South Austin Pub Crawl Reviews
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The sad tale of a pub crawl gone south.
1502 W Ben White Blvd., Austin
So, what the hell happened at The Saloon?
Not every Pub Crawl can go swimmingly, and our Aug. 18 trip to The Saloon on Ben White certainly did not. I donít suppose every visit to every tavern south of the river can be wonderful, but I had kind of hoped.
And you know, maybe, if we had shown up on a different night, things would have been different. Or at a different hour, perhaps. Maybe if we had all showed up at the very same moment, we would have felt courageous and hung around and found out that The Saloon was a great place to be.
Instead, this is what happened:
I showed up at 7:30 p.m. by myself waiting for folks and was there until just before 8. Now, nobody should feel bad about this, because it happens all the time, and I'm used to it, and it's generally not a problem at all, but ...
This place was different somehow -- there was a strange vibe. Fascinating, but not altogether good. And then this smelly sweaty drunken man came up to me with this mean and scary look on his face, sort of drooling, like, and said something in a growly voice in my ear. I don't really know what it was that he said, because he was slurring his words, and because "Love In An Elevator" was playing so loud I couldn't hear a damn thing. Instead of responding, I just stood up, waved, and left the bar. I ended up at the upscale and more seemly San Jose Hotel.
I spoke to a couple of people that night who had driven by the bar and not come in because of something that looked like a scuffle going on outside. A couple of folks couldn't find a place to park. Some brave souls actually came in and sat down, and a few folks had friendly conversation with the band, but, from what I could tell, nobody really could find other Crawlers there, and the whole event just sort of "went south," so to speak. (See the pun there?)
One of my favorite stories came from Les, who said he and a friend were hanging out at a table sort of near the bathroom waiting for other crawlers to arrive. A big drunk guy walked up to them and said, ďIím gonna set this here,Ē left his beer on their table, and went into the bathroom. And then he never returned.
A few people wrote and told me of there experiences at the Saloon, and I didnít think the review would be complete without their contributions. Here they are, in gory detail:
I drove by after having dinner with my mom (drinks are always appropriate at this point) and got a generally bad sense of the place. There were two guys out front yelling at some girl getting in her car - she was flipping them off.
Since it was pretty late (9:30ish) and y'all were scheduled to start fairly early, I decided to just keep driving.
Carla wrote me this note:
I got there about 7:45 and went inside. I was amazed that the parking lot was sooo full, but I did find a spot in the back lot. I did 3 slow laps around the inside of the bar, looking for you - as I figured you & Chuck would be the only familiar faces ... didn't find you. Couldn't find the girl's room (incase you were taking care of business of that kind). Wasn't interested in having a beer by myself with that sketchy crowd. Thought that game along the long wall looked interesting but there were some tough women with a full pitcher entertaining themselves with whatever game that was - didn't want to approach them alone & start asking questions.....
I left & drove over to your place - figuring maybe you & chuck got a late start... Nice patio!! You were gone (obviously).
Made another drive by the bar, but didn't go inside. Noticed a band setting up when I was in there the first go 'round, so there was a little musical potential. I'd be willing to give it another try, maybe, with some kind of escort.
I'm not usually much of a coward either. Those women looked rough around the edges, & that kind of woman doesn't usually take kindly to my type. Unless I'm on my motorcycle, but that wasn't the case sat night. The men were a bit intimidating, too.
Sorry I didn't make the crawl Friday night. I do have a few stories re: The Saloon, 'cause my hubby's country band used to play there (as well as some other scary places).
The last time I was there, I stopped for a brew while the band was setting up. I had my daughter who was six months at the time. She had on her requisite pink bonnet, booties, onesie. One of the patrons commented on how good looking my son was. Red flag #1. We left as soon as my Shiner was done.
My hubby's band started playing and the bartendress asked them to play the quieter stuff since there already had been 2 fights. I believe that was 8:30p. I don't think they've played there since. BTW~~my daughter is now six ;-)!
One thing about The Saloon is that the on Fridays, many construction workers go there after work. You need to remember that quitting time for them is around 3 or so and coincidently that's there drinkin' start time. Hard to believe that they'd be drunk by 6 or 7.
Interesting to view the other side of South Austin, eh? Glad no one got hurt.
Okay, so, maybe if we visit The Saloon again, itíll be great. Iím nearly sure that it will be wonderful on our next trip there. But for now Ö
The Saloonís Pub Crawl Rating: 0 out of 4 stars. (Ellen H., with help)
12000 Manchaca Road
tel: (512) 280-4732
Actual photos of our Giddy-Ups Pub Crawl Experience.
Well, you can't say that Giddy-Ups isn't in South Austin. And when I say south, I mean south. Way the hell south. I must have driven for twenty-five minutes from downtown, and not even in traffic. I'm not sure I'm convinced we still were in Austin, even though the place has an Austin mailing address. In fact, when I asked where the bartender where I was, she told me I was in Manchaca.
Because of that, it's hard for me to recommend Giddy-Ups to those who want to drink a whole lot and then, say, take a cab, because it would cost a mint; and it certainly isn't favorable to those who plan to commit the sin of drinking and driving (which you shouldn't ever do, by the way). That said, it's hard not to try to tell folks to go visit Giddy-Ups. For starters, it's just so clean. With the possible exception of the lack of a lock on the women's bathroom door and the fact that nearly every square inch of the place was covered with beer-company marketing paraphernalia, there was nothing that would make even the most naÔve city slicker recoil. For us pub crawlers who have dealt with much more dire conditions, this place seemed to sparkle. Not only that, everything worked. The big-screen television wasn't terribly battered, there was new felt on most of the pool tables, and the jukebox could be smartly controlled by a remote control from behind the bar. There were darts and shuffleboard, too.
Here's another thing: this place is enormous. Part of it is set up ice-house style with big garage doors, and the then there's a nice stone interior area with a fireplace, even, to keep the place cozy on chilly evenings. There were a handful of regulars there, all of whom were lovely and engaged us Giddy-Up newbies in conversation and pool. The bartender gave us free credits on the jukebox. I was personally mauled by a big friendly bulldog belonging to a customer. Sure, I still found it unnerving to be out in the middle of nowhere, but I can't say I didn't have a damn good time.
Beer selection was fine; there was plenty of Shiner in the bin, and even a couple of darker beers, with nothing over $3 and most under $2.75. Bargin hunters could drink Lone Star and Bud for especially low prices. If it wasn't for the long-ass drive, I'd be at Giddy-Ups all the time.
Giddy-Ups Pub Crawl Rating: 3.25 out of 4 stars (Ellen)
510 South Congress Avenue
Have you ever seen Dr. Who? Remember his Tardis, the English police box that would appear in unlikely locations, much bigger on the inside than the outside, weird low-budget sci-fi interior decor? That's Ego's, Austin's very own Bar Tardis.
Located on South Congress just past Riverside in an apartment complex--yes, an apartment complex; instead of a laundry room, it's got a bar--Ego's is indeed much larger on the inside than the outside. But the interior, while very low-budget, veers more towards alcoholic beachcomber chic than sci-fi. Once the door closes behind you, just squint your eyes and you could be in Galveston, Redondo Beach, or Key West. Key West, definitely, with used-boat salesmen hitting on an entire phylum of beach bunnies, rummy treasure-hunters ignoring the proceedings. Or not. But it's certainly a different vibe than your standard Austin establishment, very comfortable, neighborly, funky and real.
So much for ambience, now the facts: there's two pool tables, usually with a wait; a foosball table that's seen better days; a big-screen TV that doesn't always have sports tuned in; and live music starting around 8 or 9 every night except Sundays--get there early if you don't want to pay the cover. And last but not least: finger-painting on Sunday nights. It's got it all. There's a full bar and the drinks are robust for about $3.50 and up, beer starts at $2.
If you're in the mood for a quiet (until the bands start), cozy, and unique place on the Southside to relax with friends and folk, it would be hard to beat Ego's. Dr. Who would be proud of it.
Ego's Pub Crawl Rating: 3.5 out 4 stars. (Nick P.)
2420 South 1st Street
Austin, TX 78704
From the outside the G&S Lounge could be any kind of drinking establishment -- its classic cinderblock architecture and high slit windows could shelter a biker hangout, choloe bar, or militia headquarters. This is the Southside, after all.
So I was pleasantly surprised when, after parking out back in the gravel lot, I entered and found a huge, comfortable tavern-style place filled with families, twenty-somethings, and blue collar folk having a beer on the way home. Very working class and casual, G&S is divided into two rooms: one for talking and watching any of the four large TVs perpetually tuned to some sports event; the other room is set up for playing pool and darts.
Conveniently, the talking room has the bar, preventing the mouth from going too dry. And a decent bar it is: 45 kinds of beer, all for $2; shots for $3.50 or so. Keep that in mind when you find yourself with a mere $10 on a Friday night with no buzz.
As an added attraction, the bar also features a set of security monitors hooked to a nest of cameras on the exterior. When the conversation slows, it's fun to watch your buddies stagger across the eight-windowed screens on the way to their cars. And if a parking lot brawl erupts, patrons can place bets from the comfort of their stools.
Once the cheap buzz and cheap fun has mellowed and hunger comes to the fore, head over to Guadalajara's just south of G&S for cheap food--don't forget to wave at the security cameras. Pork, chicken, or beef tacos for $1.50; burritos half as big as your head, $3; all the chips and salsa you can eat. But they don't serve alcohol, so make sure to top off at G&S before dining.
G&S Lounge Pub Crawl Rating: 3 out 4 stars. (Nick P.)
Dee & Jim's Bar
3808 S. Congress Avenue
Austin , Texas 78704
Since visiting Dee and Jim's I've been told that it has been, in past incarnations, a brothel. I haven't researched this information myself, but my instincts tell me that, if that is true, those bordello days are in its very distant past. "Sexy" is one of the last words I'd use to describe Dee and Jim's, but if you're just looking to have a beer after work, it'd be a pretty good place to go.
Dee and Jim's is a beer joint with a crowd of obvious regulars; and if you manage to become a regular, your reward is a koozie with your name on it that waits for you on a shelf against the bar's back wall. As strangers to the place, we were rewarded with a few odd looks, but, basically, everybody treated us real nice and some even engaged us in conversation. There were just a few of us, however; if there had been a big crowd with me I might have felt as though we were crashing a party in somebody else's living room.
I say living room because this is a pretty small place, with a couple of pool tables, a dart game and a jukebox. The inside architecture is all plywood and hunks of trellis from Home Depot, and the outside is cinderblock sans windows, giving the place a lowbrow, DiY feel. Shiner Bock was $2.25 a bottle, served in the bottle (that's why a koozie would be so handy). The bartender - Jim, I'm assuming - took our order and brought us our beer, so we didn't have to travel to the bar ourselves, but I wouldn't guarantee that sort of service on every visit.
Beer is the only alcoholic beverage you'll come by at Dee and Jim's, although if you bring your own liquor they'll provide set-ups. And visit early! The place closes up around midnight, even on the weekends; and they do have a happy hour between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. if you're a bargin hunter. Also, the official word is that they're not open on Sundays, although a couple of folks have told me they've seen the door open on that holy day as well. You may not become a regular, even with the koozie enticement, but Dee and Jim's is certainly worth a visit.
Dee and Jim's Pub Crawl Rating: 2 out of 4 stars (Ellen H.)
Trophy's Sports Bar
2008 South Congress Avenue, Austin
Austin, TX 78704 447-0969
Trophy's is a yet another Southside bar with the dim, clapboard ambience of a former whorehouse. This edgy charm may be due in some small part to the fact that Trophy's is indeed a former whorehouse. That, and an apparently skimpy renovation budget has created a drinking establishment well-suited to the two endpoints of public imbibing: long, morose solo-drinking sessions or rowdy group, smash-bottles-on-the-wall, vomit-on-the-floor bacchanalias. But these two endpoints only--anything in between would just seem out of place.
On our particular visit, the exterior sign wasn't working; the minimalist kitchen was out of order due to a "plumbing problem" (thereby sparing your reviewer the Burger Test); the taps weren't working; and there was no toilet paper in the bathrooms. I point these things out not to complain, but to illustrate the overall theme of Trophy's. There was also a cool Adam's Family pinball machine; a big-screen TV with ESPN; "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" on the jukebox; and a cover band whose name escapes me playing in the back, surrounded by a meager group of fans. Bottled beers fell into two classes: the domestics to the left of the trophy (the Trophy?) above the bar were $2, the ones to the right, $2.50-4.50. Unfortunately, the bartender wasn't sure what beers she actually had available, so if you get something you like, stick with it.
As the Crawlers present that Friday night were tending towards bacchanalia, we had a great time until hunger got the best of us. I wouldn't recommend Trophy's for a date (unless you just got stood up or dumped), but if you're with a group that likes its beer and wants to unwind in public with a minimal chance of being arrested, this is the place.
Trophy's Pub Crawl Rating: 2.5 out 4 stars. (Nick)
2034 S. Lamar Boulevard, Austin
The first thing that everybody mentions to me when recalling a trip to the Horseshoe Lounge is the padded bar. This is a place designed for drinking beer and having fun until you fall on your face - literally. At most other bars a drunken face-first plunge toward the bar could leave a patron battered and bruised; at the Horseshoe, you would land on a cushion as comfortable as your grandfather's Barcalounger.
The bar has a lot more going than for it than just the padded bar, however. Note the limestone exterior and interior walls - it's nice to visit a bar that's not done up entirely in ugly paperboard paneling or scary wallpaper. It's also home to a real shuffleboard table, which are becoming rarer and rarer, and a bizarre variety of coin-op games as well (Yeah, there's a pool table, but don't go there just to play pool. There's only one table, and it's rather obviously there for people who think of pool as a second thought.). It also sports another great CD jukebox with a diverse mix of classic country, album rock and fairly mod pop tunes.
The patrons at the Horseshoe Lounge are a diverse lot as well; I believe the swastika that was drawn on the mirror of women's bathroom in lipstick the night of our pub crawl was a mere aberration. It seems to be the sort of place where people of many age ranges and backgrounds enjoy their drinks and each other. You can go there to people watch, as long as you are comfortable with being watched right back. One should keep in mind that the Horseshoe is not an undiscovered gem: You can expect it to be quite crowded on the weekends, especially during the school year. It seemed less than crowded to me the night of the pub crawl, but when I drove by it on a Saturday the next weekend, the parking lot was filled.
The crowd may be diverse, but don't expect a diverse drink selection: The Horseshoe serves beer only, and not a huge variety of it. There are a few imports and good domestics, but if you want to exotics, go down the road to Double Dave's. The prices at the Horseshoe are good: better than 6th street, and there are specials to be had if you ask.
The best thing about the Horseshoe is the comfort level. It's easy to settle in at the padded bar, drink a beer, look at the TV and talk to your neighbor. I'll bet you can't go just once Ö
The Horseshoe Lounge's Pub Crawl Rating: 3 out of 4 stars (Ellen)
Wow, the Chaparral Lounge was an awfully popular crawl event. The bulk of this review is by Sandee, but I'll add some exciting comments I got from Nick, and a few of own as well. A very fun trip.
(formerly "The Windmill" and "Big Gil's" according to the current owner, Sharon.)
5500 South Congress Avenue
My very first S.A. pub crawl resulted in what I would consider a surreal experience-and one I'm glad I didn't miss!
Located on South Congress just north of Stassney Lane (and The Mustang Pawn Shop), this little bar was deceivingly larger inside than it appeared from the street. A medium sized dance floor, a handful of competitive game machines, and an assortment of odd and eclectic characters made for an interesting evening.
The owner, Sharon, gave us the scoop on the bar's history. It is one of the original and oldest dance hall bars in Austin to date-second only to the Broken Spoke. It has the original solid wood dance floor, and Sharon was quite proud of this. Ellen, do you remember more here from Sharon?
*NICK SAYS: Okay, this is my scoop (I think you guys were playing pool when I got it: The owner is the sturdy-looking blonde named Sharon, she used to have the(original) Chaparral over on South First, I believe, but then bought the present place 14 years ago (very southern where 14 years makes if "new") from a guy name Big Gil--the place used to be called, oddly, "Big Gil's". Big Gil owned the place for 15 years prior, gradually building it out in the classic Texas way--the section where the pool tables and shuffleboard are was original, and pieces added on from there. Big Gil was big, nearly 7' apparently, could "pick you up by the head and toss you out the door". Sharon claimed that the N.C. has either the first or second hardwood dance floor in Austin "not those pinewood floors, or cement that hurts your legs". The present floor is actually built over the old hardwood. Uhm, someone else, maybe Tammy or Ed (you?) told me Sharon's daughter was a dancer at the Yellow Rose until she was murdered in 92 or so, sort of framed the whole place for me, very McMurtry.
*ELLEN SAYS: Yeah, she had a daughter who danced at the Red Rose, who was murdered (shot 13 times, horrible), and now Sharon raises her daughter's two kids, who stay home and watch movies and go to bed early when Sharon is at the Pub in the evening. Other things she told me: She's "drowning," business is bad, she was thrilled that we were there, and especially that we're going to talk about this over e-mail. She really wants us to come back and to bring friends, and when we're regulars she's sure we'll call her "Mom." To bring in more customers, they're gonna start having Tejano Bands on Saturday nights. Starting this week, Dale Watson is *supposed* to be playing there every Friday, but as you read on, you might be as skeptical as I am about that.
Back to SANDEE: Shiner beer was the choice for our group that evening. The bar was stocked with a variety of beers-running at about $2-2.50 each. [Daiquiris, made with wine, were also available, but I'm not sure I would recommend them. - E.]
The wait staff was congenial, but a bit older than I expected-like watching your mom at work. Our waitress, Hope, was as sweet as could be and was tickled that my husband called her "Esperanza" the entire evening.
The Dale Watson band was slated to play this particular evening, did not show up due to heavy fog [Nick heard they were drunk! - E.], so the jukebox was the main source for tunes. While this appeared to be your typical redneck-South Austin venue, the jukebox held a surprisingly diverse selection of music, everything from Fleetwood Mac to Stevie Ray Vaughn to Eric Clapton. Pretty main stream and popular country music as well as classic rock and roll.
For my money, the best entertainment of the evening was actually in the bathrooms. We encountered some bizarre characters while using the facilities. Nick was asked if he was a monkey-but we're not really sure what that meant. And I was asked by a woman (I think she was a woman) who resembled Popeye, if I wanted to go dancing at "The Spoke." I politely declined. And my husband had a guy ask him-well...never mind. Needless to say, the bathrooms did not offer much in the way of privacy. Installed in the ladies bathroom was a machine where Ellen and I purchased strange little matchbox size pictures of partially nude men.
*ELLEN SAYS: I want to make sure we do these things justice. They weren't just nude, they were covered with little heat-sensitive "bathing suits" that you had to rub to make disappear. Actually, you couldn't really get them to disappear completely, making the rubbing exhausting and frustrating. Yes, we tried breathing on them, and, no, that didn't work any better.
And apparently, the men's bathroom held delightful machines-where you could purchase an assortment of items known as "The Love Kit." None of the guys were brave enough to spend the coins so we could investigate these items-or maybe they were all just too darn cheap. Regardless, going to the bathrooms somehow always turned into an adventure for the daring.
Here's the scoop: There were 2 beer-stained and well-worn pool tables, both equipped with cheesy "Indy 500" car-shaped lamps above them and there wasn't any waiting. A table was always open. Plenty of pool cues, chalk and the rack was broken, but we all played a few good rounds anyway. Also, a sloping but very cool shuffleboard table-Joel Sterns and I seemed to have a golden touch here as far as hitting the 3 pointers. The electronic score board was broken, so Nick kindly kept our scores on a very busy beer coaster making legibility close to nil. Oddly enough, I trusted Nick to keep track of the score. And oddly enough, Nick and Joel won. Hmmmm....
Two traditional dartboards and one electronic dartboard. We began a rousing tournament on the electronic dartboard and played a few good rounds here.
New Chaparral's Pub Crawl Rating: 3.0 out 4 stars. (Sandee)
What are the South Austin Pub Crawls?
We'd love for you to join us on our next crawl! Just get on our mailing list, and we'll send you the time, date and location!
These events are designed especially with South Austinites in mind, but are open to everyone, especially those northern foreigners who want to see why so many cars sport "78704" and "South Austin Secede" bumperstickers. Our purpose: To explore the cocktail establishments south of the river in fun groups; to spend our entertainment money in our own neighborhoods; and to get more in touch with the delightful flavor of South Austin. Feel free to forward this web address to anybody you think would be interested ... and if you're not on this list and would like to be on it, e-mail Ellen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey, if this is a Pub Crawl, shouldn't we visit more than one bar per Crawl?
You'd think so, wouldn't ya? Well, that's how we started it, and our first Crawls incorporated more than one bar. However, we discovered that our friends were not actually crawling from bar to bar but driving in their cars. Drinking and driving isn't okay, and we want everybody to stay as a safe as possible. With that in mind, we visit one bar per crawl, which is great, because we really get to know it, and because it will take us even longer to run out of new bars to visit in South Austin. And we want you to be able to join us for all of our subsequent Crawls, so please drink responsibly.
Take me back to the top!