Princeton University

The Ivy Inn
May 2005
by Marc B. Zawel

Nestled among the upscale boutiques and fancy bistros of posh Princeton, New Jersey, an unassuming former gas station leads a charmed second life. Now a laid-back bar called the Ivy Inn, the unlikely nightspot, some say, is Princeton’s only true bar. “Everyone is welcome here,” says Sara, a junior economics major. “You can wear what you want, drink what you want and do what you want. It’s just a great place to get away for a night.” It’s not hard to imagine why: Students and locals alike creep over to the Ivy to shoot pool, throw back a few beers and play tunes on the jukebox for next to nothing.

The Scene: Being the only dive bar in town definitely helps in a place like Princeton. “It’s an escape from the elitist mentality here,” says Tim, a bartender. “This is not a place where you order brandy in a snifter. It’s where you come to party, sing, dance and have a good time.” But this fact alone doesn’t account for the dive’s popularity. There’s also a real sense of family at the Ivy, an otherwise unremarkable bar filled with wood-paneled walls, beat-up floors and lopsided tables. Bartenders know patrons’ names and have drinks waiting for them as soon as they walk in the door.

Girls at the Bar: Whether you’re looking to throw back shots with hot blonde bombshells or talk art history and sip merlot with grad students, the Ivy Inn has you covered. “Most of the girls here are outgoing, easy to talk to and are here to have a good time,” says James, a junior math major. “And good times for them means good times for all of us.”

When to Go: Regulars say you can find a fun crowd seven nights a week, but Wednesdays, when students turn out en masse for karaoke, are particularly busy. “After a couple of deliciously cold shots from the Jäger machine, I’m ready to hit the stage for just about anything,” says Rob, a senior government major. Saturdays are also packed. Local bands turn up the energy and keep the Ivy rocking long after most of the sleepy town has gone to bed.

Dress Code: While its décor and atmosphere might stand out against its stuffy surroundings, the Ivy still embraces the preppie look. But don’t dress up like you’re headed to Cape Cod; keep it clean, comfortable and laid-back.

At the Bar: Skip the fancy cocktail concoctions. This place is all about the staples, like $1 Rolling Rock draughts all the time, $3 well drinks and overflowing pitchers of Coors and Bud Light. Icy shots of Jäger are also a student favorite. And anyone who wants to party after closing time can pick up forties, six-packs and cases of beer to go.

Open: Monday thru Saturday, 11 a.m. – 2 a.m.; Sunday, noon – midnight.

Where It’s At: 248 Nassau Street, Princeton, New Jersey

Phone: (609) 921-8555

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