photo: courtesy of Bridget Cicenia; pictured: Kelly's
College, for some, means all-nighters of massive caffeine abuse and brain-frying fact memorization. For the other 98-percent of us, though, college is a blur of 2 a.m. pizza feasts, naked bicycle rides, endless games of Ultimate Frisbee, wing-eating contests and bar crawls—completely responsible, non-binging bar crawls, of course.
As students descend on Chicago's campuses for the fall semester, we've put together our picks for best taps near the quad, dormitory or Fraternity Row of your choice. Our favorites may not be yours; the only way to truly know which watering hole works for you is through endless study. This is one research project you likely won't hand in late.
DePaul University: Kelly's Pub
The DePaul/Lincoln Park area is lousy with bars, so it's tough to narrow it down to one definitive Blue Demon drinking establishment, but we'll try. Kelly's Pub, located steps from the Student Center and liquoring up college kids since 1933, calls itself a "sports-oriented singles environment." This usually translates to "meet market," but Kelly's tries to give off a neighborhood-joint feel rather than that of a post-class make-out party. (If you're looking for the latter, McGee's is right across the street.) Dollar drafts of Lite and MGD on Mondays, 10-cent wings on Wednesdays and cheap PBR during the weekends pack the bar with wall-to-wall coeds.
University of Chicago: Cove Lounge
Hyde Park isn't quite the sober bastion of studious excess that it used to be. For the love of higher learning, there's even a Bar Louie there now. But we'll take well-aged local dive, Cove Lounge, over a flashy chain any day. A true neighborhood hang where regulars rub elbows with students, the Cove sports a lived-in feel and gets rowdy on occasion. Come enjoy the $2.75 Blue Moon or Heineken on draft, a round of darts or a Sox game; spout some barstool philosophy and you might end up actually talking to a philosopher.
Loyola University: Hamilton's Lounge
From the reported haunting at Ole St. Andrew's Inn to Moody's Pub's huge burgers and spectacular beer garden, Loyola students have ample picks when it comes to extracurricular activities. The loyalty of many students, however, belongs to Hamilton's. Between the 20-cent wings, $2 cocktails on Tuesdays, themed parties (toga, anyone?), the Ladies and College Nights and convenient location, it earns its ranking as a campus fave. And while it caters to co-eds every night of the week, Hamilton's really looks out for its patrons on Sunday mornings. Without its $3 bloody mary special, it's likely Loyola's libraries would sit empty all day.
Columbia College: Kasey's Tavern
Columbia's South Loop location isn't really a campus at all. It's a collection of buildings, nestled in between hotels, business complexes and an ever-growing mass of condo towers. The setting might not lend itself to a traditional college experience, but it does put students smack-dab in the middle of the hottest 'hood in the city. Scholars know that plenty of fun lies nearby in Printers Row, most notably at century-old Kasey's. With bottled brews like $3 Point's Honey Light and Rogue's Dead Guy Ale, plus 18 draft selections, this worn-in, comfortable joint is the go-to beer bar for the arts and communications set.
UIC: Illinois Bar & Grill
It's not the closest bar to the Circle Campus, but Illinois Bar & Grill lures students with two provisions no late-night (or early morning) reveler can deny: cheap beer and eggs. A bar with a breakfast menu? Indeed. It starts serving brews at 8 a.m. most days, along with eats like five different omelets and a gargantuan breakfast sandwich. Its pool tables, dart boards and video games make you feel like you've stumbled into a supped-up dorm room. With the Medical District nearby, expect to overhear a few bar-side diagnoses: Drink a $2.50 pint of High Life and call me in the morning!
Northwestern University: Keg of Evanston
As much of a roadhouse as Evanston will ever see, the dark and unpretentious Keg serves up all the usual suspects on tap—your Buds, Millers and Goose Islands. It has a bank of TVs, which play everything from sports to Jeopardy, as well as the requisite pool table and a large dance floor. Old barrel-style kegs spell out "THE KEG" above the bar, a helpful reminder of where you are, should you forget after a few too many vodka and Red Bulls. If your student budget allows for alcohol but not food, you'll relish the free popcorn.