When it comes to school rivalries, Edmontonians are likely to think of MacEwan University and University of Alberta. Granted, a fair portion of the derision is meant in jest, and a significant amount probably comes from fresh-faced kids straight out of high school.
Where does the rivalry come from, though? Some might say perceived academic quality; others could point to career opportunities after finishing university. However, on some days — specifically Friday afternoons, after a long day of classes — these criteria are tertiary to another consideration: which school has the best pubs. The people need to know about the perks offered by each university pub, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to deprive them of that information. With this mission in mind, I went out with a few friends to U of A’s Room at the Top (RATT) and MacEwan’s Towers on Fourth. We weighted the two pubs based on the following attributes: quality of food, affordability of food and drinks, types of drinks available, entertainment offered in regards to pub games and musical acts, hospitality and friendliness of servers, and the general atmosphere. According to these factors, we gave the pubs an overall numerical rating from one to five.
The first pub we visited on our adventure was Towers. We stopped there at around 5 p.m. on the Friday that kicked off reading week, so the atmosphere inside was as loud and rowdy as could be expected at such a time. While my friend and I attempted to converse, it was difficult to hear what one another was saying over the noise. By the end of our stop by Towers, we both sounded more than a little hoarse.
The first thing we did was order some beers, which cost us about $7 per pint. Plenty of pubs out there offer cheaper drink prices, but they weren’t too ludicrous. The food we ordered was fine for what it was, but not exceptional. As to the service, the server helping us was very helpful in providing suggestions for food and drink choices, though I should mention that she’s actually a friend of mine. Even so, as she moved around bussing tables and chatting with other patrons, she was obviously friendly and capable, as were the other servers and bartenders.
Strangely, after the food was ordered, it wasn’t brought out to us. This was a pretty understandable situation, given how incredibly busy it was around that time, but I don’t recall being told I had to wait by the bar in order to pick up the food I’d ordered. Eventually, my friend who was working informed me that I should do so.
There were some solid drinks on the menu, at least when it came to beer. Tap choices included Rickard’s Red, Shock Top, Steam Whistle, and a few others that I didn’t recognize. The bar is fully stocked, and there are daily drink specials as well. Tuesdays, for example, are wine and cheese nights, and the bar offers plenty of beers and ciders for a steal on Friday nights.
In terms of entertainment that night, a DJ was performing the entire time we were there, although my friend mentioned that the style of dance and party music that the guy was playing seemed a little unfitting for the vibe and space of Towers. It’s not a huge pub, and there wasn’t a dance floor visible, so he didn’t know why they wouldn’t choose to play something a little more low-key. The DJ only plays on Fridays, though, and the music is more alternative otherwise. For more active entertainment, the pub also features two pool tables near the entrance.
Overall, Towers was a fun and lively place to start our night and have our first few beers. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of really loud spaces; for those who share this sentiment, Friday afternoons may not be the best time to visit the pub. I would give the place a solid 3 out of 5 rating, and I would advise people who enjoy a quieter time to consider a different pub.
We moved on from Towers to RATT, and the first thing I noticed (as the name implies) was the 360-degree view of the city and the surrounding river valley. The pleasant view of the downtown lights really added to the overall atmosphere of the pub.
The food we ordered was also brought to us within a few minutes, perhaps due to the dedicated presence of a waiter and the significantly smaller number of people at the pub. The pints cost a little less than those at Towers as well, but not by a whole lot. I should also mention that the menu had a cocktail with the name “Fall off the Earth,” which is probably the best name for a drink I’ve ever seen.
There were some wall-mounted televisions set up around the place, giving it a sports-bar vibe, as well as a jukebox, but that was pretty much all she wrote when it came to entertainment that night.
As for food, the menu was pretty expansive, which makes sense, given how long RATT has been around. We each got burgers, and they weren’t bad at all, but like the food offered at Towers, they weren’t amazing.
Given the location of the place (on the eighth floor), as well as the reduced amount of patrons there, RATT gave off quite a lounge vibe. It was quieter, which made it a little easier for us to talk without tearing up our vocal chords. All in all, RATT gets a 3.5 out of 5 on my rating scale.
So which pub wins out in this fierce, no-holds-barred battle? I’d have to give the victory to RATT, although not because it is an objectively better establishment. Really, it depends entirely on personal preference, as the vibes of the pubs were so strikingly different on that night.
If you’re looking for a rowdier way to start your night, I’d definitely recommend Towers. If you lean more in the direction of laid-back conversation with a nice view of the river valley area, RATT is the way to go. Both bars are still a fun time, and they’re fit for any student who needs to blow off some steam with a nice, cold drink.