Grab a stool at Barsie's or Atlantis

My first impression of Barsie’s is always that a cave troll should be quaffing a pint at the bar when I walk in. The lighting is dim. The walls are painted halfway up with dark colors. The tables are sticky. The air is on the stale side. And the area where the barkeep stands is decorated with a huge black chalkboard advertising drink specials. That said, there’s still something inviting about the place.

The bartenders aren’t overly talkative, but I wouldn’t call them unfriendly. They do a decent job with mixed drinks and pour a mean pitcher. Like Macker’s (McMurphy’s), if you’re in during prime time, you’re going to get plastic cups instead of glasses, but that comes with the territory. They’ll do their best to fill your order, but you may have to wait awhile if you’re in on a weekend night.

The crowd level and composition are comparable to those of McMurphy’s after about 11 p.m. There are a few more older guys downing drinks in the afternoon at Barsie’s, but come prime time, the college crowd dominates. The bouncers’ll keep you out only when no one can move up to the bar because there are so many bodies in the place. The music-controlled by a (nondigital) jukebox-is more on the up-tempo rock side than the hip-hop side, but the patrons are usually loud enough that their musical taste won’t really matter.

Again, pitchers of beer seem to be the beverage of choice once the place fills up, although it seems as though more people order mixed drinks at Barsie’s than at McMurphy’s. That may be indicative of better pours, or it may just be my imagination. Prices are, however, a little higher than at the Irish pub next door. Guinness is $3.50. JD and ginger ale is $4.00. Bud Light bottles are $2.50, and Bud Light pitchers are $7.

Barsie’s also has a pool table toward the back of the bar if you like chalking up a cue with your brew. They used to have free hotdogs on Tuesdays with a tally of the most eaten in a night. I never actually saw anyone trying to beat the record, but I can’t imagine that putting down hotdogs while drinking beer makes for a very pleasant spectator event. Their latest Tuesday fare is all-you-can-eat buffalo wings. They’re not Hangar quality, but free is a lot cheaper than Hangar prices.

When it comes right down to it, Barsellotti’s is not very different from McMurphy’s. The inside’s a little darker. But when there are crowds of college students packed in a bar, you can’t really tell the difference. McMurphy’s seems to be a bit more popular with the Amherst crowd, but that may be because it’s a cheaper place to drink. At any rate, you might as well give Barsie’s a go, at least for a free chicken wing or two.

Hook around the alley next to McMurphy’s and you’ll find your way to Atlantis, the next stop on the drinking train. It originated as the senior thesis of a UMass business major and has been going strong ever since. Atlantis is another one of these restaurant/bar combos, although the restaurant’s last seating is at 9 p.m., so the bar scene takes over after that.

The inside is very dark, but if you look closely you’ll notice an underwater theme, as one might expect from the name. The interior is painted ocean blue, and a large fish tank gleams from the back wall. But you won’t find any tranquil Björk mingled with the sounds of raindrops or ebbing tides. When things get heated up, the tables for the restaurant disappear to make room for revelers on the dance floor. Your standard club mix pours from the speakers, poundin’ life into to the limbs of inebriated patrons every time the subwoofers hit.

Compared to those at Barsie’s- and at most of the other bars in town, for that matter-the bartenders and staff at Atlantis are exceptionally nice. They’re perfectly happy to offer drink suggestions or to chew the fat for a while if there aren’t too many people around. They mix a good drink, fill the pitcher to the brim and won’t hand you a pint that’s overflowed without wiping. If it gets crowded, you can’t expect quite that degree of service-but that’s true anywhere.

The crowd you’ll find at Atlantis varies a bit from the one at Barsie’s. If you’re in before things really get going, you might catch some older folks sipping martinis or G&T’s. Once prime time hits, Atlantis is more like a club than a traditional bar. So there are college-aged people, but they’re less Abercrombie & Fitch and more Armani Exchange.

Drink prices at Atlantis are, on the whole, a little cheaper than at Barsie’s. Jack and ginger ale is the same price at both places ($4), but Atlantis doesn’t offer Guinness on tap. Bud Light bottles are a quarter cheaper ($2.25), but Bud Light pitchers are almost always on special for five bucks-as cheap as you’ll find them in town. Patrons drink just about anything here, so don’t feel bashful if you’d rather down Bailey’s than Budweiser (not that you should).

And of course, Atlantis is home to the College’s Senior Bar night on most Wednesday nights. The pitcher special is, again, almost always going on and there are specials on a variety of mixed drinks on any given week. It’s a nice change of pace from keggers in Crossett if you’re in the mood to get off campus and interact with the legal Amherst crowd.

I don’t make it to Atlantis quite as often as I would like, because it’s a bit off the beaten path, but the service is friendly and the drinks are tasty. I had a nice chat with the owner while I was in “researching” for this article, and she has a pretty interesting story about how she wound up starting the place. I won’t relate it here because I want you to stop by, ask her yourself and patronize her establishment. And if you do, I think you’ll probably go back another time or two.