Although Clifton isn’t your typical university bar district community, it’s not impossible to have a great time drinking and bar hopping all over this part of town. But the key to ensuring that you and your liver get to toxify yourselves together at a variety of establishments is planning your drinking adventure ahead of time.
You’ve got multiple stops ahead and several hills to climb. Be prepared.
Arlin’s (307 Ludlow Ave.) makes a great first stop on a drinking person’s Tour de Clifton. If you’re a dedicated alcoholic, you will probably still feel a little off from the previous night’s self abuse. That’s why God invented the Bloody Mary, a drink perfected by R.J., the friendly bartender at Arlin’s. The Bloody Mary is the easiest drink in the world to make taste like it was mixed in an airplane bathroom, but R.J.’s unique take makes it the best out there, period. Adding a splash of Guinness cuts into the spice level, as does the garnish of various sweet peppers. This drink is a bowl of Wheaties to start your day of rigorous training. Arlin’s has good food, but eating this early into a drinking binge is counterproductive.
There aren’t many places to shoot pool in Clifton, which makes Fries Cafe (3247 Jefferson Ave.) particularly appealing. In addition to the three pool tables and glut of local historical memorabilia adorning the walls, the Fries bartenders have a penchant for fixing mixed drinks strong enough to make you catch yourself staring into the black-and-white photos and wondering how you might have fared in different eras.
It’s time to leave the Gaslight and make your way to Clifton Heights. Taking a shortcut through UC’s campus is a great idea, because the odds are you’ll get disoriented due to the combination of your increasing blood alcohol level (that microbrew was strong!) and the fact that the campus looks nothing like it did while you were stumbling through your academic career there.
Drinking in public is fine. Europeans do it all the time. And since a college town is one of the few places in the U.S. where it’s not formally frowned upon (OK, it is formally banned but lightly enforced), you’re cool to stretch the rules a bit. Riddle Road Market (533 Riddle Road) is a stone’s throw from campus and features a beer selection unparalleled by stores its size. Throw down a pint as you steam toward Clifton Heights and more stops.
Walk south on Clifton Avenue and turn left when you see the American Apparel store (you don’t need no neon sweatshirts today). You’re now approaching Mac’s Pizza Pub (205 W. McMillan Ave.), the establishment that finally addressed the longstanding lack of good pizza in Clifton by offering pizza by the slice in addition to a wide variety of whole pies. No great drinking binge can withstand the test of time without pizza. Julius Caesar said so. Mac’s has a diverse menu, a back porch area and various live music acts. Have an appetizer — do the Fried Pickles or Jalapeno Bottle Caps sound good? Rinse your mouth with a $1.50 PBR and head back out.
Go another block east and stop in at Christy’s and Lenhardt’s (151 W. McMillan Ave.), a traditional German and Hungarian restaurant that also just happens to have a huge biergarten and a downstairs bar. You’re probably too full to order from the extensive dinner menu, but if the weather is cooperative you’ll certainly enjoy lazing on the outdoor picnic tables while drinking a hearty draught beer. There’s bocce ball in the back if you’re into that sort of thing.
Finish your drinking/playing and head down the hill on West Clifton Avenue, enjoying how close the row houses are to one another. It’s neat how their roofs descend at the same angle as the road (you’re drunk). At the first intersection you’ll find your final stop: Murphy’s Pub (2329 W. Clifton Ave.). The neighborhood’s Irish Pub offers a great place to imbibe while throwing darts, shooting pool or sitting at the bar with the regulars. A madhouse on St. Patty’s Day, this stalwart has long played a role in making sure UC students don’t make it to class the next day. Have a cocktail (or three), engage in a bar contest and enjoy how much more difficult it is than it should be. Don’t feel bad: Only weirdos are good at that sort of thing.