Thursday, January 31, 2008

Phil's Icehouse on Burnet Road in Austin Texas

What could possibly go better with burgers and beer than ice cream? Uh, fries maybe? Never fear they have those too. This is a family friendly place on Burnet Road in North Austin that caters to adults with kids. Sure McDonald's can fill the kiddie portion of the bill but do they serve wine and beer? Hell no, and that's where Phil's steps up to the bat. On one end of the building you can order food and drinks and on the other end you can get some of Amy's Ice Cream, the best in Austin. In between the two businesses is a common seating area with one of those old timey photo machines that used to cost a quarter when I was a kid. I remember when they were everywhere and now they are almost nowhere. How times change, this one cost me three bucks and after waiting twenty minutes I never did get my little strip of pictures. Oh well, I reported the malfunction so maybe they will have it fixed by the time you visit, if you ever do. Besides, it was worth the money just to sit in that little box and relax for a minute or two.
I've seen many bars with regular old shuffleboard tables but this is the first joint I have ever encountered that had one like you might find on a cruise ship. It's a bit far away from where I live to make it a regular stopping point for a cold one but if I was in the area anyway and felt the pangs of hunger I could envision myself dropping in again. There is just something special about sitting in a vinyl covered booth that can't be matched by tables and chairs.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Iron Gate Lounge on East Sixth in East Austin

This is a decent sized one room bar that has been an Eastside fixture for more years than I can remember. I've been in there a few nights in the far distant past when the place was packed and the plywood floor felt so spongey that I was afraid I might fall through it. It has had some major renovations since then and looks pretty decent now. The bartender didn't mind me taking video and some pictures and since I was about the only person in there at five in the afternoon I was able to cover it from almost any angle in the place. The jukebox is almost totally Tejano, Cajunto, Norteno and Tex Mex but what's wrong with that? I imagine this place could get rowdy on a Friday or Saturday night but the same could be said for almost any bar in town. I liked the ambiance, the music and the general feel of this place and I recommend it to anyone who wants to check out someplace different than what they are used to. It's not real fancy nor is it a dive. It's pretty much just another East side neighborhood bar that has been doing business for longer than I can remember.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Donn's Depot on Fifth Street West of Lamar Blvd.

This is one of the very first places I ever went to in Austin. In 1976 I came through Austin for the first time and went to The Armadillo, Soap Creek out on Bee Caves Rd. back on a dirt path near where Westlake is now, The Split Rail, some places out by Lake Travis and Donn's Depot. Back then 6th Street was someplace you didn't go except for Antone's when it was across the street from the Driskill Hotel. I saw B.B.King on that same trip through town. Now I've been here for twenty seven years or so and every bar I mentioned is history except for Antone's, but it has moved three times since then, and Donn's. It's a time warp. It has changed a little bit, I'm sure some of the furniture is newer than it was then and the carpet has probably been replaced a few times plus the deck out front wasn't there in the seventies, but it is virtually the same now as it was then. They have had free popcorn for thirty years and it is still dark enough that you can meet your girlfriend without your wife finding out even if some nut job comes in with a video camera. Not that I would ever do anything like that, but I could and I would blend into the dark recesses. This isn't a review blog, it is just a beer joints in Austin blog, but if I were doing reviews I would give this one a whole bunch of stars.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Poodle Dog Lounge on Burnet Road

It's been a while since I have been north on Burnet Road and I forgot how far away everything out there seems now that I live in far South Austin. I was going to go to Ginny's Little Longhorn but it looked closed. It might have been open, but I think I'll call ahead to make sure next time. So, instead I checked out the Poodle Dog Lounge about a quarter or half mile or so farther north, and on the other side of the street. When I went in I asked the girl behind the bar if I could shoot some video and take some pictures. She hmmd and hawd until I said I wouldn't record any people. She said yeah don't get nobody with a cigarette and I agreed. I figured no one would really care but as soon as the camera was pointed anywhere in the direction of people she spoke right up and I reassured her that all I cared about was the bar and not the patrons. Of course that meant all of my shots in the actual bar area are angled up except for one where the guy at the end of the bar told me that it was alright to take his picture because he wasn't wanted. In the video it sounds like I'm talking about myself but that was because the guy next to me at the bar was asking me questions. The video I shot in the pool table area is boring and hard to see through the haze but it gives you an idea of the size of the place. It is quite large actually. This is a 1965 era neighborhood bar and the people are fine and will treat you with respect if you do likewise. If you're quiet and mind your own business feel free to drop on in. If you are looking for excitement go on over to Billy's instead, they have the happiest happy hour anyway, at least that's what it says on a big banner outside. The Poodle Dog is OK by me, they have a pretty good selection of beer but when I asked if they had Shiner, the bartender said only in a can and I didn't feel like canned beer right then. I wish I could have given you a better look at the inside but I think you've probably seen bars like this in small town America before. They're pretty rare here in Austin and only ten or fifteen still survive as best I can tell. Maybe less, I'll let you know once I figure it out. If this place were south instead of north I would make it a point to drop by every now and then. I kind of liked it and it sure made me feel nostalgic. It's like a North Austin version of the Horseshoe Lounge and it overflows with character.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Continental Club On South Congress Avenue in Austin Texas

Anyone who has lived in Austin for any length of time at all has more than likely passed through the doors of the Continental Club on South Congress a time or two. It is one of the hottest spots in town during SXSW and they book live live music seven nights a week, usually several different acts per night starting during Happy Hour. It's a medium size club that hosts some of the bigger known acts in lesser known musical genres. There is no need for me to prattle on, just about everything that can be said about this place has already been written by much better writers than myself. Just check out the pictures, watch the companion video and click on the link if you need to know more.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ms Bea's on East Sixth Street in East Austin

I had been to Ms Bea's once last summer and had a great time but I couldn't remember exactly where it was. Then, the other day I was driving west down East Sixth towards the Interstate when I suddenly saw it, just as I was about to pass it and I pulled into a space that really wasn't for parking. At first it looked like the only solution was to back out into traffic on a heavily travelled thoroughfare. I hate it when that happens, but luckily I was able to maneuver out of the predicament I was in with a fifteen or twenty point turn and I made my way to the actual parking lot without having to get back on the street. After that I really needed a cold beer and since my choices were Bud or Miller, I ordered a Miller and sat down. Ms Bea's is a pretty nice family owned and operated neighborhood bar housed in a one room concrete block building and that is all a beer joint really needs to be. I wish they had Shiner Bock but not many bars in East Austin do. The clientele seems pretty loyal to Bud and Miller and all I really wanted was to take some video and snap a few pictures, so I guess it didn't matter, but as it turned out the beer tasted pretty good anyway. Of course, I only had one. I hardly ever have more than one or two unless I am at home and then I don't count.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Deep Eddy Cabaret on Lake Austin Blvd. in Austin Texas

This is another bar that I have only been in a handful of times but it feels like my second home. It may well be the only bar in America that charges $1.80 for a mug of beer. They have just about the most diverse and excellent Jukebox on the planet and everyone is peaceful and laid back. Even an asshole with a constantly flashing camera who could not sit still for twenty stinking seconds went virtually unnoticed. I'm sure lots of people were irritated but they didn't care enough to say anything except the guy who you can see when I first open the door. Eventually I ended up sitting next to him at the bar and he struck up a conversation so I told him what I was doing. He had some good ideas and after I told him that I don't like to ask permission to do what I was doing because everybody always thinks you are up to no good somehow, he told me that he assumes most people are good and have good intentions unless they prove otherwise. I feel the same way but I'm always aware that someone with too much beer in his belly might have a mood swing. Vigilance is a good thing and it might come in handy in some bar, someplace, but not here, not at Deep Eddy Cabaret.
Deep Eddy and the people inside are cool. They even have The Flying Burritos Brothers first album on the Jukebox and that is something I have never seen anywhere else.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rio Rita in East Austin on Sixth Street

Rio Rita has been there forever but nobody wanted to go there when it was a very segregated crowd in a part of the city that was ignored for decades because poor people lived there. The University was the first to push their way into East Austin because they had nowhere else to go. They over reached and have been making East Austin a better place ever since, because of it. They are truly the best neighbor that East Austin will ever have and having said that I would also like to say that East Austin is the new South Austin. West Austin and North Austin have lots of stuff, like rich peoples stuff and poor peoples stuff, but South Austin has heart and East Austin has soul. I don't want to see old East Austin go away, I just want to see it finally become an intregal part of Austin as a whole. East Austin pioneers like The Manor Road Coffeehouse, with a bigger than life naked lady painted on their huge picture window, helped pave the way. The University of Texas Physical Plant was right across the street but most people were afraid to go in there because of the tattoos and piercings. I loved it. Then they went broke and it became Gaby and Mo's, a lesbian owned coffeehouse with many beautiful lesbian girls working there and many tattoos and piercings, again. That worked for a couple of years but they never made any money. Then came Sacred Cup Coffeehouse and the place moved up a notch or two. Things looked very promising but within a couple of years, rising rent and under capitalization did them in. All of these attempts were young people pouring their heart and soul, and what little money they could scrape up, into the business. Now it is a very prosperous Mexican Restaurant called El Chile. They had the bucks and that is what it takes to make things work. Back to Rio Rita, they are owned by the people who own Beerland on Red River and they are also pioneers, but they owe props to Cafe Mundi and Manor Road Coffeehouse for helping to break down the barriers that kept East Austin the redheaded stepchild of the city for so long. I'm going back to this place and I highly recommend it for those with a sense of adventure. It's like hospital room style living rooms in half of the place. They have about a semi truck load of strange furniture in this place and it is all pretty comfortable.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Tavern at 12th and North Lamar in Austin Texas

The Tavern looks like a Swiss chalet and has been sitting on the corner of Lamar and 12th Street for what seems to be forever. I don't know when it was originally established but I do remember when it fell on hard times and had to close after the city cited them for multiple code violations. It was a gloomy period for a while, when no one knew if it would ever reopen, then local radio personality Bob Cole bought the place and restored it to its former glory. There is really not much to say about this place except that it is historic and there are flat screen televisions everywhere. The place has the University of Texas spirit heavily infused and they make pretty good pub food. I can honestly say that although I've only passed through the doors about a dozen times in my life I felt a real sense of emptiness and loss when I thought it was gone for good. Thankfully for me and the rest of Austin those days are now past and it appears to be on a solid financial footing with a very healthy and dedicated clientele. It's a central Austin icon without a doubt.