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Relaxing off the beaten path

Christie Bolsen | Sunday, January 16, 2005

If the words “one in, one out” make you feel sad inside, then you are probably familiar with the standard student lineup of crowded bars: Club 23, Corby’s, Rum Runners, State, Heartland, Finnigan’s and the Backer. Even with The Boat Club gone, many of these establishments offer the same familiar feeling of having your body pressed intimately against people whom you only vaguely recognize in your attempts to force your way through a wall of students to the distant restrooms.If not having your arms pinned to your sides is more important to you than seeing everyone you’ve ever known since freshman year, there is a whole new world of alternative drinking spots for you to try. Frequented by locals instead of students, you may only know the people you came with, so bring good company. There probably won’t be free drink coupons a la the Backer, but many of the specials are surprisingly easy on the wallet, and most places offer more originality in terms of atmosphere and crowd than the usual student bars. Here’s a roundup of just a sampling of what the South Bend area has to offer students 21 or older and with proper identification.

The Sports PageWhile this bar is more out of the way with its Granger location, the Wednesday and Thursday bargains on pitchers make the trip worthwhile-think penny pitchers and deals on import beer. As for atmosphere, there are giant televisions everywhere for sports fans and a dance floor in one room for dance party fans. It’s spacious and clean, suitable either for an early game watch or a night out with friends.Just like everyone’s favorite Sunday bars, it’s open seven days a week. As a bar and grill it offers an impressive menu as well, and the restaurant area doubles as a relaxed place for non-dancers to sit. There usually aren’t Notre Dame students, but there is a younger crowd most of the time, mostly students from other colleges. The local crowd is friendly and approachable for the most part, so even though you won’t recognize as many people as usual you can still be sociable.The Sports Page is located on 50827 Princess Way in Granger.

CheersEverybody won’t know your name, but at least you can get cheap drinks and hear bands. There are specials on shots on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and this bar also features live music on a regular basis-open jams on Wednesdays, where Cheers supplies the equipment, and Thursday through Saturday there is different entertainment. Many Notre Dame bands play at this venue, so you can come support them as well-a plus if you’re tired of the same soundtrack of 80s and country featured at most places that don’t have live music.Cheers is located on 103 S. Dixie Way.Club LaSalleAnd now, for something completely different-patrons of this bar refer to it as a “diamond in the rough in South Bend” because of its distinctly upscale environment. On Tuesdays there are specials on mini martinis, which attracts many graduate students, but the main pull of Club LaSalle is the “business relaxed” ambiance. The mood is set with the leather furniture and darker lighting, and is reminiscent of a Chicago jazz club or a big city bar. Those looking for a fresh experience or those who enjoy the finer things in life may spend more money but will enjoy the classy atmosphere.Club LaSalle features live entertainment on Wednesday through Saturday, which ranges from jazz to blues to funk, either solos or duos and larger bands. There is a $4 cover on these nights, but the club brings in bands from places like Minneapolis, Chicago and Detroit. The bar is open Tuesday through Saturday, and is a part of the LaSalle Grill building. Anyone looking to enjoy the classic cocktails should be advised that jeans, shorts and tennis shoes are discouraged.Club LaSalle is located on 115 W. Colfax Ave.

Club LandingSince Club Landing is always packed, it might not be the best alternative for people looking to avoid the swarms of people at State and Club 23. It does offer more than the typical sweaty dance floor, however; there are salsa dance party nights, DJs and live entertainment. There are drink specials every night it’s open, Wednesday through Saturday. When warmer weather arrives and you can stop wearing a parka and snow boots when you go out, there’s outdoor dancing and dining. This is mostly a club for people who can’t get enough of the dance floor and want a “casual yet upscale environment.”Club Landing is located on 1717 Lincolnway East.

Truman’s Night ClubAlthough the Princeton Review thinks that alternative lifestyles are not an alternative at Notre Dame, Truman’s has entertainment and specials that might appeal to students who are tired of the same old thing every night. Next to Rum Runners, Truman’s is a nightclub, lounge and sports bar. Wednesday is karaoke night, Thursday through Saturday there are drag shows in the lounge, Sunday is open mic night, and all weekend the sports bar is open for no cover. There’s no cover during the week, although there are specials on Wednesdays and Thursdays where you can pay $5 to the bartender to get drink deals. You don’t have to pay if you just want to check out the dance floor, which seems to be the main appeal for students who have given the entertainment complex high reviews.Truman’s is located on 100 N. Center St. in Mishawaka.

Quasi-Traditional BarsMany of these bars don’t deserve the title of “non-traditional” since they’re either on their way back to the realm of traditional or because they have fairly high student attendance on a regular basis, so they fall under the semi-alternative category.

Bookmaker’sBookmaker’s especially ranks as on its way back to mainstream, since it’s been packed wall-to-wall as of late. The best deals on cover and drinks are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, so it can be a first-choice destination or an alternative if other places are too crowded. Since The Boat Club’s demise, this bar has seen a resurgence of students. It’s close to campus, roomy and clean, making it fun for any night of the week. Bookmaker’s is located on 2046 South Bend Ave.

Madison Oyster BarMadison Oyster Bar attracts students consistently with its more laid-back atmosphere, and it also offers specials every night. There are three levels, some pool tables and a jukebox as well as televisions. The food and drink menus are more original than the standard fare at other bars, and it’s a notch above in classiness in case you want to bring your parents out to a sanitary bar when they come to visit. As you may have guessed, you can indeed dine on oysters if you’re adventurous. Madison Oyster Bar is located on 129 N. Main St.

Fiddler’s HearthSeniors may remember when Fiddler’s Hearth opened a few years ago. The live entertainment ranges from bluegrass, Celtic and folk, and the pub’s beer menu might even satisfy people who miss being abroad. If you’re choosy about how your Guinness is poured and presented, Fiddler’s is a Guinness Gold Standard Location-$4 for the perfect pint. Of course, you should expect nothing less from a pub that serves bangers and mash, Welsh rarebit and Molly Malone stew. The atmosphere is suitable for dinner and even families, since the unique entertainment should be the main attraction in this cozy pub. Unlike the others on the list, Fiddler’s in not limited to 21 and over-anyone of any age can sit in the dining room, as long as they stay out of the bar area. Fiddler’s Hearth is located next to Madison Oyster Bar on 127 N. Main St.

More where those came from…There are actually many more bars and clubs in the Notre Dame area for people bored with the repetition of night life, so you don’t have to resort to the same seven places every week while pining away for Boat. Most people would be surprised at how many drinking establishments there are which tend to get ignored in our haste to get to our usual stomping grounds; that said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a weekly routine of tried-and-true bars. So whether you try out Martha’s Midway Tavern for a new experience, or whether you just can’t tear yourself away from Corby’s each week, just remember that there’s always a drink special waiting for anyone 21 or over somewhere in South Bend.