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The 16 Best College Bars in America

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Credit: Shutterstock/Jennifer Bui

There are all kinds of things you miss after you leave your college for the real world. The outrageously cruel chants you yelled at rivals on game day. The sunny afternoons spent lying on the quad, forgetting all about that term paper you had due the next day. The house parties you and your roomies threw that got shut down by the police. But most of all, you miss spending several (maybe even seven) nights a week at these magical college bars. These are the kind of places with dirt-cheap drink deals, sticky booths, and time-honored traditions that you called home for collegiate years. They may not be pretty, but they probably had an excellent karaoke night. Or at the very least, a shot wheel. Get ready to cry into your prized alma mater sweatshirt in three, two, one.

Texas A&M
Dixie Chicken
In the A&M community, your college ring isn't truly "blessed" unless it's been through the Aggie Dunk. That involves ordering a 32oz mug off Dixie Chicken's taps, bathing your ring in that beer, and then chugging the glass for good measure. It's the kind of bar ritual only a college mainstay like Dixie Chicken has going for it, even if it was born out of accident.

University of Wisconsin
The Plaza Tavern
Some campuses are saddled with just one or two ho-hum bar options. UW is not one of those places. Madison is home to all kinds of bars and while some people will tell you to hit up Kollege Klub or Wando's or Vintage, we're sticking to our guns with The Plaza. That's still in large part due to its famous Plazaburger, a quarter-pounder with a secret sauce that remains a delicious enigma. But the pinball machine, pool table, jukebox, and air hockey certainly don't hurt.

William Paterson University
The Shepherd & the Knucklehead
Considering most college kids aren't so much concerned with beer quality as they are with housing as many Natty Lights as they can, college bars don't need to worry about an interesting and varied beer program. But The Shepherd & the Knucklehead wants those poor youths to know there's a world beyond light lager, and it aims to educate with 90 beers on tap. That includes selections from 21st Amendment, Rogue, Anchor, Founders, Dogfish Head, Oskar Blues, and many other excellent breweries you wouldn't expect coeds to drink. On the liquor side of things, there's a whiskey list with Macallan 18 Year. Damn. These William Paterson kids are spoiled rotten.

University of Texas-Austin
Cain & Abel's
The name would imply this bar is home to a UT-Austin chapter of Fight Club, but when you've got $1 beers every Tuesday, it's all brotherly love. Cain & Abel's is best known for its Texas Teas (a riff on the Long Island) and H-Bombs (Hideous liqueur and Red Bull). They're frequently on special, and frequently the cause of regret the next morning.

University of Colorado Boulder
The Sink
The Sink has been "on the hill" since 1923, but for nonagenarian, it sure knows how to have fun. The low ceiling is covered in the names and deep thoughts of so many UC Boulder students -- students who love the Texas Onion Straw Burger and Buff Mac just as much as they love the $2 well specials. We could also mention Guy Fieri's visit on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but we'd rather talk about the time the president just had to have his Sink fix.

University of Florida
The Swamp
This is the place that's always packed on game day, and considering the walls of Gators memorabilia, spacious front patio, and, oh right, beer buckets, it's easy to see why. The Swamp was originally a UF professor's home, but after a fire nearly took it out in '93, it was revamped to serve as a student and alumni watering hole. On top of the requisite pitchers of Bud and Rolling Rock, the bar serves "Swampritas," a rum-spiked "Swamp Juice," and a Bloody Mary garnished with a mini burger. Clearly, it's a Gainesville landmark for a reason.

Harry's Chocolate Shop
You won't find a single bon-bon at Harry's Chocolate Shop, but you will find throngs of undergrads on any given night. The former soda fountain is now the Purdue bar to beat; it's so beloved by students, Harry's frequently sells out of bourbon bottles (think Woodford Reserve and Four Roses) bearing its custom labels. If you're at the bar, though, it has some truly lethal mixed drinks, like the Baltimore Zoo, a Long Island that subs the sour mix and Coke for beer and Sprite. As Harry's would say, "Go Ugly Early."

Olde Queens Tavern
Olde Queens has been a haven for the Scarlet Knights since 1933, even on snow days. Like any good college bar, it has a whole slew of specials (i.e., the $3.50 "shot wheel" on Mondays) and goes the extra mile by giving away a pair of Yankees tickets each week. It also has its own food truck, The Outslider, which pumps out gourmet sliders to soak up those shots.

Oklahoma State
Eskimo Joe's
Don't be alarmed by the maniacal grin on that guy in the sign. It's just Joe, and he probably looks like that because he dipped into EJ's always $2.50 well drinks. The bar/restaurant/clothing shop has been an integral part of OSU since it first opened its doors in 1975 -- the proof is in the annual anniversary bash, which is so big, it regularly spills into the streets. Stillwater's "jumpin' little juke joint" also has a long history of live music. Acoustic nights are every Wednesday, but if you're more into the electric scene, you can catch those acts on the weekends.

University of Alabama
The Houndstooth Sports Bar
The Houndstooth wants to make sure you're plugged into the Big Al action at all times. It's got 36 flat-screens inside, four outside, a 120in projection TV, and even screens in the bathrooms. Obviously, this is a great spot to be on game day if you can't be in Bryant-Denny, but it also finds ways to entertain the undergrads on the offseason. Namely, through trivia, bingo, pool, and the general mayhem thirsty college students bring.

Boston College
Mary Ann's
The general stickiness, smelliness, and lack of windows is what earned this BC bar the nickname Scary Ann's, but it's meant as a term of endearment. While students have their pick of Hoop Fever, Big Buck Hunter, and Photo Hunt, the best entertainment is watching your friend scream Journey lyrics after too many $1.50 Busch Lights.

University of Kansas
The Wagon Wheel
Founded in 1955, The Wagon Wheel was serving beer, pizza, and "Wang Burgers" (stop laughing!) long before Old Crow Medicine Show co-opted the name. Undergrads and alums alike cluster around the flat-screens on game day to yell obscenities at the Longhorns. After the score is settled, they'll stick around to flood the jukebox, dance on tables, and order that pizza (served basically 'til closing) or Wang Burger (supposedly named for a frat brother, Wanger) we mentioned.

Virginia Tech
Top of the Stairs
This Virginia Tech destination is popularly known as TOTS, and you'll probably want to house 75 of those after a long night of boozing at the Top of the Stairs. Ordering the "Rail" is a requisite, as is belting your best Bon Jovi at Tuesday night karaoke. If it gets too crowded in the main bar area (and it will), you can head down the wrap-around porch to the outside area. There you can play cornhole and hit up the bonus bar for more of those Rails.

The Boot
Leave it to NOLA to spawn the college bar that puts so many others to shame. Oh, you stay open until 2am? The Boot sometimes goes 'til 6am. You love your $2 shot specials? The Boot gives them out for 50 cents on Tuesdays. We could also talk about the pizza and waffle fries, but in the interest of saving the other guys some face, we'll just say it's an excellent place that K-Fed(??!!) occasionally DJs at.

The Tombs
The name of this Hoya haven doesn't refer to where grads wish they could bury embarrassing Saturday nights. Instead, it references the T.S. Eliot poem "Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town." That's a pretty esoteric origin for a college bar, but this is Georgetown. Probably the most famous program at The Tombs is the 99 Day Club, wherein seniors attempt to visit the place daily in the 99-day lead-up to graduation. Some have failed, but many have succeeded. The late-night menu of beer-cheese fries, nachos, and pork buns probably has something to do with that.

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Rick's American Cafe
Of all the gin joints in Ann Arbor, Rick's is the one most beloved by UM students. Only they're not really searching for war-torn soul mates, or even drinking gin -- unless it's splashed in the potent house drink, the Mind Probe. While bands like the Pixies played there in the '80s, today it's a massive DJ-run dance party. Who knows? You might actually run into your soul mate mid-Humpty Dance.

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