The bars located in Starkville’s Cotton District and on Main Street are packed to the brim with college students, making them feel like the epicenter of COVID-19 cases on any given weekend.
For students seeking to unwind from school-related stress, it may seem like the only options are to throw caution to the wind and join the masses or miss out entirely. However, for those willing to venture a little off the beaten path, Starkville boasts a fair share of safer, more laid-back bars. Some of those bars include Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern, Arepas Coffee & Bar and The Guest Room:
-- Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern.
The first on the list is Dave’s Dark Horse Tavern off Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Drive. The bar caters to many crowds such as music gurus, pizza lovers and dive bar enthusiasts.
Dave’s was established in 1995 by Dave Hood after he worked as a waiter for the previous occupant of the building, The Bully III. Live music has been a staple for the tavern throughout its history in Starkville, with various artists making their way across Dave’s stage. From folk music to singer-songwriter style to even drag shows, the bar guarantees its customers to be entertained.
Throughout the pandemic, Dave’s has made adjustments to its usual way of doing things, but the show must go on — just with a few more regulations.
The bar has recently brought back a tavern trivia night on Wednesdays as a group activity for Starkville residents and Mississippi State University students to enjoy a night out in a battle of wits. There is no cover fee for this event or the live music thanks to local sponsors.
Outside of entertainment, the bar has many different types of food, so finding something to like is not difficult. The tavern is mainly known for its Chicago-style pizza but also offers bar-style appetizers, salads, burgers and wraps.
Robert McGee, a junior computer science major, claims the food at Dave’s to be a heavenly experience.
“The lamb gyro was better than God,” McGee said.
Dave’s is also known for its drinks. For the casual drinker, the tavern serves domestic and craft beer from local breweries along with an array of mixed drinks and non-alcoholic beverages that cater to any crowd.
-- Arepas Coffee & Bar.
Arepas is a Venezuelan-owned restaurant which was opened in October 2019 by Jose Elarba and his family. Elarba said his family has always thought about opening a restaurant and wanted to share their culture with Starkville.
"We saw there was nothing like our food around, so let us show everybody what Venezuelan food is. We know it is really good, and it is healthy," Elarba said.
Elarba's personal favorite on their menu is a cachapa, a corn pancake with Venezuelan cheese, but there are many other delicious options to choose from.
Laura Alvarez, a junior psychology major from Maracay, Venezuela, said the cuisine is very close to what she had back home.
“Their food is pretty accurate, and the people who run the restaurant are actually Venezuelan as well, so the plates are very similar to what you would get in Venezuela,” Alvarez said.
Arepas prides themselves on having a different special every day of the week, such as $10 all-you-can-drink Fridays during specific hours and celebrating every weekend by serving champagne all day long.
Arepas also hosts Latin parties, which they are bringing back with enforced COVID-19 safety regulations in place. There is a cover fee of a few dollars, but it is a small price to pay in light of the amount of fun to be had.
For those looking for a unique experience or even just a new study environment, Arepas is sure to make any customer feel at home.
-- The Guest Room.
Tucked away beneath Restaurant Tyler off Main Street is a speakeasy-style bar with the reputation of being Starkville’s best-kept secret. The Guest Room does not look like much from the outside, but if the light is on outside, it is bound to be bustling with customers.
The Guest Room was opened in 2014 by Jackson, Mississippi, natives Chef Ty Thames and Brian Kelley to bring a different type of atmosphere to Starkville’s nightlife. Walking through the wooden door in the dugout basement is like walking back in time. With a copper bar, wooden floors, a metallic ceiling, exposed brick, dim lighting and bartenders donned in button-downs and bowties, it is no wonder Thames and Kelley attract such a crowd.
Outside of the structural entities is a vintage piano played on occasion by talents such as Wyly Bigger. There are no televisions, but the many different taxidermy animals placed about the bar will surely work as conversation starters.
For those looking for a bite to eat, The Guest Room serves its own Southern specials along with the entirety of Restaurant Tyler’s menu upstairs on designated nights. They also have select menus for happy hour held from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
James Kinnebrew, a mechanical engineering graduate of Mississippi State University, said he likes The Guest Room because of its diverse array of cocktails.
“You can get stuff there that would be a lot more difficult to make at home or that you would find at the Klassroom or a standard type college bar,” Kinnebrew said.
The bar has seasonal cocktail lists that rotate and weekly featured drinks, so there is always something new to try. The bar also offers mocktails and other options for everyone to have a swell time.
For those looking for safer alternatives, a slower pace or even a more refined and unique experience, it turns out Starkville has more to offer than one would think in regards to nightlife. It only takes a little digging to find something to satisfactorily answer the persisting question of what to do this weekend.