The GofG Guide To D.C. College Bars

by GABRIELLE BLUESTONE · August 31, 2010

School is back in session, and that means you have to be prepared to drink.  If you value your social reputation that is.  Unfortunately, in college, your cool factor is directly proportional to your social visibility.  This fall, whether you're a college student, or you just want to party like one, we've got you covered.Regardless of your financial situation, sartorial intelligence, alma mater, hometown, major, nationality, or GPA, D.C. has a watering hole for you.  Seriously.

If you like dancing on bars: McFadden's

Location: 24th and Pennsylvania Ave. NW

When to go: Tuesday nights -- promoted as college takeover -- when the GW, Georgetown and American kids pile into the two-story bar for bar-top chugging contests, booty dancing and jello shots.

Why you should go: McFaddens caters to the college crowd with a lottery of free open bars, $1 PBRs and contests that inevitably involve girls, alcohol and dancing. Stay near the bar downstairs for free shots directly from the bottle from the scantily-clad employees or hit up one of the other two bars for a shorter wait.

Why you shouldn't go: If you're not 21, you probably don't stand a chance gaining entry. Plenty of employees have been let go for sneaking their friends in, and even more students have lost their IDs trying to bluff their way through the front door. And if you're not planning on drinking, you probably don't want to make this your destination -- this is one place you don't want to be sober at.

If you're on the prowl for freshmen: Third Edition or The Exchange

Location: Thirds is located at 1218 Wisconsin Ave. NW, the Exchange at 1719 G St. NW

When to go: Tuesdays, Thursdays when there's nothing better to do, Saturdays when there's nothing better to do

Why you should go: Thirds is a pretty solid bar with a downstairs bar and general hang-out area, upstairs bar with dancing and an outdoor tiki bar -- all of which are always packed to the gills with college kids. The Exchange, generally a freshman destination, offers beer pong and pitchers, making it a perfect Tuesday night fallback.

Why you shouldn't go: When we say Thirds is packed, we mean PACKED. Get there late enough and the bouncers will make you wait on a line to get to the upstairs area, which is the best place to be. As last-call nears, they block off the staircase making upstairs patrons leave through a scary alleyway from the outdoor bar. And like we said before, the Exchange, perhaps due to its proximity to GW's Thurston Hall, is primarily a freshman destination.

If Thirds is boring or you want to meet Georgetown girls: Rugby Cafe

Location: 1065 Wisconsin Ave. NW

When to go: Thursdays, Saturdays

Why you should go: Rugby Cafe, the eatery located inside the Georgetown Ralph Lauren prep offshoot Rugby, is a pretty decent destination. With pitchers of beer for the boys and fresh-squeezed citrus cocktails for the girls, the relatively small space draws an even mix of GW and Georgetown students looking to drink in groups.

Why you shouldn't go: If you weren't a cool kid in high school, you may feel out of place here. The students that tend to flock here dress well, travel in groups and generally know most of the people in the room.

If you can't decide between a club or a bar: Eden (formally Eyebar)

Location: 1716 I St. NW

When to go: Thursdays, Saturdays

Why you should go: When students decide to go here, it's the place to be. Drawing equally from Georgetown students and GW greeks, the two-story bar, which is more of a club on the second floor, gets packed with students and draws long lines outside, some of which spill over to Bottom Line.

Why you shouldn't go: The bar's popularity wanes during the school year and many nights are hit-or-miss. Unless your friends are all going, you'll probably find a better time elsewhere. And while some nights are preppy college kids, other nights draw a completely different crowd.

If it's a random weeknight but you want to go out: Shadow Room

Location: 2131 K St. NW

When to go: Tuesdays, Saturdays

Why you should go: Shadow Room, which unnecessarily promotes some nights as 18+, draws GW students of all ages, perhaps due in part to its centralized location between the dorms and many of the popular off-campus apartment buildings. The small space -- think of it as Josephine's little sister -- pulls in the college girls in short dresses who like to pop bottles and the boys who like them.

Why you shouldn't go: If you (or your friends) aren't buying a table, you're probably in for a wait at the door and a hefty cover charge. And it's really only fun if you're at a table.

If you're looking to get fratty: Bottom Line

Location: 1716 I St. NW

When to go: Thursdays, Saturdays

Why you should go: Bottom Line is well-known for two things: cheap drinks and collar-popped PIKE brothers singing along to Miley Cyrus's "Party in the USA". If you're in a frat or are a girl who likes boys tgat are, this pseudo-dive bar is for you. The effort put into ID checks seems to match the effort put into the decor, which doesn't say a whole lot.

Why you shouldn't go: We shudder to think what goes on here when the college crowd isn't taking it over.

If you're a hipster: Science Club

Location: 1136 19th St NW

When to go: Thursdays, Saturdays

Why you should go: The multi-story bar draws a young crowd that's starting to attract the attention of GW and Georgetown hipsters. The part-bar, part-lounge, laid-back feel is often a welcome alternative to many of the popular Thursday destinations.

Why you shouldn't go: If you're looking for a real college experience, this isn't the place to go. With few drinks specials and a large crowd of young professionals, it's more of an upperclassmen destination than a freshman banger.

If you'd rather buy a table: Josephine

Location: 1008 Vermont Ave NW

When to go: Thursdays

Why you should go: Okay, fine, so this place isn't really a bar, but as far as college destinations go, this place leads the pack. Thursday nights are packed with students, who snap up tables in the pit and go crazy on the stripper poles (freshmen, you get one free pass before you become a joke). As the closest thing D.C. has to a good New York club (though tables clock in at just a third of NYC prices), well-dressed tri-state area students flock here.

Why you shouldn't go: If you're not dressed well or not prepared to buy a table, you'll probably be left standing on the sidewalk outside.