Bar Wars: Cafe 210 vs. Mad Mex
It’s bar tour season! You know what that means: you need to pick that perfect list of bars for the big day! But there are SO MANY BARS here. How will you ever choose? Onward State decided to deliver our two cents with a series of posts entitled “Bar Wars” where we go to several bars downtown and rank them head-to-head to give you a feel for what bars will fit your bar tour needs. Take our reviews at your own risk — and remember to always stay away from “that stupid drink!”
This week’s competition is between the two most well-known outdoor patio bars in State College: Cafe 210 West and Mad Mex. Let’s be honest, when it’s 75 degrees and sunny outside, there are few things better than (legally) drinking outside. The two downtown establishments with the largest outdoor seating areas are Cafe 210 West and Mad Mex. Both of these places have large patios which are perfect for soaking in the sun and downing a few choice beverages. Let the battle begin.
Cafe is my favorite place in State College to grab a drink and people-watch. I’ve also been known to get some group work for school done here on occasion. The atmosphere during the day is incredibly chill, and you will [almost] always see someone you know hanging out.
Any given day regular tea pitchers are $6, with $6.75 flavored teas. If you enjoy liquor and you have not tried a Cafe tea yet: Get one. There is also an okay selection of bottled beers with the usual draft selections (they carry seasonal beers on draft, too, so keep a look out for your favorite seasonal brew!). Per usual, check out happy hour for half off drinks (Sat.-Thurs. 9-11pm, Fri. 6-8pm) and half-priced “starters” (Sun.-Thurs. 9-11pm).
Foodwise, I tend to cling to the buffalo chicken menu items…but only because buff chick is the best thing in the world. They have food specials every day, a crowd favorite being Monday’s $2.50 burger baskets!
The bouncers and bar tenders are generally very friendly, however, it is sometimes a bit difficult to get service while at a table (which results in many of its patrons running to the bar instead of ordering directly from a server).
The live music scene at Cafe is lively with the usual Penn State cover bands. The crowd will get a little rowdy when the bigger bands play (waddup My Hero Zero!), but I’ve never had a bad time watching a band at Cafe.
Mel’s Bonus Info: FRIED PICKLES. Seriously, though. Get them.
Ally’s Bonus Info: Sitting out on the front patio of Cafe is a people-watcher’s dream. Since it’s pretty much the place to be when the weather’s nice, you can essentially show up alone and find at least one person you know to sit and hang out with. Also, if you’re not hanging out outside with our favorite bouncer Pat, or inside with our favorite bartender Chris, you’re severely missing out.
Shawn’s Bonus Info: Two outdoor patios, daily specials, just enough greasy fried food to ease the crave without destroying vital organs and reasonable coverage that is always worth the entertainment within. Believe me, if I had the money, I would definitely participate in the 55 Days of Cafe.
Mondays at Mad Mex is a no-brainer. $5 Big Azz Margaritas and $5 AYCE “mini” burritos and outdoor seating with friends…gotta love it. But let’s analyze Mad Mex on a deeper level.
In general, the patio space is great. There are larger tables and an outdoor bar, which is one of the bigger perks of Mad Mex. It’s not good for people watching, but hey, I suppose if you don’t want to be shamed for drinking tequila at noon on a Tuesday, this could be a good thing!
Let’s talk Mad Mex drinks. Apart from Monday, if you don’t want to spend $6-$10 on a margarita, check out the other daily specials! You can get half-off all drafts from 4:30-6:30 each weekday, as well as $3 Big Azz Dos Equis all day every Sunday!
Food wise, if you don’t like Mexican food, you are stuck with wings — but for us Mexican lovers, this place is HEAVEN. From the Pickadippa to the chicken chimi to Kristy’s Big Sister’s Red Velvet Quesadilla there is something for everyone to enjoy. They also have plenty of vegetarian-friendly options!
The service here can be a bit iffy. We’ve had good and bad servers. I distinctly remember asking a waiter one time if it was mandatory to be a jerk to work at Mad Mex. He said yes. So there’s that.
There is no live music here, though at night they turn up the beats if you are trying to jam to some Top 40 hits!
Mel’s Bonus Info: If you aren’t trying to drink a margarita of any sort (or trying to inhale those extra 800+ empty calories that go along with said margarita), go a different route. Order a Cuervo Gold All ‘Round flight and share it with a friend or two. This bad boy will run you a mere $8 for three shots and it sure to guarantee you a good time. Don’t forget the salt and lime!
Ally’s Bonus Info: Chips and salsa are bottomless. And cost three dollars. And are bottomless. As in, you can literally eat them forever, for three meager dollars. This is especially helpful when you take Mel’s advice and order flights of tequila but might have forgotten to eat beforehand.
Shawn’s Bonus Info: I love tequila just as much as — probably even more than — the average college student, but I hate that I can only afford to drink it on Mondays. The margaritas are delicious and the meals are largely proportioned, but the pricing for margs is horrendous other days of the week. Since Mondays are also Mad Mex’s busiest nights, finding a space on the outdoor patio is virtually impossible. You would have to get there by 5: 00 p.m. on a Monday… and I’m either too busy with the upcoming week’s assignments or can’t find anyone to accompany me because they’re all too busy watching the new episode of Glee. Whatever.
If you did the math correctly, you should see that Cafe 210 has won this round of the outdoor patio Bar Wars. But don’t worry, Mad Mex, we still love you (just…mostly on Mondays).
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About the Author
Governor Tom Wolf officially enacted the Timothy J. Piazza Anti-Hazing Law, which will establish stronger penalties, new standards for enforcement and reporting, and a stratified system for assessing hazing offenses, Friday in Harrisburg.
State College has plenty of restaurants that always seem too far and too expensive — except when your parents are in town.
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