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Great Places for Pittsburgh College Students to Hang Out

It's the most wonderful time of the year, when students return and classes start. When it comes time to blow off steam and explore the city, where do you go? We asked a recent college graduate to find some destinations that are a strong draw for college students.  

Té Café – 2000 Murray Avenue - Squirrel Hill
Nestled on the corner of Murray Avenue and Beacon Street, Té Café provides not only a vast selection of teas and drinks, but a cozy atmosphere to study or kick back. The café, which opened in 2006, serves more than 100 kinds of tea in just about any way imaginable. Their prices are reasonable and support a menu that blows Starbucks out of the water. Lavender lemonade anyone? The café also boasts a variety of wraps and salads for hungrier patrons such as myself. And there's free W-Fi.
Games N' At – 2010 Josephine Street - Southside
Games N' At is the answer to every student's inner-child dream with all sorts of beloved video games and more for just one flat cover price. What's so great about that? Besides the fact that you'll never have to insert more coins to play racing, pinball, pool or any other games (with the exception of ticket games), it's BYOB. If you were so inclined, you could pay the Games N' At cover charge of $10 at 4 p.m. on a Friday and drink and play as your heart desires until 1 a.m. I have to admit, unlimited air hockey and plays of shooting arcade games might make this a regular destination of mine.

Hofbräuhaus - 2705 South Water Street - Southside Works

Beer enthusiasts look no further! This vast bar/restaurant is modeled after the original in Munich and boasts a selection of German food that will make you feel like you're in the Old Country. From specialty wursts and schnitzel plates to pretzels that are flown in, it's all here.

Their bier hall provides an authentic German bar atmosphere except for all those Pittsburgh college students hanging here on weekends. The bier garden continues outdoors with a sweeping terrace and bar below with more tables, all with a fantastic view of the city from across the river. My favorite part? The Shot-ski -- four shots all taken from a single ski (yes, a ski!). Hofbräuhaus is the perfect place to start the night off if you are venturing down to the Southside, or are just looking for a great place to take friends.
Sphinx Café Hookah Bar – 401 Atwood Street - Oakland
Sphinx Café provides a great spot to hang out at if you're underage and looking for a fun night out. Located in what used to be a church, across the street from Mad Mex (also great with their $6  20 oz margarita specials and delectable burritos), Sphinx offers a unique experience with an authentic Egyptian environment providing music and seating to go along with the flavored tobacco in the hookahs. (For newcomers, a hookah is a large water pipe with hoses branching off, which are used to smoke the tobacco. It's a trend that's especially hot among college students and younger adults.)

On weekends Sphinx sometimes charges a small cover if there are bands playing or if it is busy, but it still remains inexpensive. The only stipulation:  you have to buy a drink of some sort in order to smoke. I highly recommend the guava fruit drinks, made fresh and a good companion to the hummus and pita.
If you're lucky, a guy who goes by the name of T-Rav grills hotdogs and hamburgers outside Shinx Café into the early morning. If he happens to be serving his homemade pulled pork with his delicious barbecue sauce for takeout, go for it. It's a must eat.
Hemingway's Café – 3911 Forbes Avenue - Oakland
Not much that needs to be said here: if you are turning 21, this is the place to go. Hemingway's offers a wide selection of beers and specialty drinks at poor college student prices. A night out with a friend totaled twenty dollars between us. The bar also has a decent number of mounted T.V.s and a good food menu. If you happen to leave hungry,  you don't need to walk farther than the infamous Original Hot Dog Shop at the corner.
Having just graduated from Penn State, I can say the bar had been set high for well, um, bars. But I can gladly bestow my blessing on Hemingway's as hands-down the best college bar in Pittsburgh. It may take some time before I decide to wear any Penn State paraphernalia inside the establishment, though.

Doc's in Shadyside is also a popular establishment for Carnegie Mellon students with good food, drinks and seating, while those closer to Duquesne can make the trek over to the Southside to  enjoy Bar 11 and 1311.
Kards Unlimited – 5522 Walnut Street - Shadyside
If you are like me and still hanging on to the lost art of reading books for leisure, I highly encourage you to try this shop. Kards Unlimited is located on Walnut Street in Shadyside. Their blog describes them aptly: "as far removed from a "Hallmark style" cookie-cutter chain store as you can get."
The street itself is hard to miss, but the store is small enough to pass by without a second thought. To do so would be a great mistake.
Whether you're a fan of Kurt Vonnegut or Hunter S. Thompson  or are looking for something completely new, chances are that this store has it or can propose something even better. Look for their suggestions on the shelves.
Unlimited also carries a plethora of clever cards, stationary and posters. Imagine any item to adorn a dorm or apartment and chances are they have it, from beer posters and sarcastic stationary to pogs. If you haven't traveled down to Walnut Street yet, take some time for a cup of coffee, pop into this store and explore a different side of Pittsburgh.

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Ben Davis is a recent graduate of Penn State where he majored in journalism. He is currently an intern at Pop City.

Pictured (from the top): Te Cafe; Games N' At; Sphinx Cafe; Hemingways; Kards Unlimited

Photographs copyright Brian Cohen

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