By Sheehan Whelan, MPSA 2014

College Station is full of tradition, honor, respect and spirit; it is loved by any Aggie. However, for all it offers the soul in the realm of nostalgia and reverence, it leaves little to the realm of entertainment outside of campus life. For those not involved on campus, they are regulated to chain restaurants, packed movie theaters and a crowded nightlife on Northgate. So where can one go to fulfill the more cultured desires of their heart? Look no further than Downtown Bryan, where live music, local food and cultural events linger in a quasi-urban and semi-hipster scene. Though the area only covers about five square blocks, it more than makes up in afternoon and evening enjoyment.

By far my favorite of all restaurants in the downtown area is Madden’s Casual Gourmet. Designated as “American Fusion Cuisine,” this casual gourmet restaurant offers a variety of food, including soups, salad, sandwiches, dessert and seafood for lunch. The average price of a satisfyingly stellar meal, including a freshly squeezed lemonade or raspberry tea, runs approximately $10-12. Madden’s is one of the many buildings in the Bryan area that has kept its original building structure, giving it a traditional and aged, yet definitively urban feel. Other restaurants include The Lemon Wedge, Cafe Capri, Papa Perez, Mr. G’s Pizzeria and Casa Rodriguez.

Some venues, along with serving food, also become bars or music venues in the evening. Proudest Monkey offers burger-esque cuisine and a cozy atmosphere at night. Brauhaus’ German fare is attached to popular Murphy’s Law, an Irish pub with regular trivia nights. Downtown Uncorked is a wine bar with limited appetizers and desserts but a perfect atmosphere for post-date glasses of wine, or a girls’ night out. The dress code at Uncorked is not specifically addressed, but I wouldn’t make the mistake (again) of under-dressing.

On an important note, let me remind you how important it is to tip your servers well. They are paid $2.13 an hour, which they are taxed on, and the tips they accumulate are also taxed. In a recent Yahoo article, being a server or waiter were ranked as the 198th and 200th worst and least satisfying jobs in America. Lumberjack and janitor were ranked above being a server.

My favorite venues offer music several days within the week. The Village Cafe is quaint and has live music each Thursday, plus on Wednesdays and Saturdays it has Salsa dancing. The Palace Theater is completely outdoors, with an amphitheater setting which sometimes shows movies or hosts concerts and events such as Rock the Republic (Bryan’s version of Austin City Limits) and Texas Grand Slam Poetry Festival. The Grand Stafford is recently opened and renovated. Though still under construction, it has a fairly expansive and good line-up for the fall semester.

Revolution Bar and Cafe offers Open Mic nights every Wednesday, and Slam Poetry on Sundays, with past performances by our own Patrick Hogan, MPIA class of 2014. It has a stellar outdoor area, with a massive wall painted like Starry Night and hanging strands of light. The only place that doesn’t fit into the mold of bar or music venue is Halo, known as a predominately gay club with intelligent lighting, house music and occasional drag shows.

Downtown Bryan also offers a wide variety of antique shops, old-time icecream and soda parlors, sandwich shops and a Farmers’ Market every Saturday morning from 8 am-12 pm.

Living in Downtown Bryan has been the single best decision I have made in my college career. I personally live in an efficiency studio loft in the Charles Hotel building, facing Carnegie Alley and above Good Time Charley’s and Gifts and Gab. The modeling, with exposed pipes, rustic tin ceilings and rugged brick walls give an urban and grungy vibe. It’s affordable and cozy. I love that I am a block away from my favorite locations, and I don’t have to deal with any college traffic. The crowd in downtown Bryan is far from anything I was around in my undergraduate years, and I enjoy that passionately. My neighbors are quiet and clean. The only noise is the railroad, which runs almost directly through downtown, but I find the sound of trains soothing most of the time.

Downtown Bryan is inviting and friendly, with a casual and laid-back atmosphere. I highly suggest trying it out at your next convenience.