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Loyola's a bar school

The rumors are true: Loyola's a bar school. There's no Greek life to speak of, few places of interest within walking distance, and the ballparked demographic-well-to-do, white, iPhone-toting lacrosseheads-pretty much demands it. Of course, I jest when I boil the student body down to just that, but take it from me, a Greyhound myself, that come Friday and Saturday (and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday for that matter), a wholly remarkable migration occurs at Loyola University.

These are the kinds of questions that keep you up at night: Why are these taxi cabs lined up like a funeral procession on East Cold Spring Lane? Who are all these Polo-clad hunks, these stumbling, short-skirted women? What the hell are they all doing on the darker side of York Road? The answers, of course, lie in the bars themselves; so, without further ado, here's a little list of everything you could possibly need to know about the bar life 'round Loyola-and some alternatives to the scene.

Craig's (5804 York Road, [410] 532-7335) Picture a place where hundreds of horny, sweaty, blitzkrieged college-age (not always) pupils are packed together like so many anchovies in a tin can. Where a cup of cranberry juice and dime-store vodka is six bucks, and the people piss and puke in the corners if they wanna. Now multiply the stench and body heat by 10. Welcome to Craig's.

Favorites Pub, known colloquially at Loyola as Craig's, is the most popular destination for the bar-going population. Former home of the bi-annual "Craig's Fest," a binge-drinking, bro-powered beer spree (students would pay $30 to drink all the Miller Lite they can between noon and 9 p.m.), Craig's is debatably the best of the worst of Baltimore's wide-ranging bar scene and continues to be one of the great mysteries of our time.

Zen West (5916 York Road, [410] 323-3368, zen-west.com) Not unlike Craig's in many respects, Zen West is a doggone Greyhound hot spot. However, despite the overpriced booze, the faint urine scent, and the hordes of student-zombie drunkards, come the weekend, Zen West can be a cool hangout. They got kickass karaoke now and then, a variety of events, like beer-pong tournaments, a DJ stage/dancefloor space that's set apart from the bar, and food that's cheap but killer (try their belly buster burrito [$8.95]). The decor is evocative of the glory days of U.S. Route 66, which speaks to the overall character of the place: cheesy yet charming.

Murphy's (5847 York Road, [410] 323-9049) Like the average Loyola student, Murphy's Neighborhood Bar & Grill has little going for it. There's a pool table in the basement, which is nice. Other than that, it's kind of dingy and reeks of bad intentions. But! (There's always a but.) Come St. Patrick's Day, Murphy's is the place to be. If you're still conscious by 10 p.m., that is.

Swallow at the Hollow (5921 York Road, [410] 532-7542, thehollowbar.com) Located on the corner of East Northern Parkway and York Road, Swallow at the Hollow has a deplorable name for a bar. While some consider it a hellhole, others think it's a fine place to put one's feet up, watch sports, and sip a (sometimes lukewarm) brewski. Swallow at the Hollow used to be a much trendier Loyola haunt, but there's some funky local flavor to encounter there now anyhow. . . .

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