coals and a set of tongs you are given when you first get your hookah and the slit in the tables that holds the body in place to avoid knocking it over. The rose flavor was very tasty but the smoke got harsh as the flavor began to disappear.

Price: In the battle over price, Chronic Town wins by a long shot. Two hoses at Chronic town was still cheaper than one hose at Chrome. Hookah with two hoses cost $13.50 at Chronic Town, while hookah at Chrome costs $15 but the price goes up to $25 on Friday and Saturday.

Conclusion: Both these hookah bars have very unique features. While Chronic Town is a place to kick your shoes off and unwind, Chrome is a nightclub by nature that offers hookah on the side. So when it comes down to which place is the better hookah bar, Chronic Town wins in terms of their focus on “hookah”, but Chrome wins with an emphasis on the word “bar.”

image Dave Cole
Downtown - Located in Centre County, Pennsylvania, State College is a college town heavily influenced by the campus life of Penn State University and have gained the nickname "Happy Valley" for its resilience during the Great Depression. They say there's something magical about the Nittany Valley, where time just seems to stand still. Read more