Bar Buddies: Cruze

While Zeke and I crossed paths at a few Carnival-related events, I journeyed with about six non-Zeke people this Thursday to Pittsburgh's premiere gay club Cruze. I'll admit a bit of bias here: unlike some of the other bars we've covered, I've been going to Cruze a few times a term since my freshman year. Don't be scandalized, though - Thursdays are Cruze's "College Night." If your driver's license says you're at least 18, you could be in for a fun night of dancing or maybe more.

The location: On Smallman Street in the Strip District, Cruze is a bit of a journey from campus. You can either wait for a 54 or take a 61B or C and then transfer to the 87, 88, or 91. Commute time by bus is going to be 30-40 minutes across the board. Honestly, I usually just take a Lyft. It's worth the extra money if you're going with a mid-sized group, planning on drinking, or eager to avoid waiting a long time in the cold for a bus that may never come. After all, the buses stop at 2 AM and nobody likes to cut a party short.

The drinks: Cruze is a "grab your usual and run" kind of bar. I paid $8 for a double whiskey and ginger-ale, which is pretty decent for the quality and level of alcohol, and my friend grabbed a beer for about half that. It's tough to dance with a glass in your hand, so since most people come here for the dancing, you'll probably chug rather than nurse your drink. This is not the place for anything fancy, because you won't have the time or space to enjoy it. On the plus side, it's a gay bar, so no one will bat an eye if you do order something fancy. At Cruze, anything goes.

The vibe: Most of what makes Cruze stand out from any other dance club is its connection to LGBT culture. However, Cruze has gotten less and less noticeably queer over the years. If you're a queer girl like me, you're likely to spend more time fending off creepy straight dudes than actually interacting with fellow queers. Cruze has two bars, one in a quieter lounge area by the door and one by the dance floor. Besides the smallish dance floor, the main room features a small stage for any showoffs-slash-exhibitionists in the crowd as well as several couches mostly used for resting your feet and making out - it's too loud in there for anything else. If you actually want to talk to someone, Cruze also has an outdoor porch area off the dance floor that's good for conversation and smoke breaks if you're into that. On a good night, Cruze is a standard dance club, but as a queer person I do miss the days when it felt more like home.

Lit or Nah: On a warm "College Night" during Carnival? Cruze was the ideal level of lit. There were enough people to cover the dance floor but not so many that you couldn't breathe, lost your friends, or had to wait forever for a bartender's attention. The music was by and large top-40, but the (drunken) enthusiasm of the dancers was still contagious. As an additional bonus, I'm pretty sure there was an official twerk-off happening onstage. If you're at or near college-age, Thursdays are definitely the most hopping night of the week for Cruze. I went on a Saturday once and it was so dead my friends had to hop to the straight dance club next door — talk about disappointing. Keep a look-out for their theme nights — especially of the "foam" and "drag" variety, which bring in more people and give the Cruze extra flair. My experiences at Cruze have varied from mediocre to wonderful, but the wonderful must outweigh the mediocre, since I keep coming back. With a little warm weather, alcohol, and good company — whether you're an old wingman or an exciting stranger — you'll have a fun night at Cruze.