Creating the perfect bar crawl is a challenging and difficult task, not unlike solving a tricky calc problem or approaching that attractive upperclassman in your afternoon seminar. For the quintessential crawl, it’s all about location. South U is often the default, while Main Street is spoken of in hushed tones, like a far-off mystical place of drinks in real glasses and the likelihood of running into your professor. Yes, you may have an awkward laugh come Monday morning, but there is plenty to be said for venturing the mere 15 minute walk away from central campus to explore the exciting and dare we say classy offerings of the Main Street bar scene.
I started working on Main Street in the fall of 2012, which was quickly followed by my 21st birthday at the beginning of 2013. Since then, I have taken to the Main Street bars with a decisive fervor, seeking out every niche cocktail and underground bar. In my extensive experience, I have come to plan a number of high successful — if I do say so myself — Main Street bar crawls that have kept the laughs and (unfortunately) the hangovers coming.
In order to plan and execute a successful Main Street bar crawl, there are a handful of considerations to make before leaving the sickly sweet comfort of $3 Long Island Iced Teas and 50 cent tequila shots.
1. The People
Consider who will be joining you on this excursion. Do you have your best buddies, the crew you rolled with since your first day at orientation? Or are you with a slightly more eclectic, maybe less close group of friends of friends? This is critical when you consider that without an expert Main Street veteran, you are entering uncharted waters. Who knows how everyone will behave when half your group wants to wait 45 minutes in line at Habana and the other half wants to hoof it to Heidelburg?
Successful bar crawls leaders always leave for the next place before they’re ready. Anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes is an appropriate amount of time to spend at one place before you head out to the next bar. You’ve got places to go, drinks to drink. Don’t get caught up at one place for too long otherwise the post-second-round fatigue will set in and everyone will be ready to call it a night before you’ve even had a pickleback shot.
It is a well known fact that one of the slightly less enticing parts of the Main Street bars is that they’re real bars with real prices. No more two-for-one deals on Coronas or well drinks that cost less than a gallon of gas. Be prepared to drop some dough on the evening. But there’s no shame in watching for those elusive specials. Happy hour is your best friend right now.
4. The Experience
One of the best parts about Main Street is that it offers a variety of experiences within one central location. Looking for a wild night of running through the streets and climbing on tables? Or are you hoping to hole up in a couple of booths, share some local beers and a nice appetizer platter? Whatever your fancy, Main Street has more than enough options.
With these considerations in mind, I’ve complied several Main Street bar crawl options of some of my favorite places for all your drinking-event planning needs.
#1: The “I’m Not Here to Impress, I’m Just Here to Get Rowdy” Bar Crawl
10:15 pm: Trot on over to Main Street for your first round of drinks at Conor O’Neils. A full bar, good beers on tap and plenty of seating, this a solid place to get some drinks flowing on the cheap. Plus, if you’re already hungry, they’ve got some killer chicken tenders. Just saying.
11 pm: It’s a bit of a walk but hustle down the rest of Main Street to Heidelburg for more beer than you know what to do with. Most importantly, you get to drink it out of a giant boot.
12 am: Scoot back down Main Street to the world’s longest line at Habana. I know, I know, it’s probably not worth it. But at this point, you’ve (hopefully) already had a couple and are making the time fly by inviting strangers over to your house for dinner or brunch the next day. Before you know it, you’ll be salsa-ing your way across the dance floor.
#2: The “I Saved Up My Paycheck So I Better Be Having Some Good Ass Cocktails” Bar Crawl
10:15 pm: Venture a little further out to Huron Street to my favorite bar of all time, The Last Word. If you’re not looking for it, you may miss it or mistake it for the Blind Pig (but that’s for another time, another place). But if you do make it down the rabbit hole, the Last Word offers exceptionally well crafted cocktails and a waitstaff who knows more about what you want to drink than you do. Crowd pleasers include the Basil and Bubbles, the Osborne and oh yeah, the Flaming Volcano (yup, you heard me, flaming).
11 pm: Cross over to the other side of Main Street to the Raven’s Club, a spooky and old-timey cocktail lounge and restaurant. There’s a good chance you won’t recognize at least half of what’s crowding the menu, but at least you’ll have something new to tell your mom. Heads up, though, they close on the early side, about 1 am.
12 am: Finish the night out at my second favorite place, Alley Bar. Before even taking a look at the menu, turn to the waitress with exceptional confidence and say, “I’ll take a round of picklebacks please.” And then don’t actually ask what exactly is in them before throwing one back.
#3: The “I’m Too Old for the South U Bars, but I’m Still an Undergrad” Bar Crawl
10:15 pm: Start things off at Mash, the whiskey bar below Blue Tractor. Quickly becoming an upperclassmen favorite, Mash has a solid offering of beer and liquor on special from 10 pm -1 am, killer decor of exposed brick and swingin’ jams. And if you’re lucky, there’s a good chance you’ll catch a handful of real adults dancing to the live music every Friday and Saturday night.
11 pm: Sneak across Main Street and over to Bab’s Underground Lounge. Be careful, though, lest you miss it. Masked by the lobby of a corporate office building, you’ll know you’re in the right place when you see a strangely large amalgamation of young adults gathering outside a bougie spa and gym. Once the bouncer checks your ID, head down the stairs for some pool tables, a photo booth and emergency mustaches in the vending machine (true story).
12 am: Finish things out in a booth at Old Town, where you may actually run into your English professor (wait, what?). No overpriced cocktails here. Just good drinks, good food and good times. Be warned: the burrito is especially large and may invite lingering forkfuls from your friends.
#4: The “Sweet Summertime” Bar Crawl
8:30 pm: Hike it up a couple of flights of stairs at Jolly Pumpkin to their rooftop deck. Nothing says summer like locally-brewed IPAs and outdoor patio furniture, am I right?
9:30 pm: Duck through the gated doors of Bill’s Beer Garden and find yourself a spot at one of the community picnic tables or around the fire pit. Saddle up to a bar reminiscent of a concession stand at an amusement park for a taste of some of the best domestic and foreign beers this side of the Huron river.
11 pm: Get the end game with some brews on your porch because let’s be honest: there’s no better bar crawl than the one from your kitchen to your bed.
Other honorable mentions to fit in at your leisure:
What are your favorite places for a good time on Main Street? Which ones would you never go back to? Share your thoughts in the comments below!