May 13, 2022 | OPINION | By Hank Bedingfield | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian

For most of us Tony’s is the bar you love to hate, on proximity, cheap drinks, and little more. It has become a keystone of Colorado College social life. We’ve all tasted the drinks, but what about the food?

A Tuesday trip down Tejon St. to Tony’s is as sacred and ritualistic a procession as any, filling the droning, ceremonial void left over from Rastall brunch for any and all who have aged out of the dining hall and into the bar scene.

Hordes of CC students can be spotted along the way, and by 10 p.m. a line 40 minutes long snakes from the neon sign overhang like an ancient beast of chaotic energy. At the door, grizzly men, high on power and glue (unconfirmed) grasp IDs of varying validity with sausage fingers and interrogating eyes. Don’t think you’re safe just because you’re 21 — IDs real and fake have been confiscated.

Tony’s is one of the few places the CC bubble seems to pop, or at least puncture. Locals and students alike form a socioeconomic hodgepodge, separate from the white-bread, milquetoast, East Coast elitism you would find at any given frat on any given weekend. Poolside hustlers with groping eyes and mansplaining narratives bump shoulders with the rest of us.

The food staples are as unpretentious and unabashedly midwestern as the jersey-lined walls, and as middling and serviceable as the never-quite-ice-cold drink.

The menu careens like a stumbling drunk bound for pavement from Spicy Corn Nuggets to Chili Mac to Breakfast (two eggs, bacon, hash browns, and toast). Each Wisconsin-inspired offering terrifies and excites. Any person with a knack or interest in self-preservation would order fries or chicken tenders and stick to beer. That isn’t me.

The best of Tony’s by no small margin is the Fried Cheese Curds. There is some kind of spongey, gluttonous euphoria in each of these coin-sized nuggets that belongs among the best of any bar fare.

The Frito Pie, a New Mexican concoction seeped in the over-stimulated splendor of the 1960s, is serviceable and sloppy, piled high like a nacho that was haphazardly slapped in front of you.

The safest and surprising thing on the Tony’s menu is the BLT. There is an audible crunch with each bite and enough mayo-slathered toast to sponge up plenty of booze. Stay away from the salads.

I’d be doing a disservice if one drink special wasn’t mentioned. The Tony’s signature, and deeply held scrap of knowledge among anyone with serious concern for their wallets and heavy drinking, is a $6 shot PBR combo. Whiskey is the customary pairing, but they’ll pour anything bottom shelf for you. This is a smooth way to open the night, lending you the semi-violent burn of cheap whiskey or the caddle-prod of unmarked tequila. The PBR, a hefty 24 ounces, is great to brandish throughout the night, and signals your hellbent intentions like a big iron for anyone to match its gaze.

Tony’s is an unshakable institution for the CC experience. It has never been glamorous, overly delicious, or beautiful — to even the most beer-goggle laden eye. It stares from the street like a spivy, half-illuminated smile, promising a gift in one clenched hand and doom in the other.

Next time you walk the fine line between those twin fates, open the menu, flip a coin, cross your fingers, and have a meal with all those shots. Your tomorrow-morning head-split-wide-open self will thank you for it.

For the hungry, tired, and Block Plan-beaten, this is my last love letter. Keep chasing those unholy, insatiable appetites.

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