Margs on Main Street: The Hanover Bar Scene
One writer dives into student experiences of the traditional, yet ever-changing restaurant and bar scene in Hanover.
If asked about the state of the bar scene in the beautifully unsuspecting town of Hanover, most Dartmouth students might chuckle and respond with “it’s nonexistent” or “what bar scene?” Due to Greek life’s strong presence at Dartmouth, some students may not understand the appeal of bars and pubs such as Dunk’s Sports Grill or Murphy’s on the Green in this small town. However, for some, these town spaces offer somewhat of an escape from the typical Dartmouth social scene. This week, I spoke with those involved in the town nightlife scene to better understand what it has to offer. Bring your buddies and leave your car keys behind because your next Friday night might just be a bar crawl through Hanover.
With the ease and accessibility of social drinking spaces on campus, students in the Dartmouth community may not wish to take a trip down Main Street to one of the town vendors. Nevertheless, students like Carr Urschel ’24 emphasized how town bars and restaurants serve as a crucial compliment to Greek spaces.
“Having a traditional college town bar scene is pretty important,” he said. “There is something you can’t replicate in a frat basement or sorority house that comes with sharing food and drinks with your friends.”
Urschel also particularly appreciated that local restaurants such as Tuk Tuk or Molly’s — which aren’t as centered around drinks compared to other establishments like Dunk’s or Murphy’s — provide additional venues to enjoy a cocktail or beer in town.
“I actually go to restaurants to get drinks more than I go to bars to stand around and have a drink,” Urschel said. “As I have gotten older, I definitely enjoy going to a longer dinner with my friends before going out, as opposed to trying to get into a bar or anything like that.”
The majority of the “bar scene” in Hanover consists of places that are primarily restaurants first; thus, Urschel’s preference for a sit-down dinner over a bar top hang is not surprising. Other students, such as Anna Katherine Ray ’24, also value a drink along with a meal with friends in town on a night like Friday.
For Ray, part of her appreciation for the Hanover bar scene stems from her love of watching Ole Miss — her favorite college football team — on Saturdays. While admittedly a big fan of the formals hosted by places such as Tacos y Tequila, the ambiance of the Pine and the margaritas at Molly’s, Ray contended that the bar scene is no more illustrious than it seems to be, particularly when it comes to one method of embracing the Hanover drink scene: the bar crawl.
“I tried a Hanover bar crawl, and it was tough,” Ray said. “There are not a ton of places to check out.”
Other undergraduates such as Urschel have tried a Hanover bar crawl and view it more favorably, developing their own unique spins on the classic adventure and embracing the few options. For him and friends, their crawls reflect a devotion to one drink.
“It is an unofficial tradition with me and my friends that the night before classes start, that Sunday evening, we go to every bar in Hanover that serves Long Island iced teas — Molly’s, Murphy’s, TukTuk, Base Camp and Pine,” Urschel said. “It is called the Murphy’s challenge, and I love doing it, but I do not know if I would recommend it.”
General manager of Dunk’s Sports Grill Alex LaCroix remarked that he has noticed one group in particular that frequently participates in the aforementioned bar crawl.
“We are definitely familiar with Tuck [students], who coordinate a lot of bar crawl events,” he said.
Those working hard at Tuck School of Business reportedly “roll deep and travel in packs” to these events, but LaCroix offers assurance that his staff can always find a way to accommodate large, migratory groups of thrill-seekers.
However, for anyone enjoying a drink in the town or especially in a bar crawl, the bill can prove to be steep.
“Drinks are pricey, especially for the Upper Valley,” Ray said. “It doesn’t seem worth it compared to getting free drinks at a frat.”
There is certainly a social and economic pressure around going out to bars or restaurants that is partially eased by the fraternity and sorority scene at Dartmouth, since anyone 21 and over can grab a drink at an open-to-campus party. Ray explained how the culture of partying at Greek houses can act as an equalizer for people from different financial backgrounds.
“People come from such different backgrounds, so fraternities can be a better place to equalize financial differences, as opposed to a more expensive bar scene, where not everyone would be included,” Ray said.
In addition to this financial difference, another aspect of the Hanover bar scene that differs from other campus social spaces is the presence of non-student clientele. I got the chance to sit down with two bartenders of the aforementioned Murphy’s, Amita Ayer and Bridget Sanchez-Yirk, who painted a picture of the crowd you can expect to see.
“A wide range of people come into Murphy’s at any given time. We get a lot of late night industry people like other bartenders, servers and cooks from other restaurants in Hanover,” Ayer said. “Even some alumni who started coming here more than 30 years ago when the place first opened will pop in. Sawtooth has drawn more of the students because of the entertainment — open mic, comedy night and DJs.”
Sanchez-Yirka added that Murphy’s is certainly “a staple” for people who live or have lived in the area, offering a constant stream of regulars to the establishment. For students like Urschel, it can be “refreshing” to bump into some locals or alumni in town who find themselves in the mix with the late night scene, rather than the same familiar faces that you’ll see in a fraternity basement.
As a whole, many people involved in Hanover nightlife, such as LaCroix, believe that the restaurant-bar scene in Hanover is continually evolving for the better. Sawtooth is the newest of the bunch, opening less than two years ago, though Dunk’s and a few others quietly grabbed their footing during the pandemic. With such a nice variety, LaCroix believes that his sports bar and the array of spots in Hanover can handle just about anything a college student, professor or staff member could want to see.