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What’s in a Name: The Bars of State College

Have you ever wondered how our local bars get their names? If you share the same curiosity as I do, check out the history of some of State College’s classic bar names.

The Rathskeller‘s name comes from the German word meaning “a beer hall or restaurant in a basement.” Opening just three days after prohibition was repealed, this iconic State College bar became the fourth oldest licensed bar in Pennsylvania as of November 9, 1933. It was originally named the “Rathskeller and Gardens” but a year later, it was changed by founder “Pop” Flood into the “All American Rathskeller.” Here’s a little more history on the Skeller.

Zeno’s is named after founder Zeno Papadopoulos, who established the bar with his brother, Chris, in 1972.

The Deli & Z-Bar is the first of several bars on this list owned by the umbrella Dante’s Restaurants and Nightlife group. Andrew Zangrilli first bought and reopened the former Nittany Lodge as the Deli in 1973, which blended a “Jewish Style Deli with a traditional American kitchen.” The Z-Bar presumably gets it’s name from the first initial of Zangrilli’s last name.

The Saloon is another bar founded by Dante’s Restaurants in 1976. The name itself goes hand in hand with the bar’s atmosphere as a “turn-of-the-century English Pub.” However, I’m still investigating where the roots of the name “Monkey Boy” comes from.

The G-Man was formerly a chain of restaurants found all around Pennsylvania in the 80’s and 90’s. The franchise has since been discontinued, but a hand full of G-Men still remain and are operated independently. At one point, G-Man was even named as one of Playboy’s Top 100 College Bars.

Cafe 210 West is named after its address (210 West College Ave). Just figured I’d point that out to anyone who didn’t get it.

Levels is another fairly self-explanatory name. The layout consists of four dance floors and two stages, all of which on different (excuse me for the redundancy) levels. For all of you old-heads reading, this bar has been formerly called the Crow Bar, Cell Block, and the Mezzanine. Prior to being a revolving door for nightclubs, the venue once housed a successful railroad-themed restaurant called “The Train Station” dating back to the early 1970’s.

Inferno, which is owned by Dante’s Restaurants, is an allusion to the 14th century Italian poem by Dante Alighieri.

Indigo was a semi-random name suggestion from their interior designer when the club was renovated. Regardless of its origin, the name has stuck ever since and is also known as “Indibro” by Penn State’s GDI community.

Bill Pickle’s Tap Room is named after State College legend, Bill Pickle, who is probably one of the most interesting characters in State College history. According to a story told by Dr. Frank Buchman in 1948, Bill Pickle was living two lives. By day, he was a hostler (stableman) and a family man with a wife and 12 children. By night, he was the primary liqueur peddler for Penn State students during a time when bars were outlawed by the state. He became a local icon among students and alumni alike, especially at football games and local festivals. After years of assisting Penn Staters in their quest to get drunk, Bill admitted that he wanted to change his lifestyle and eventually became a born-again Christian who gave up his vices like drinking and smoking.

Kildare’s in State College is part of a chain of six restaurants located in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Ohio. Kildare is the name of a town and a county in Ireland.

Lion’s Den is a pun stemming from our beloved mascot, the Nittany Lion.

Bar Bleu was formerly called “Beulah’s BBQ & bar bleu,” but shortened its name in 2009 for convenience.

Mad Mex is another chain on the list with locations in both the Greater Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas.  This restaurant’s “Funky Fresh Cal Mex” atmosphere is where the name originates from.

Shandygaff essentially means “beer mixed with a non-alcoholic drink, usually ginger beer, ginger ale, or lemonade.”

The Phyrst got it’s name from former owner and Penn State alumnus, Donald Bartoletti. After Don founded the bar in 1966, he reached out to Ernie Oelbermann to be his business partner. The two partners eventually agreed on naming the bar “the Phyrst” because Don told Ernie that it was going to be “the first of many” bars the dynamic duo would own.  The unique spelling was an attempt to make the name seem more authentically Irish. Don passed away from cancer in 1975 when he was just 31.

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About the Author

Leo Dillinger

Penn State Junior, Print Journalism Major, Minors in English and Sociology, Writer of Arts, Entertainment, News, Tomfoolery and Opinion.

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