Dismiss Notice
Introducing: Project Extreme Brewing (a Dogfish Head + BeerAdvocate project)

The Dark Horse Tavern

Your Rating: None
The Dark Horse TavernThe Dark Horse Tavern
16 Ratings
The Dark Horse TavernThe Dark Horse Tavern

Type: Bar, Eatery

128 E Calder Way
State College, Pennsylvania, 16801-4704
United States

(814) 237-0490 | map

No notes at this time.

Added by PSUDREW

View: Place Reviews | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 16 |  Reviews: 10
Reviews by NeroFiddled:
Photo of NeroFiddled
3.3/5  rDev -10.3%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 3 | food: 3.5

I'm surprised that the previous reviewers were able to say so much about The Dark Horse, although I can't argue with any of what they've said. Here are my thoughts whittled down into their simplest form:
- downstairs, basement bar (narrow)
- looks surprisingly clean, yet lacks character
- small (a very crowded fire-hazard at night)
- 10 taps, fairly basic, including Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Yuengling Lager
- inexpensive drinks (but seriously, does that make everything else worth it?)
- wings, burgers

I'll take Zeno's or the Rathskellar over the Dark Horse any day. They get crowded too, I won't argue that, but they've got a better beer selection, and so much more character. In fact, I can't see any reason to go to the Dark Horse unless there are lines everywhere else and it's still early enough to get in and get a seat at the bar.

 845 characters

More User Reviews:
Photo of JVStabile64
4.5/5  rDev +22.3%

Photo of pep
3.75/5  rDev +1.9%

Photo of mmmbeerNY
3.75/5  rDev +1.9%

Photo of tdm168
3.5/5  rDev -4.9%

Photo of jasonmmccormick
4/5  rDev +8.7%

Photo of ridgeline23
4.25/5  rDev +15.5%

Photo of sbw138
4.3/5  rDev +16.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 5

Pretty relaxed college bar in State College. One of the bars I liked best while I was a student. It's an older basement bar, dark, but not too dark, with a decent amount of character to the place.

They have 2 separate bars, only one will be open during slower times. They have live music some nights, and the place can get pretty crowded then.

I would always go for their food specials. They had wings for $3 and change for a dozen. Pazzo's choice is one of the best wing sauces I've ever had, get them if you are there. They also had a $3 and change burger special. The dark horse is great, a burger of pretty surprisingly good quality for the place, and price. Fries are also really good. The food is far from gourmet, but you will be hard pressed to find better bar food for the price, especially in State College.

The do keep a half decent selection of drafts. They have to keep all the cheap macros for the regular student, but you can find a couple good micro brews. I had a Bells 2 Hearted Ale last time I was there.

Try the Dark Horse for a decent quick lunch.

 1,072 characters

Photo of akorsak
3.25/5  rDev -11.7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 3 | food: 3.5

One of State College's better known bars.

Atmosphere: From the main entrance on College Ave., it's a long walk down a narrow staircase to the Dark Horse. The entrance from Calder Way is much less ominous. The bar is dark, immediately off of the end of the staircase with seating stretching back to the rear entrance.

Quality: A college bar that sometimes has table service but more likely than not doesn't. Restrooms get out of hand the later it gets. Live entertainment, depending on the night, can be decent.

Service: See above, it's non-existent when crowded. Sit at the bar, you'll be better off.

Selection: Beer doesn't deviate much from the pale lager realm. Stick with Sam Adams or Yuengling.

Food: Good wings and a full menu of greasy pub grub. Rather inexpensive but no craft beer mecca.

 801 characters

Photo of dwarvenspirits
4.05/5  rDev +10.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

I usually came here after a hard day at the books on a Thursday and sat down with a friend or two and threw a couple back. The place is in the basement. It has a dark feel to it but it's not too dark . There are booths to sit in and a bar. I usually got a Sam Adams and sat back and ordered their wings. They had the best special on wings. I think it was $3 for a half dozen, but these weren't just your typical wings, they were the entire wing. So you actually got a half dozen for $3. Great deal for a starving college kid. I didn't really care for the bands that played there and the place is a little small. I actually had someone give me $20 for my table when my friends and I were departing! Crazy.

 704 characters

Photo of jsbrendle
3.55/5  rDev -3.5%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4

The Darkhorse is a downtown bar that does draw more of a young crowd & perhaps uncomfortably so. Unlike some places there isn't at least some mix of older folks there all the time to make someone who is not 21-22 y/o feel particularly welcome. The place is cleaner than many places inside although the bathrooms could use some help. Decor is basic woods, tile, etc -- they had to do something to cover over the old pastel paint & this look "works".

The "back entrance" from College Ave is also rather strange, stick to the ramp entrance from the Alley. The Darkhorse is also smaller than many other bars in town (rather long & narrow w/ a bend in the middle) and likely to feel cramped inside especially if there is a band on stage. (I will give extra kudos for a willingness to book young talent as well, rare in this town. One "feature" of the entertainment calendar worth checking out was Roustabout, a very neat "indie" oriented show that combined local acts w/ out-of-towners & DJs, quite cool, quite popular. Not something that many other places would have risked trying.)

The stage takes quite a chunk out of the Alley half of the bar & if a crowd has gathered in front of the band it does create an obstacle of tables and bodies for new arrivals since it sits between the main Alley entrance and the centrally-located bar. Not that sneaking in the other way is going to be much easier if things really are busy.

Once you get to the bar, the selection is decent. Some interesting but predictable things in stock on the bottle side, & pretty basic mix of mostly macros on draft, but that's really not the meat of the business here. [As of my most recent visit earlier in the month, this is much improved. New tap system, many more interesting tap choices. I've toggled up the selection score appropriately.] This is a good place for food (especially wings) & mixed drink specials. They are well-known for a list of smaller shooters and full mixed drinks, predominantly fruity/creamy concoctions & occasionally deceptively strong. In days past they used to be served in large plastic fishbowls, presumably for sharing although that wasn't what often happened. I don't know if that tradition has continued (it was something that the bar at this location two iterations ago did, a place called the Surf Club).

Table service often suffers, especially as the place gets packed & wait staff have a harder time making it through traffic to you. Wait staff can be fairly typical for this town in their unwillingness to work too hard at the job, it is not unheard of to have to walk to the bar to interrupt the wait staff into getting another round or coming by to take some new order. In general, I've found that you are better off going to the bar to order & if there is space, staying put there. Bartenders tend to be of acceptable quality, not always the fastest in town, but they'll do. The kitchen does a good job on the food. I've never had issues with the quality or flavor of anything they've made. But I think it is important to keep an eye on the time when you think your food should be ready to do a subtle reminder to the wait staff to go check on it, otherwise dried out and/or cooled down issues might be in your future.

If you make it to State College, this isn't a bad place to drink away at least a part of the night ... especially if you are looking for food at the same time. If you are looking for beers though, you are only a block away from a far better destination (Zeno's).

 3,502 characters

Photo of sinistrsam
4.05/5  rDev +10.1%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

Ahhh, many a Thursday night was spent in the darkhorse. It used to be all about pitchers of mediocre beer and their wings, which were and as I understand, still are, things of legend. Beer led to really strong house drinks that were on special on Thursdays.
You can enter either from College Ave or Calder Alley, each leading to one half of the bar, meeting midpoint at a nice bar. Usually a band playing on Thurs-Saturday nights, occasionally a DJ. As for beer selection, nothing outstanding, but better than the average bar. Nothing really micro or exotic so once again, not much of a beer bar, however a great place to meet people, eat some good bar food and drink yourself into a colleege-style stupor.

 707 characters

Photo of NearerMyBeerToMe
3.28/5  rDev -10.9%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3

The Darkhorse (this should be one word) Tavern. Well, in this town, you could do worse. As you enter, just skip the main stage area and head straight for the back bar, which runs the length of the far wall and allows you to hunker down with the pitcher of your choice. It's important to get that seat, and you'll realize this when the place gets jam-packed and people start ordering round after round of "Tonto's Demise." (This is the house specialty cocktail, 16 oz. of 80-proof fruit punch in which the booze is untastable. And people wonder why binge drinking is a problem in college towns.) There's some decent stuff on tap here--I always have a Brooklyn IPA--and a better bottle selection than most places. Samuel Smith in particular seems to be stocked regularly, although who exactly is drinking it other than me, I have no idea. The wings that everyone seems to go ape over are just wings, people. The servers will get to you when they get to you. Resistance is futile. Basically, the beer may be slightly above average but it's offset by the noise and congestion. Verdict? Yeah, it's a bar all right.

 1,109 characters

Photo of ski271
3.38/5  rDev -8.2%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 3 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

One of the many basement bars in State College, this is about par among them. Some are much worse, some are much better. Small place, average to low lighting, darkish wooden interior. There’s a front seating area and then a narrow section with a bar along the left side taking you to the back section. Very limited seating back there, and a puny 1’ high stage (why even bother?), a couple dart machines and a couple TV’s. On tap is a pretty decent selection of macros, micros and imports. I can usually find something that I haven’t had on tap in a while.
A big draw for them is their specials. They have some of the best, cheapest wings in town. Pazzo’s Choice is a wonderful wing sauce. Service is usually pretty good, but things really slow down during specials. On wing night, you had better get there before specials start to get a seat, and get your orders in early. Same thing if you want to get a seat for a band, gotta get there early, especially on a weekend… but it doesn’t matter because it will be standing room only by around 11:00, so the only people that will be able to see the stage will be the people standing right in front. They do get some entertaining local acts though (Spider Kelly is good fun).
To sum it up, the beer there is good and so is the food (even if it's nothing more than typical bar grub), but the atmosphere is nothing special and the crowds are very annoying.

 1,408 characters

Photo of Erix
2.83/5  rDev -23.1%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 2.5 | selection: 3 | food: 2.5

Smallish, narrow subterranean bar located in central State College. Nothing really special about the atmosphere. There is a small stage-area where they have bands once in a while, but its not really a great place for live music. The service is actually not too bad when the bar is empty, but sometimes it can take a really long time to get a beer, as this place gets kinda packed at night. Their selection has a few surprises, but its not somewhere that I would pick to go for a good beer. You'll find a few prizes, but nothing thats not found in Zeno's or The Deli. As far as food goes, they have specials on a relatively regular basis, but if you don't order early in the night, you'll end up waiting half an hour for dried out wings. I have had possibly the worst wings in my life at this bar, but I've also had ones that were decent. Hit or miss. If you find yourself here, probably the best course of action would be to leave, and head half a block away to Zenos.

 968 characters

Photo of PSUDREW
3.18/5  rDev -13.6%
vibe: 3 | quality: 3 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3 | food: 3.5

Another State College Basement bar. Has Paulaner, Brooklyn, SNPA, Woodchuck, along with macro fun on tap. Zeno's or The Phyrst it ain't. Has nice little atomophere when you don't wanted to be crowded by most SC bar. As usual, some decent bottle, but not as many as most places now have.. Good night out place if you want a bar, but you want it quite.

 350 characters

The Dark Horse Tavern in State College, PA
Place rating: 3.68 out of 5 with 16 ratings
  • About Us

    Founded in Boston in 1996, BeerAdvocate (BA) is your go-to resource for beer powered by an independent community of enthusiasts and professionals dedicated to supporting and promoting better beer.

    Learn More
  • Our Community

    Comprised of consumers and industry professionals, many of whom started as members of this site, our community is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected beer communities online.
  • Our Events

    Since 2003 we've hosted over 60 world-class beer festivals to bring awareness to independent brewers and educate attendees.
  • Our Magazine

    Support uncompromising beer advocacy and award-winning, independent journalism with a print subscription to BeerAdvocate magazine.