OS Power Rankings: Downtown Outdoor Drinking Spots
Is there anything better than enjoying a drink outside? When we emerge from the seemingly endless State College winter, our desires change. The outdoors we’ve been religiously avoiding for fear of frostbite become the only place we want to be, and we push what “shorts weather” really means to its greatest extreme. Our porches and backyards become the sites of debauchery they were meant to be, and we embrace the fact that when the weather is warm, State College is just about perfect. Naturally, when you have but a few scant weeks left, you’ll want to take advantage of that weather with a beer in your hand. We’ve power ranked the bars with outdoor seating, so you can make an informed decision about where to black out before it’s dark out.
1. Café 210 West
Yes, the service sucks. Yes, the food is hit-or-miss. Yes, the beer selection is lacking. Yes, fucking My Hero Zero plays there every Friday. However, there’s a reason it’s packed by 1 p.m. every time there’s half a ray of sunshine. Café offers not only the most outdoor seating space, with the famous front patio and less-heralded back end, but the perfect drink special for outdoor drinking. Pitcher upon pitcher of borderline-saccharine, artificially flavored teas at a small plastic table have been the setting to many people’s best college memories. You can ignore the negatives, because they’re overshadowed by the fact that a 75 degree day with your friends on the patio, splitting a thing of skillet fries, and downing a Miami Beach is arguably the best drinking experience in State College.
2. Mad Mex
Mad Mex’s patio is by far the coolest individual outdoor drinking spot, with table service and a full bar all stationed at the ready. It has solid food (the burritos suck, but that Monday deal is too good of a deal to hold it against them), an extensive beer and tequila list, and it doesn’t get quite as busy as Café. You can even retreat downstairs if you’re starting to get sunburnt. The crown jewel, however, is the Big Azz Margarita. Few drinks transport you to a drunken paradise of your own creation quite like the ice and tequila concoctions they mix up. It’s a chain, sure, but it provides a near-ideal environment to celebrate not being trapped indoors.
3. Liberty Craft House
The newcomer on the scene, Liberty has taken State College by storm in the few months it has been open. With an absurdly deep beer and liquor list and some excellent food, Liberty’s total package is phenomenal. Now, it’s added outdoor seating for the warm weather. While the space is limited on the College Avenue sidewalk, the big tables and an area for people-watching firmly place it in the upper echelon of outdoor areas. Drinking a dark and stormy while it’s bright and sunny, or tossing back some Weyerbacher at 1 p.m., is an offer pretty much unique to Liberty.
There are a lot of places on this list that are perfect for a relaxing, chill, springtime drinking experience. The Lion’s Den is not one of those places. No matter what night of the week you go to the Den, the patio is sure to be extremely crowded and uncomfortable to sit down at. The Den is a nightclub chock full of debauchery and rowdiness. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Kildare’s is a bit of a hike for everyone who isn’t stuck living in the Meridian at age 21, but it’s worth the trip. It offers the chance to watch some Premier League soccer while sitting outside and enjoying a Guinness, which makes you feel like a huge eurosnob but is awesome nonetheless. Their BFG wings are wonderful, and all flavors are all-you-can-eat on Mondays, which pairs well with sitting outside, getting absolutely blasted, and ignoring your classes. All the faux-Irish kitsch aside, if the space available was bigger it could contend or a top spot.
For a more relaxed and laid-back outdoor drinking experience, Z-Bar and/or The Deli is a great choice any day of the week. There isn’t much outdoor space, but you can enjoy an incredible selection of beer and some very solid bar food in that limited area. Located on Hiester, it’s a quieter experience than Cafe or Liberty, but the craft beer makes up for that. I wouldn’t spend my night at the Z-Bar, but for some lunchtime brews between class and a sit-down meal, you can’t go wrong.
They have good chairs, decent food, limited space, and mediocre drink specials. Inferno’s kinda the one bar in State College nobody ever seems to go to, at least not as their focus of the evening. It’s not bad, per se, but it doesn’t have a ton going for it. Enjoying a pizza and a beer outside is always nice, and again, probably the most comfortable outdoor seating in the area, but I can bring a soda can filled with Hell or High Watermelon to Canyon Pizza and get a similar result.
Honorable Mention: Local Whiskey
Local Whiskey is one of the best laid-back bars in State College, with a great food menu and (obviously) plenty of good whiskey. If it had a real outdoor area it’d probably compete for the top-three. Unfortunately, it only has a small metal table with a couple of stools. As such, we felt it’d be unfair to rank it, but if you can snag one of those couple of seats it’s a great experience.
We hope we could give you a more educated drinking decision next time you decide to booze on a sunlit afternoon downtown, and remember that no matter where you go, drinking outside is better than drinking pretty much anywhere else. Except the Phyrst.