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Power Ranking State College Bars’ Pandemic-Era Food

With the fall semester (mostly) back in full swing, many Penn Staters found themselves returning to a downtown scene vastly different from what they remembered.

Under current state guidelines, bars and restaurants are now required to serve food alongside alcohol amid the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Tom Wolf’s administration believes doing so could help reduce crowds and slow the virus’ spread.

Many State College bars managed to come up with new options to pair with your socially distanced drink. Obviously, we’re experiencing a pandemic and positive cases on campus are on the rise, so if you do choose to go to a bar, follow all of the ordinances, wear a mask, and practice social distancing.

On that note, we set out to rank the best bar foods in both affordability and taste.

6. Anything At Mad Mex

Mad Mex comes in at dead last in this highly opinionated power ranking regardless of what you choose to order on the menu. No matter what the food actually tastes (and that’s just okay), they make you order an entire entree along with your drink instead of just something small like chips and salsa.

With food that’s already pretty pricey, going in for one (1) margarita will leave you with a tab that’s at least $20. Those margs are good, but not that good.

Affordability: -2/10

Taste: 4/10

Overall: Would not go, still mad about it.

5. $1 Midnight Glizzys At Champs

As a college student, I love a good deal, and there’s not a deal that’s much better than Champs’ $1 hot dog. I can appreciate the fact that they’re only available at midnight, too, because for some reason it makes me feel like I’ve just won a prize of some sort.

However, despite the fact that economically this deal is second to none, the hot dog itself isn’t that great. For one singular dollar, I didn’t expect it to be the epitome of fine dining, but the dog itself is a little too skinny for my taste and the bun was slightly stale. In a pinch, though, this was an A1 idea by the brains behind the Champs’ operation.

Affordability: 10/10

Taste: 5/10

Overall: I’d buy again, and my bank account would thank me.

4. Anything At Cafe 210 West

There are not many things better in this world than enjoying a Cafe pitcher under the sun, especially when it’s Happy Hour. What’s great about Cafe is that it’s basically an extremely low-key 21+ version of a daylong, and the prices aren’t all that bad on a regular day.

Unfortunately (at least in my opinion), Cafe didn’t add any new fun food options that would comply with the ordinance, and it doesn’t count if you split any of the food they already have with your friends. The skillet fries and quesadillas are always winners, but it would be nice if I didn’t have to eat it all myself.

Affordability: 6/10

Taste: 7/10

Overall: I don’t need a LineLeap reservation, so I will go regardless.

3. Flatbread At Jax

There are two kinds of flatbreads at Jax: the Margherita and the chicken bacon ranch. They both are pretty good for bar food, although they could be a little bigger. But what makes them great is the fact that they’re $5 each and can be split between three people.

Now, I’m not great with math, but even I can tell that that’s a great deal. There are also trivia nights throughout the week that have ~super~ fun prizes.

Affordability: 9/10

Taste: 8/10

Overall: I love trivia games, and I definitely don’t need an entire flatbread to myself, so this is a steal.

2. Suzie Wong Egg Roll At Champs

I really need to respect the lengths Champs has gone to when it comes to creating affordable food choices in the middle of a pandemic. I was very apprehensive when I ordered an egg roll, but it was only $3, so I figured I didn’t have a lot to lose.

Fortunately, these egg rolls are top tier. They’re a little greasy, especially on the inside, but they’re a decent size and pretty damn tasty. It’s pretty cool that Champs is choosing to support a local business, especially one whose food is still good when you’re sober.

Affordability: 9/10

Taste: 10/10

Overall: The only reason I’m not giving this delicacy the coveted No. 1 spot in the ranking is because my next choice is a bit of an OS tradition.

1. The Gaff Dog

Coming in at the No. 1 is the Gaff Dog, which can obviously be found at the Shandygaff. Beyond the fact that this dish has some deep roots in Onward State lore, what I really appreciate about the Gaff dog (enough to give it a top ranking) is the efficiency.

Basically, as soon as you sit down at your LineLeap reserved table, you’re given a paper plate with a foil-wrapped hot dog and a bag of chips. The last time I was there, I was given chili cheese Fritos, which was such a pleasant surprise. This takes out you needing to look at a menu and actually make a decision, which is always a plus. Oh, and the hot dog is pretty decent.

Price-wise, this will cost you about $4 — I think, because the LineLeap app says it’s included in the $5 reservation fee, but when I get the bill, it says it was $4 on top of the fee. It’s all very confusing.

Affordability: ?/10 (Still figuring this out. If you know, please email me!)

Taste: 10/10

Overall: Chips and a hot dog are exactly what I need when I’m out for Gaffeoke Wednesday nights.


If there’s something I’m missing, please let me know! I’m always looking for some better bar food, because I guess this is what my senior year has devolved into.

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About the Author

Katie Moats

Katie Moats is a senior majoring in English, and her goal this year is to get a big girl job. Seriously, though, if you're looking for someone who can write and edit like nobody's business, she's Katelyn Moats on LinkedIn and will literally interview with you tomorrow. You can follow her @k_moats24 on Twitter for stupid content, but if it's something serious, feel free to shoot her an email (preferably in the form of a poem) to [email protected]

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