State College Bar Bracket, Pt. 3: No Surprises, Please
The issue with a public seeding tends to be obvious: The higher seeds win out. The thing is, there’s a lot of passion when it comes to bars. People have an incredible amount of dedication to their favorites, and unordinary amounts of disdain for those they avoid. Early on, it may be difficult for an upset to occur.
With that in mind, the battle for downtown’s drunken soul rages on this week as we enter the Sweet Sixteen. This is where the matchups truly get tough, especially with only one upset in our whole bracket. Chrome’s promotion of the tournament in the bar paid off as it barely beat out the Brewery, arguably the toughest matchup of Round One. The Brewery’s denizens will surely not let that stop them from pounding ash trays like they’re water, though. Liberty Craft House had the distinct disadvantage of facing Cafe after its play-in match, but would probably survive far longer if this tournament was done in two years.
For now, though, we’ll go matchup-by-matchup and break it down. With excerpts from students and alumni about their favorite bars and why they should win, you can make an informed decision. We’ve also made signs for each bar, so you can print them at home and support your champion, and maybe just see them displayed at your favorite bar, too. You can download all of those here.
If you’ve already made up your mind and would like to go vote, the polls are open. Scroll to the bottom or click here to vote.
Café 210 West v. Chrome
Cafe: “As the premium outdoor drinking spot in State College, there’s no question that the atmosphere of Cafe 210 makes it the top bar of Happy Valley. There’s nothing quite like sippin’ a $2 tea on a warm, spring day once classes are done/when you’re an old alum back in town with nothing to do. The tradition of 55 Days is a Penn State staple for those spending their last couple months in the greatest place on earth. The bands are always energetic, the skillet fries are always hot, and the time always seems to fly by while you’re there (partly due to the less-than-stellar service, but hey, nothing’s perfect). Cafe is the GOAT and I can’t wait to share a Long Island pitcher with my children in about 30 years.”
— Dan Vecellio ’11
Chrome: “On Wednesday nights, Chrome plays genuinely good house and trance music. It may well be the only bar like that in State College. Half-off liquor drinks, TVs with soccer and basketball constantly on rotation, arguably the best cocktail list in State College, and a wide-open dance floor make Chrome the jewel of State College’s underrated bar list. Enjoy awesome wings, a good, smokeless electronic hookah, and a pineapple mojito at a booth or bar seat, and take in the intimate setting. Chrome has everything good about chill bars and clubs combined into one, but smaller and with a more limited beer list. Chrome fits a niche, sure, but it’s a great one, and one that appeals to far more people than realize it.”
— Noel Purcell ’15
Indigo v. Darkhorse
Indigo: “Indigo’s negatives are well-reported: long lines, sweaty interior, 20-minute waits for a drink, terrible patrons. But I’m here to praise Indigo, not bury it. There’s another side of Indigo that people don’t see: Indigo Before 11 p.m. Indigo Before 11 p.m. is like Penn State During A Break. The worst people are filtered out, and you have room to let your junk breathe. At Indigo Before 11 p.m., you can sit down at an honest-to-God table and shoot the shit with your pals. Did you even know that Indigo had tables? The drinks are dirt cheap (as they are everywhere in State College), service is solid, the music is often good if that’s your style, there’s no line, and sometimes there’s even no cover. Sure, you’re not getting the quality local beers of Zeno’s or great/disgusting/sugar-filled concoctions of Darkhorse (Tonto’s Demise is responsible for 60+ percent of missed classes by seniors campus-wide), but for drinking on the cheap while hiding in plain sight, Indigo Before 11 p.m. is tough to beat. Plus, by the time Indigo Before 11 p.m. turns into Indigo, you’ll be drunk enough to handle the Indigo experience and have a Real Good Time.”
— Evan Kalikow ’12
Darkhorse: “Wing night, $5 beer pitchers, Kinky Trivia, and Tonto’s. That’s my paragraph.”
— Meg Tan ’13
All-American Rathskeller v. Lion’s Den
Skeller: “Where else in State College can you get a Jack and Coke and a history lesson at the same time? The Skeller has been in the business for more than 80 years now, but like most fine wines and whiskeys, it only gets better with age. This is the bar where your parents drank at, and if you’re lucky, you may just find your their names or even your grandparents’ names scratched into its wood interior. Always providing a friendly and comfortable atmosphere, the Skeller is a State College staple that will never turn you away or show you a bad time.”
— Jon Deasy ’15
Den: “When you choose The Den for your weekend imbibing, if nothing else, you are guaranteed to leave it with a good story to tell. The drinks are cheap and strong, and its clientele knows it. They also know that they won’t be sitting down much at the Den, which is really one big dancefloor, so it’s always a high-energy environment. While The Den is an underdog in this race, think back to some of the hilarity you’ve seen there before voting.”
— Tim Gilbert ’15
Bill Pickle’s Tap Room v. Zeno’s
Pickle’s: “Although Pickle’s personality might be changing from just a place to hang out at to the new Greek bar in town, it still holds a special place in my heart. With a location right on Allen Street and much-improved food from The Corner Room, the experience can’t be beat for a sporting event or to just hang out at after class. Now Pickle’s has something else that make those of you from the ol’ country — or those who act like they are — feel right at home: Country Night. It can get pretty rowdy in there with all of that flannel, but it’s one of the best times in State College. Plus, there’s almost never a cover.”
— Ted Hozza ’15
Zeno’s: “Zeno’s was one the first bars to fully embrace the so-called craft beer revolution — certainly the first in Centre County — and it’s still the only place in town craft beer drinkers need to go. With a knowledgeable bar staff eager to provide the most experienced beer drinkers with their fix or introduce newly minted 21-year-olds to their first high-quality beer, there’s no better place to have a beer in State College. Zeno’s, and bars like it, allow those who wish to experience beautiful manmade art from all over the world to do so without leaving their own communities. To appreciate the craft is to exist in a state of timelessness. Lovers meet, world-altering ideas are spread, and lifelong friendships blossom from across the bar table, eyes locked, pint in hand.
— Kevin Horne ’14 JD ’17
Phyrst v. Kildare’s
Phyrst: “I’ve waxed poetic about the Phyrst on quite a few occasions already, so I’ll spare you my personal love letter to the best bar in town. Instead, I’ll appeal to your sense of logic by explaining what objectively sets the Phyrst apart from its competitors. The Irish basement bar is a staple of State College. The first thing that the Phyrst has going for it is live music, 365 nights a year – or at least however many of those nights they’re open for. And not only do they have music, but they have the best bar bands in town (from Maxwell Strait to Lowjack to My Hero Zero if that’s your thing) all week long. They have pool. They have a traditional game. They have a locally famous bartender staff known as the Phyrst Girls. They have charming intricacies like a working fire hydrant painted gold on the bar. They have glorious trays piled high with salty, deep-fried slices of potato, otherwise known as Ernie’s fries. The list goes on and on, but in short: The Phyrst is State College’s most prominent, recognizable, and highly-patronized bar for a reason.”
— Zach Berger ’14
Kildare’s: “Every single thing that you could want in a bar, you could get out of Kildare’s. It has awesome food, one of the largest beer menus in all of State College, and a wide array of liquor drinks. You can go and sit down at a table with a group of friends, or you could post up at the bar by yourself and get some work done with its free WiFi. There is live music from time to time, but when there isn’t, it tends to play some of the best music in town. Kildare’s has TVs all over the place, and the 10 p.m. to midnight happy hour every day of the week is insane, especially when you remember that it’s almost never at capacity and you can go whenever and get drinks pretty quickly. State College has a ton of great bars, but pound for pound, nothing is better than the Irish Pub on East College.”
— Bill DiFilippo ’14
Mad Mex v. Bar Bleu
Mad Mex: “If hot sauce and cheese make you happy, then so will Mad Mex. Contrary to popular belief, Mad Mex Monday is the worst day to go. Odds are, you probably won’t finish more than one, maybe two burritos. If you can, you probably won’t feel like waiting around for it while people push you to get to the bar. But, any other day of the week, you can get good Mexican food and basically the best margarita ever (if you pick strawberry). And, even better, happy hour conveniently ends at 6:30. Then, you can make it to another bar’s later happy hour and continue your night of cheap drinks.”
— Amanda Sterling ’15
Bar Bleu: “To understand Bar Bleu’s excellence is to appreciate three things: bar food, drink specials, and terrible sports teams. I’ll give you an example. Watching the New York Jets on Monday Night Football is pretty much the definition of an exercise in futility. As Gang Green melted down, I indulged in my fair share of pulled pork, seasoned fries, and fishbowls. By the time I was finished screaming at the TV, the Jets had lost 27-19 to the Chicago Bears. To its credit, Bar Bleu not only let me stay the full four quarters despite the rash of profanity I spewed at Geno Smith and co., it made a terrible game thoroughly enjoyable. Leather couches, hefty (and cheap) drinks, and comfort food make Bar Bleu a great place to chill, watch sports, or throw down. A true triple threat in a town filled with one-trick ponies.”
— Noel Purcell ’15
Shandygaff v. Primanti Bros
The Saloon v. Local Whiskey (The Second)
Saloon: “The Saloon will always hold a special place in my heart. While it wasn’t the greatest bar I went to at State College, it was the first. Almost exactly four years ago, I walked down those somewhat-grimy steps, had my cover paid by friends, and took my first sip of a Monkeyboy–a Bongwater Fishbowl with cherries in it that you could poke with a spear to alleviate conversational lulls. My world would never be the same. While I would soon move on to bigger and less-underground bars, The Saloon was always the first in my mind as to where me and my friends could go. “Let’s not go to Indigo, let’s go to the Saloon,” I would say, only to be shot down by friends. “Why would you want to pee in a gutter?” they’d ask. “Why wouldn’t you?” I’d reply, to which there was no real rebuttal. The Saloon may not be perfect, but it’s certainly got a Millenium Falcon vibe to it — it’s no Kildare’s or Enterprise, but it’ll make .5 past lightspeed and get you extremely drunk when you have to be. And that’s why it’s the best.”
— Charlie Lynch ’12