Ultimate Huntington PubcrawlSummer 2018
Since its days as a riverboat stop, Huntington, West Virginia, has always been known for its iconic watering holes.
According to legend, Huntington’s first prostitute came to town on a riverboat the day the city was incorporated on February 27, 1871.
Written by Cody Lambert.
*This article is intended for readers 21 years of age or older*
Well, dear readers, the days are getting longer and the nights are getting warmer. The kids are out of school, campus is vacant except for summer school students, and the old timers are debating if this is the year Marshall finally gets a baseball stadium in Huntington (spoiler– it’s not).
Summer has returned to the Jewel City, and with that comes the much beloved unofficial pastime of our fair city: the pubcrawl. I know, I know– pubcrawls technically never stop in this town; but there is a big difference between throwing on five layers of clothing before sprinting from Hank’s to Sharkey’s and going on a true all-out no-holds-barred tour of our fine city’s drinkeries.
So put on your walking shoes and assemble the best ragtag team of old friends and drinking buddies you’ve got (I’m talking a real Expendables of a friend group), we’re going out and DowntownHuntington.net has planned the perfect walking tour for you. If you’re interested, read on below the ad.
The Club Inn Between
I could write a whole article on why the Club Inn Between is my favorite bar in Huntington. Even that might not be the most appropriate love letter to this charming little dive. Nestled just off of Third Avenue on Twentieth Street, it’s very easy to miss, but I encourage you not to. It’s as close as you can get to Cheers in Huntington. Pinball? Check. Cheap beer? Check. A gruff but lovable bartender who will become your group’s mom if you need her to? Check (shout out to you, Jill).
The walls are covered from top to bottom with a wide assortment of paraphernalia that ranges in subject matter from discontinued brands of beer (Bud Ice Dry?) to an “Elect Ross Perot” sign hidden in the men’s bathroom. The Club Inn Between has existed since 1978 and moved locations at least once. But its current home, tucked neatly in the shadow of Joan C. Edwards Stadium, has everything you could want in a charming neighborhood hangout.
But it takes more than atmosphere to make it on our list– so what pushes the Inn Between over the top? Two reasons: 1. It’s right across from the Joan’s parking lot, and as long as it’s not game day, it’s a solid place to leave your car parked so you can get an Uber home (drink responsibly guys). And 2. The Inn Between has a fully functioning laundromat inside. Why is this not a more common business model? You can show up in sweats, drink a beer, eat a grilled cheese, and throw your good shirt in the dryer while you get ready for the rest of the night.
The next stop on our Tour De Force (resisting the urge to write Tour De Fourth Avenue) is the original Fat Patty’s.
On paper, Marshall University’s campus is completely dry. However, anyone who’s lasted longer than a semester there knows the truth– nothing eases the pain of a bombed PSC 205 exam like bacon cheddar fries and a few tall Blue Moons. Fat Patty’s isn’t technically on campus, it’s just surrounded by campus on all sides. A little island with a liquor license in a sea of academia.
Since its founding in 2007, Fat Patty’s has become the go-to place for Marshall sports fans. Within walking distance of both the Joan and the Henderson Center, if you’re going to root for the Herd, you need to experience Fat’s at least once. It’s green from top to bottom (yes, it’s not Kelly green, but I’m not going to split hairs) and decked out with more MU memorabilia than you could shake a section of goal post from the 2014 C-USA football championship at. In just over a decade Fat’s has become a Huntington landmark, destined to join the likes of Midway and Cam’s Ham. Yes it has franchised, which makes it lose the uniqueness most of our other entries have. Still,Fat Patty’s is the perfect stop on our crawl because it’s just too damn hard to walk all the way across campus without having a drink.
Consider our stop at Fat’s a last chance to line your stomach with something substantial. Eat some bacon cheddar fries at the bar with a tall boy or two. We’re about to cross campus, which is wasteland as far as a pubcrawl is concerned.
Maybe I’m biased, but I really love Marshall’s campus (then again Buzzfeed named MU the most beautiful campus in WV and, thus, one of America’s 50 most beautiful campuses last year). There are minimal hills, making it one of the most accessible colleges in the U.S. All the academic buildings are close to each other, haloed around a lush green central field with ample flower beds. The architecture is varied and interesting and the Memorial Fountain is a real tear jerker. As you’re making the trip from Fat’s on Third back to “Party Avenue,” try to enjoy all the beauty around you. Once you reach Fourth you’re going to need to hit up one of the bars stat. Luckily there are plenty to choose from.
The bars near campus, predictably, cator to undergrads. You could hit up Jake’s or The Hot Corner and have a perfectly fine time. But, for me, the bar to visit at this point in the crawl has to be the Huntington Ale House. Sure, I’ve got some sentimental reasons *cough* firstplaceIgotdrunk *cough*, but hear me out. The Ale House has had a plethora of names over the years, The Thirsty Whale, The Whale, Club 1318, with each iteration changing the vibe of the establishment slightly. But there have been some constants: the beautifully exposed brick walls, the reasonable drink prices, and the unpredictable dance floor in the back. It’s all so hit or miss, you can’t risk not checking in on it. The atmosphere at the Ale House changes as frequently as the bar’s name. There are nights where it can be as wild as any VIP party in America, and nights where the only patrons are two lonely exchange students: one from Bangladesh and one from Nigeria– each discussing their personal preference for an opening move in a game of untimed chess. To me, the Ale House is the only place to stop on the way to some of the more heavy hitters further down on Fourth Ave.
Like Jim’s Steak & Spaghetti where they have a have a framed picture of John F. Kennedy over the booth where he ate, the Ale House also has a framed picture of a celebrity patron that has lasted multiple incarnations. Instead of a former president, however, the Ale house chooses to venerate Kid Rock, the rock chart mainstay and white trash icon. Sometimes when you’re six drinks in and looking around the Ale House you’ll see this elegantly framed picture of Kid Rock and disassociate. I think this juxtaposition sums up the Ale House perfectly. A beautiful, historically significant building that serves a surprisingly good cocktail and shockingly good burger; which is also a hole-in-the-wall that keeps pouring strong mixed drinks round after round. You might hit the Ale House on a night where the only other guy there is wasted middle school PE teacher watching the British Open on ESPN 2, or a night where every other person on campus is crammed onto the dancefloor jamming to an LMFAO song from 2011. Either way, the cheap drinks will keep you running for a few more hours.
Let’s be honest– by this point in the night no one, and I mean no one is sober. That really doesn’t matter for the next entry on our list. Before I was 21 I would listen to my 21+ friends talk about the Union like Valhalla. I remember it like it was yesterday… We had talked our neighbors into buying us beer. Tosh.0 was on and clearly the best show on TV. A Kid Cudi playlist was on the laptop bumping all our favorite songs. The oldest people in the room were telling us babies about how EVERYONE in The Union had started singing Africa by Toto at the top of their lungs.
It was my picturesque idea of life as a postgrad. And no, it didn’t end up like I thought it would, but yes, it is absolutely worth the cover to visit. Here are some things you need to know about The Union. 1. Ladies drink free on Thursday. 2. They may serve the most underrated wings in Huntington. 3. Trivia night gets unreasonably fun. 4. I JUST TOLD YOU HALF THE PEOPLE READING THIS CAN GO ON THURSDAY DRINK FOR FREE, EAT BOSS CHICKEN WINGS AND BUILD A TRIVIA TEAM WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT? Okay, I’ve calmed down. I promise. The Union can get broey, annoying people love it, sometimes there’s a cover–all of these things should be deal breakers, but they aren’t. Pay the cover, squeeze through a line of frat boys, order a round of Fireball, and get ready to sing Bohemian Rhapsody as loud as you can.
Black Sheep Burrito & Brews
I know what you’re going to say. “Black Sheep is a restaurant, not a bar. They’ll have closed by the time you get there!” That may be true for your standard group of work friends getting together on a Thursday night. But remember folks, this isn’t your run of the mill pubcrawl– this is the ultimate. If you signed up for this adventure you are a warrior who’s willing to take some risks. You’ve done the research and have your finger on the pulse of the city.
Also, Black Sheep just has a special place in my heart; I couldn’t in good conscience write this article and not include it.
Black Sheep Burrito and Brews moved earlier this year from the corner of Hal Greer Boulevard and Third Ave to a much larger, much more modern space in Pullman Square. Gone are the funky abstract art pieces hanging from the walls, and the giant portrait of (what I assume had to be) Jesco White. In are bright colors, fun patterns and a Warhol-esc ode to Hamms Beer. The new location lacks a lot of the character the old building had, but they make up for it with creativity and space. The new Blacksheep’s performance area is top notch and fills a void in Huntington’s creative-ecosystem.
Blacksheep is home to a stand-up comedy showcase every other week and has always been a midpoint for the Jewel City’s music scene; a place where up-and-comers play a few sets before they move on to the V-Club. Now, with the new Blacksheep stage, it really feels like you’re performing somewhere that matters. So swing by, order a Loud IPA or a Lavender Martini and catch the end of the Chocolate 4-Wheeler show. Once the band clears out we’ve got to keep moving.
Do you like locally owned businesses? I like locally owned businesses, in case you haven’t picked up on that yet. When I’m out spending too much money, I always try to make sure it ends up back in the hands of people who live, work, and play the same way I do (Which reminds me, tip your bartenders folks. I shouldn’t have to say this but I know how some of you act). That’s part of the reason every entry on this list is owned by someone from Huntington (Someone told me the owner of Fat Patty’s might live in Proctorville but I’ll cut him some slack either way).
Now, 15 years ago if someone had said a barcade (bar + arcade = barcade) was opening in the tristate, this is how it would have went: some out of state mogul would buy a big chunk of land in Barboursville, near the mall. They’d license out the Dave and Busters franchise rights and build their new monstrocity with a development company headquartered in Columbus and bring in some guy from New Jersey to manage the place. Bville townies would add it into the rotation: Outback, Applebee’s, Cracker Barrel, Dave and Busters. All the quarters they fed into the air hockey tables and Tekken 2 machines would be filtered out of state to some faceless corporation way out yonder.
Thankfully, we don’t have to live in that bleak hellscape. We can walk right over to the Peddler to eat, drink, and play ping pong.
The Peddler, which sits on Third Ave directly across from the Holiday Inn, is home to Huntington’s only brewing company and the brewing equipment dominates the interior. The rest of the decor (downstairs at least) is fun and quirky, if not a little all over the place. A video game theme blends with odd portraits of animals dressed like 19th century gentlemen (I’m told this beast is named “Boogercat”) and some Egyptian-ish statues of greyhounds. The bar is large and well stocked and serves up rotating house beers along with your traditional domestic staples. The real party, however, is upstairs.
The Peddler is a true barcade with several rows of stand up arcade games. Everything from some classic WWF games (I’m talking rastlin’ not pandas) to The Simpsons video game. They have ping pong and pinball, sniper shooters and three point shooters. This is as close as you can get to taking a six pack into Billy Bob’s Funland (PLEASE DON’T TAKE A SIX PACK INTO BILLY BOB’S FUNLAND).
The Jockey Club
Alright folks we’ve made it this far. We’ve got one more place to visit before we call it a night. We’re going back to Fourth Avenue and hitting up The Jockey Club.
The atmosphere isn’t warm per se, but accommodating. The place is decked out to resemble a victorian era retreat for some posh English aristocrat, complete with a vintage map of the english isles (right across from the video poker machines). It always feels like you’re crashing the wedding reception of some low level royal or a bachelor party for a friend who is just a little too rich to understand what expensive is.
The drinks are pricey, (but by now you’re probably not thinking about drink prices, right?) but boy are they tasty. Treat yourself to a Tuesday Fizz or a Coconut Mojito and you won’t regret it. But, I’m going to come clean, playing pretend oil barron isn’t the real reason I love finishing the night at the Jockey Club. I’m going to let you in on a secret–just you–don’t tell anyone else. Once you’re in the Jockey Club you can just stroll into the lobby of the Frederick Building, where they have some legitimately cool stuff. First of all, the lobby itself is gorgeous with a huge winding staircase that pulls your eyes up to vast ceiling, it really gives you an idea of how important Huntington was when the Frederick was constructed in 1906. The place is practically a museum stuffed full of little knick knacks from Huntington’s heyday.
This is where it feels honestly warm and welcoming. It’s so easy to imagine early movers and shakers milling about the lobby. Lighting cigars and staring into a roaring fire, discussing Teddy Roosevelt’s administration and the price of stock for the C&O Railroad. It’s so rewarding to sit down with a well made cocktail on a nice leather couch, and absorb the environment. Grab a friend and discuss the fabled tunnels under the Keith Albee, or try and find the Ghost of Collis P. Huntington (cause if he’s going to hang out anywhere it would be the lobby of the Frederick), or just b/s about how much fun you’ve had. Regardless, this is the best way to wind down your evening.
Rocco’s Little Italy
So you made it, you survived the Ultimate pubcrawl! Now, as is tradition, it’s time to cap everything off with food from one of Huntington’s all-night restaurants. Sure you could go to DP Dough, Jimmy John’s, maybe even Southside Sliders if you’re lucky. But me? I’m taking Rocco’s Little Italy.
Rocco’s is a hole in the wall, sure, but it’s not dirty or worn out, just seasoned. Like a pair of Chucks you’ve worn since high school. It’s also a hole in the wall in such a beautifully Huntington way. Where else in America will you find an Italian restaurant that specializes in cheese steaks and is owned and operated by Korean immigrants? They are open till 4:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays selling spaghetti, sandwiches, and buckets of chili. Miss Jung is always there, looking overworked, but ready to go.
This little shack on Fourth, that was once Ward’s Donuts, is a prime example of what the American Dream should be. I wouldn’t be upset if the Rocco’s sign became the new seal of the city. Rocco’s, just like Huntington, probably shouldn’t work. It’s a little worn down, but always ready to work. Photos of Huntington icons like Tim Irr and Bobby Pruett line the walls–they aren’t framed, just hung up with tape as if to say “These people were here, they are important to us, this is what we have to give and we’re giving it.”
The staff is ever friendly, and continuously hardworking; forever understaffed they always do what they can to get you your 3:00 a.m. breadsticks fast and hot. Rocco’s defies the odds with hard work and grit–and I think that this city, our city,can do the same.