Best College Bar
O'Malley's On FourthREADERS' AND STAFF PICK: O'Malley's On Fourth is more than just a college bar. It's also a meeting place for young professionals, old politicos, blue-collar types and hangers-on. But it's the college students who claim O'Malley's as their place; you'll always see them in attendance (Why aren't these people in class?), watchin' the tube and playing pool in the early hours, hanging out and listening to local bands in the late hours. Since the management has a strict ID policy, the bar hasn't been taken over by "Suzy sorority" girls with their big sisters' IDs. The warehouse-cum-hip joint is spacious, with two gargantuan rooms and an outside patio area. The front of the building is paneled with large windows, which makes it perfect for people watching on Fourth Avenue. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights the bar hosts a local band for a $1 cover charge. Tuesday nights get wild when the bar hosts a reggae band and serves up $2 tropical drinks. There's a lot of parking, but we recommend walking and riding the trolley; you know what they say about drinking and driving.
247 N. Fourth Ave.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: "Bags" is to frat boys as Wild, Wild West is to two-steppers--inevitable. You gotta be 21 or older to get in, but you don't have to be Greek to drink and revel at Dirtbags, 1800 E. Speedway. However, be warned, if you're not one of them you might find yourself eyeballed as if you just stepped in from a retirement home in Sarasota. Students without a Bags' Polo Card (VIP card) may spend up to an hour waiting in line. But it must be worth it because it's not unusual on many evenings to see a crowd waiting patiently on the patio in front. Like a good college bar should, Bags has a few traditions not likely to make it into the yearbook but certainly to be remembered years later--if the sots can remember them the next morning, that is. There's pre-partying beginning at 6 a.m. before each graduation ceremony. And each patron gets a free drink on their birthday--i.e., the birth date listed on their ID card. In addition, the bar offers a newly finished outside seating area with large screen TVs, so you don't have to stumble over to someone else's TV.