BY JONAS BLANK
If you thought you left your drinking days behind in college, Harvard Law School will make you rethink your plans. Whether it’s winding down after that killer Civ Pro exam, drowning the misery of a botched print run of the ILJ, or the beginnings of a measly attempt to score for the first time in six months, chances are you’ll find yourself needing a cold one more than a few times a semester. As far as Cambridge is concerned, bars break down into a few well-defined options: pubs (Irish-style or otherwise) dives or the chi-chi foiursome of Redline, Grafton Street, Temple Bar and Daedalus, which gets more than its fair share of HLS business. You’ll do plenty of exploring on your own, but this primer will at least get you started.
If the idea of making a drunken ass of yourself doesn’t sound appealing, avoid Harvard Square’s Hong Kong like the class loudmouth. Beginner’s advice: Do too many rounds of the Kong’s patented “Scorpion Bowls” — a noxious red mix of booze, OJ and fruit punch served communal-style — and you might make like a Quinn associate and find yourself face-first on the floor of the ladies’ room.
HLS denizens are also known quantities at, of course, Cambridge Common, which actually has a better beer selection than it gets credit for. Those who like organized activity should check out Forest Cafe’s Wednesday night pub quiz; the bar is often overlooked by 1Ls because of its shabby decor.
Little needs to be said about Grafton/Temple/Daedalus/Redline. Expect about the most black pants you can find this side of the Charles, plus bartenders who won’t give you a smirk when you order a martini. Trip-hop music and overcrowding are also almost always in the mix. You can also make nice with trendy types at Metro, which boasts a fairly long martini list. Try the chartreuse, if you dare.
If you really want to do it up, sidle up to the bar at Casablanca (where meeting a 30-year old is a fairly safe bet) or check out the piano bar at the Charles Hotel.
In Cambridge, the line between dive and pub can often be thin. Still, unabashedly vying for the title is Cantab Lounge, which gives you the odd sense of having suddenly stepped into rural Georgia. Rarely a sweater set or cardigan is to be found in sight at this Central Square haunt, which features live music most nights of the week. Check out the R&B band fronted by the potty-mouthed “little person” on Thursdays. It’s a riot.
If you’re closer to Davis Square, one of the area’s best dives is Sligo Pub. Small, sinfully cheap beer more than makes up for the fact that there’s enough smoke in there to take a year off your life.
Probably the largest segment of Cambridge bars, the pubs in the area vary rather widely. The Thirsty Scholar, on Beacon Street, could almost pass for Britain, and its comfortable atmosphere makes for an easy weeknight drink. Ditto for nearby Sullivan’s, a cozy Irish pub with good food and good service. Not so for Davis Square’s The Burren, which usually features some form of mediocre live music and scads of Tufts hotties. It’s at least better than the poor laid out Joshua Tree across the street.
Harvard Square has lost much of its quaintness and flair, but it hasn’t lost Grendel’s Den, cause of a celebrated court case and home of half-priced food during early dinner hours. Also lovely is Shay’s, with its tiny outdoor seating area.
And finally, you can’t hang with Harvard commies if you haven’t been to People’s Republik, whose kitschy, Soviet-style exterior belies a solid pub within.