Tuesday, January 31, 2017

#20: Parlor and Yard

The Bar


Parlor and Yard. 601 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 1/30/17 @ 10pm.

The Drink



Old Fashioned. $10.

As you may have gathered from the preceding posts, I like whiskey. Well whiskey is usually not anyone's idea of ambrosial, but even the worst whiskey still has something to recommend it. As possibly the first cocktail, an Old Fashioned is as close to a sure thing as you're going to find. Any place that will make you an Old Fashioned is a place you can trust.

The Crew


Aaron, Vince.


Notes


We showed up during some kind of company party, which made this perhaps the first true subpar experience of the journey. There's something about crashing someone else's corporate work party that doesn't feel right. It's like showing up to a house party when you don't know anyone there - it could either be really great or really uncomfortable, nothing in between. The fact that it's a work function adds another layer of awkward, because the only thing sadder than coworkers who aren't really friends dancing up on each other to music neither of them likes is the person standing and watching them do it. So we didn't stick around very long.

I feel like I should stick up for the venue though. I've been here before and had lots of fun on the ping pong table outside. Playing ping pong in front of a bunch of complete strangers while you're both really drunk is a magical experience if you can get the crowd into it. The rings of seats around the edge of the patio means you have a built-in audience for your skills, and win or lose it will be a lot of fun. I think spectator sports are a great addition for a certain type of bar.

#19: The Rustic Tap

The Bar


The Rustic Tap. 613 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 1/30/17 @ 9pm.

The Drink



Mexican martini. $8.50.

In a stunning coincidence, we got yet another bartender from Louisiana, who really put me through my paces trying to determine the perfect drink. I didn't get a chance to find out what all was in it, but it was quite spicy, and strength-wise it was on the Trudy's level. I freaking love pickled okra, even if I associate it more with Bloody Marys. There's no such thing as too much okra, in my opinion.

The Crew


Vince, Sonali, Karen, Aaron.


Notes


Note the strategic positioning of the branded martini glasses in the group photo; our bartender didn't miss a trick. Vince and I are also drinking some incredible Old Camp peach pecan whiskey on the side while Karen and Sonali are Lady and the Tramp-ing my okra.

This place used to be the parking lot for the Hoffbrau restaurant next door, which will have its own separate visit. It's an extension of Hoffbrau, but the bars are different and they serve their own (excellent) food. In any case, Rustic Tap was a great time. There are interesting chandeliers made out of liquor bottles, which could have seemed like lazy college student decoration but came off well. If you like outdoor bars you will love this, because it's ALL outdoors. Plenty of games, plenty of space.

#18: Key Bar

The Bar


Key Bar. 617 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 1/30/17 @ 8:30pm.

The Drink



Irish Fistfight. Chilled Jameson and blueberry Red Bull. $10.

Our bartender here was also from Louisiana, but she opted for something a little less Cajun. I'm not sure what about blueberry Red Bull makes it fistfight material; score that as a swing and a miss from a naming standpoint, but a relative success as a boilermaker alternative.

The Crew


Aaron, Sonali, Karen, Vince (not pictured).


Notes


Monday is all day happy hour, so margaritas were like $3 or something. The popsicle martinis are what they're most famous for, but all of the drinks we had were solid. I'm a sucker for a good patio, and Key Bar's patio roof means that if we'd gone during the day we would have had the perfect mix of Sixth access and shade.

I know that I've been here before yet I have no memory of it. That wouldn't be particularly surprising in and of itself, hardly worth mentioning, yet I've heard it described as one of those typical West Sixth places and it absolutely was not. More and more I'm coming around to the idea that a bar is mostly its customers, in terms of its experience. Sure, the ambiance matters, as does the layout, the type of alcohol it serves, and all that, but on a night with just your friends, the bartender, and a few other patrons, any bar can be great. Maybe I just have low requirements, but now that I'm consciously paying attention to these bars and trying to sort out my feelings, I've yet to have a bad experience.

#17: Pop

The Bar


Pop. 620 W 6th St #1, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 1/30/17 @ 8pm.

The Drink



Jameson. $5

Sometimes the simplest things in life are the best. After I gave my standard spiel about wanting "the drink that shows off this place the best", the bartender and I negotiated the intricacies of their champagne list before he decided to stick to the basics. Even if Jameson is Baby's First Whiskey, I still love it.

The Crew


Karen (with giant alien hand shadow), Aaron, Sonali.


Notes


Their website brags that they are "Austin's only high-end champagne lounge", which sounds like the kind of place that I would normally avoid like broken glass wrapped in nuclear waste topped with poison. I get that there are guys out there who willing to pay $1400 for bottle service with a single bottle of Johnny Walker Blue, in order to attract the kind of woman who's impressed by a guy willing to pay $1400 for bottle service with a single bottle of Johnny Walker Blue, but we should quarantine both of those types of people in a soulless suckhole of fun like Las Vegas so that the rest of us can pay normal prices for alcohol.

However, once again our strategy of barhopping on a Monday meant that I actually had fun here. In addition to whatever nightmarish parody of entertainment and human connection happens inside, there's a small bar outside by the street that offers up cocktails and TVs, in case you need to avert your eyes from people-watching. But, in a frustrating defiance of my stubborn determination to hate everything about this place, it turned out to be completely fine. We barely had to watch any of the start of OSU at OU, instead having a blast talking to the bartender and taking Tinder profile pics in front of their outdoor decor. I'm not sure if on a Friday night Pop would be as bad as my memories of Vegas clubs like XS lead me to believe, and I probably won't ever find out. Let me have my dreams.

#16: Steampunk Saloon

The Bar


Steampunk Saloon. 700 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 1/30/17 @ 7pm.

The Drink



Abita Purple Haze. $4

The bartender was from Louisiana, so this what was he chose, to my approval. I've been drinking Abita for what feels like my entire life - even my very first keychain bottle opener was Abita-branded. Even though I've grown out of my early-20s hefeweizen obsession, I still have a soft spot for this beer. It's light, not too wheaty or yeasty, and the light raspberry taste is just enough to be refreshing without being cloying. 4.2%.

The Crew


Karen, Aaron, Sonali.


Notes


We started off night 5 at this joint, which due to the oddball theme has had a complex relationship with social media since it first opened, replacing the old Opal Divine's that used to be there. Recently things have calmed down, to the point where it looks no different from any other bar. That's a shame, as it would have been fun to see people wandering around in neo-Victorian drag, but as you can see from the picture we didn't bother to dress up either, and as the saying goes, be the steampunk you wish to see in the world. Since it was the night before my birthday we celebrated extra hard, as you can see by the shot glass.

This is yet another of the properties owned by Bob Woody, the "mayor of East Sixth Street". One of the highlights of this project is learning the connections between each of the different bars. It's difficult to keep a bar going, given the number of ways there are to go broke, and it's always interesting to see how smart owners develop properties differently to cater to different crowds:

What is the difference between having a bar on West Sixth versus East Sixth?
I’m the landlord of Opal Divine’s, Brew Exchange, J. Black’s and The Ranch. The difference is age. What I want to do is to open a hospital in East Austin and I want [a prospective customer] to be born there, and I want him to drink on East Sixth Street until he moves on to drink at West Sixth Street. I’d also like to open a graveyard on far West Sixth and have him buried there. So I want to have him cradle to grave.
I’m kidding about the hospital, but you see what I’m saying. You've got a little more professional workers on West Sixth versus a college student on East Sixth. You bring your girl in to a bar on East Sixth; you get a few beers for $4. Then, you leave her to go to the bathroom and there’s four college boys hitting on her.
You buy two beers for $9 on West Sixth Street, you leave her there to go to the bathroom and she’s sitting there on the leather bar stool when you get back, and everything’s all right.
Alright, alright, alright, as another famous Austinite once said.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

#15: Brew Exchange

The Bar


Brew Exchange. 706 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 1/23/17 @ 10pm.

The Drink




Ommegang Rosetta. $6.50.

An excellent not-too-sweet and not-too-sour cherry sour from Ommegang, which is possibly the only other attraction in Cooperstown, NY. 5.6% ABV and extremely drinkable, although I wouldn't want to see what kind of hangover a few of these would produce.

The Crew


Travis, Rome, Aaron.



Notes


As you might expect by the fifth stop of the night, my usual keen eye for detail began to wander somewhat. However, Brew Exchange has a funny concept - a market-based system where popular beers get more expensive and less-popular beers become cheaper, which you can track thanks to the giant ticker and TV screens around the interior - that makes it more memorable than some other bars. It's also owned by the same Redrum Bar LLC which owns Green Light, among others, and as it happens we ran into one of the Green Light bartenders after his shift had ended and we tried out some of the orangey shots they offered. Making friends pays off!

And since it was not exactly packed at 10pm on a Monday, we were able to get some good face time with our bartender in. We spent some time discussing my favorite quasi-scientific work, The Origin of Consciousness In the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, which has been used in the show Westworld, and just hang out in that fun, boozy, late-night kind of way. West Sixth has actually been great so far.

#14: J Black's

The Bar


J Black's. 710 B W 6th Street, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 1/23/17 @ 9:30pm.

The Drink



Perfect Pear. Pear-infused vodka, St. Germain, lemon, champagne. $10.

Refreshing, invigorating, delicious, all of that stuff. This is the part of the journey where my tasting notes usually start to get real simple, but I remember it. I like that the bartender immediately picked this drink when I gave him my spiel; it's good to see that he thought the cocktail list was strong enough to not need to go off-menu.

The Crew


Rome, Travis, Aaron.


Notes


Not pictured are the wings we chowed down on, which were delicious, and probably the main highlight of the visit for me. Mondays are $3 tallboys and 50 cent wings, which is a great deal no matter where you are, or how few other people are in the bar (very few). This bar actually felt slow, so we chowed down on our drunk fuel and watched in approbation as UT finally put OU away, which is always a welcome sight for any true Texan.

#13: The Dogwood

The Bar


The Dogwood. 715 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 1/23/17 @ 9pm.

The Drink



Irish mule. Jameson, agave nectar, lime, ginger beer. $10.

Even the Copper Development Association, my new favorite industry lobbying group, admits that the only reason Moscow Mules are served in copper mugs is as a marketing gimmick, and not due to some special property of the metal. I guess they didn't need Troy McClure. I couldn't really taste the whiskey in this Irish twist on the venerable classic, but it was tasty.

The Crew


Aaron, Travis, Rome.


Notes


I like that the owner of this place (Chad Womack, a twin of a former Bachelor contestant who's been around for a while opening a lot of Sixth's most well-known bars) is doing something to combat West Sixth's reputation, because this was a nice place to visit and nothing at all like that stereotype. I mean, I could see the both the outdoor and indoor areas getting pretty crowded on a Friday night, but that's the crowd and not the bar. A bar is what you make of it (I hope I retain that attitude for the rest of this journey).

The Dogwood has been around for about 6 years, replacing some manner of Irish pub that I never went to. The outdoor bar was relaxed enough on a Monday to allow us to have some good conversation with the bartender about the area over our drinks while we watched the Spurs beat up on the Nets.

#12: Green Light Social

The Bar


Green Light Social. 720 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 1/23/17 @ 8pm.

The Drink



Treaty Oak Fitzhugh Ale. A British mild ale that's 3.5%. $7.

I was taken by surprise to see that Treaty Oak did beer, since I've only known them for their spirits (Treaty Oak rum, Starlite vodka, Waterloo gin), but it turns out that their beer has only been distributed for less than two months. It's not bad, and their official description sums it up: "As easy going as an afternoon at our ranch on Fitzhugh Road, the Fitzhugh Ale is a laidback sipper." Though that does make you think: if one beer = one afternoon at the ranch, is a case a fortnight? How many beers is a full vacation? Anyway....

The Crew


Aaron, Travis, Rome.


Notes


I'll be honest and say that I was not thrilled about entering this stretch of West Sixth. I can't count the number of times that I've heard West Sixth referred to as being "Dallas", and I was expecting some really bro-y scenes. However, I lived in Dallas for 8 years, so I'm relatively free of that particular strain of intra-Texan xenophobia, and also we went on a weeknight, when crowds were low and we had more time to talk to the bartenders like they were people, as opposed to drink-slinging automatons.

Perched on top of the boarded-up corpse of Benji's Cantina, which itself was a specter haunting the bones of the beloved Katz's Deli, Green Light Social is a newish bar that has some sort of complex relationship with Kung Fu Saloon, who will shortly be moving in to take over the ruins of Benji's. We had one of the most fun bartending duos yet serving us. They were very apologetic that they couldn't yet serve us their signature drink of alcoholic Capri Sun pouches due to some legal scenario that I didn't understand. So after being told that those Capri Suns would be available in about a week, instead we settled for an introductory round of root beer float shots, which we had to drink too quickly for me to capture a picture of. We then got our round of beers and talked drinking strategy while watching the start of OU-UT.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

#11: Whole Foods Bar Lamar

The Bar


Bar Lamar. 525 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703

Visited 1/23/17 @ 7pm.

The Drink



512 Cascabel Cream Stout. $6.

512 is one of my favorite breweries in Austin, and this stout has got to be one of their best. It's sweet but not overpoweringly so, and the cascabel chilis they add in give it just a bit of heat at the end, without the frontloaded fire that trips up many other chili beers. They only give you a 10 oz pour, but it is 6%.

The Crew


Aaron, Rome, Travis.


Notes


It only took 3 nights before I irreparably botched my goal to be as linear as possible. Backtracking, argh! Thanks to my inability to correctly use Google, I had ignored this little semicircular bar way in a sector way at the back of the ground level of the Whole Foods mothership by confusing it with a non-bar restaurant in a sector way at the back of the ground level of the Whole Foods mothership. But thanks to a friend of mine, we corrected our mistake, and eventually arrived at a cozy little area of mini-tables next to the wine section.

I hardly ever go to Whole Foods, to be honest. Their food is awesome, and their grocery selection can't be beat in terms of quality, but it's a bit too rich for my blood, and their labor practices leave something to be desired. I'm more of an HEB guy, or even Hill Country Faire. But even the staunchest hater would have to admit that they know what they're doing, even if I'm not sure who the target audience for this micro-bar is - tired shoppers who can't face another row of organic kale without a drink? Regardless, this is a good place to sit and chill for a while, maybe making fun of the preposterously exuberant marketing copy for wines. Yeah, that cab sauv really does look "racy, zingy, alive!", why not?

Monday, January 23, 2017

#10: The Grove Wine Bar

The Bar


The Grove Downtown. 800 W 6th St #100, Austin, TX 78701.

Visited 1/18/17 @ 9:45pm.

The Drink



2015 Guidobono Roero Arneis white wine. $10.50.

I don't have much of a palate for wine, and my typical reaction when somebody asks me what I think is to just repeat the phrase "well-balanced but approachable" until they stop asking (maybe I should switch to "playful but mysterious" instead). After the fact, I learned that the typical taste profile for this wine is "dry and crisp, with blossom-like aromas complemented by flavors of fresh pear and apricot and a nuance of hazelnut", so let's just assume that that's what I experienced.

The Crew


Aaron, Sonali, Rome, Travis, Michael.


Notes


I dug the interior industrial infrastructure decor, with wine glasses and wine racks everywhere. I appreciate a good motif! Even better, there's a bit of interesting Austin history here that I learned from staring at the drink menu, which offered the following option in the frozen section:

Mezzillini: A 25 year Austin original made with peach nectar, sparkling wine, peach brandy and rum. Reed's personal favorite!

We couldn't order it because the frozen drink machine was on the fritz, but I asked our bartender how it was a 25 year original when The Grove itself had been around for less than a decade. Well, that Reed is Reed Clemons, who used to own Mezzaluna, and he named this twist on the Bellini after his old place. When I was younger, my father for a time worked at an office just one block from Mezzaluna, and I remember eating there on some kind of special occasion. That restaurant has since closed, but Reed obviously knows what he's doing as this location of The Grove (with sisters at Westlake and Lakeway) was quite nice.

#9: Hut's Hamburgers

The Bar


Hut's Hamburgers. 807 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703.

Visited 1/18/17 @ 8pm.

The Drink



Twisted X Chupahopra. $4.50.

The Chupahopra is a solid American IPA. Hut's doesn't have a ton of beers (the Big 3 plus some locals like Fireman's 4), but at 7.5% this hit the spot.

The Crew


Rome, Travis, Michael, Kyle, Aaron, Sonali.


Notes


I'm glad that when we crossed Lamar into what most people (but not you, the loyal reader, who knows better!) would consider "West Sixth", our first stop was at Hut's. Hut's has been serving great burgers, as well as hubcap-sized onion rings, since roughly the Cretaceous Period, and if you go on a Wednesday night like we did, burgers are 2 for 1! Literally 2 for 1: both have to be the exact same burger on the menu. I went in on one half of a pair of Ritchie Valens burgers - guacamole, grated cheddar, tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, mayo, and mustard. We're spoiled these days in terms of burgers, but sometimes the classics are still worth revisiting.

I have to say that I don't think this would be the greatest bar in the world to drink at, if only because it's so clearly a burger joint first. But with burgers of such a great value as these, I would be happy to linger a while over several beers, pausing only to consume a milkshake. Unfortunately, there were other bars to visit.

#8: 24 Diner

The Bar


24 Diner. 600 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703.

Visited 1/14/17 @ 7:30pm.

The Drink




The Rico. Flor de caña rum, lime, bitters, Topo Chico. $7.

I know I enjoyed this drink, but I have absolutely no memory of what this tasted like other than a vaguely tropical feel. It was gone before I knew it, which I guess is a good sign.

The Crew


Rome, Kyle, Michael, Sonali, Aaron, Travis


Notes


The square that contains 24 Diner is full of memories for me. 24 Diner used to be a Waterloo Ice House, which I would sometimes go to after trawling for CDs at the Waterloo Records that's still next door. The Waterloo Video in the same complex, where I'd look for action movies to rent on Wednesdays, is now a Lululemon full of athleisure wear for tweens. Whole Foods was on the NORTH side of the street, not the south, and everything was cleaner and brighter and more morally pure.

Sure. You can't live in the past forever, and 24 Diner is an excellent weapon to add to the late night arsenal beside Magnolia and Kerbey, no matter what your opinion is of them. It's also owned by the same group responsible for a number of great Austin restaurants, so they're still local and cool. Their chicken and waffles are among the best in the city. While you're drinking, 24 Diner's strategic location at Sixth and Lamar gives you a good view of the street just south of where scene 10 in Slacker was filmed, with that auto dealership replaced by the new Whole Foods HQ looming majestically in the background and the early 90s flannel-fest updated for stripes, as you can see in our picture.

#7: Z'Tejas

The Bar


Z'Tejas. 1110 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703.

Visited 1/18/17 @ 7pm.

The Drink


The Millionaire ​martini: José Cuervo, Grand Marnier, OJ. $12.

I don't think I'd ever thought to put any of these ingredients in a martini before. Purists would of course violently object to calling this a martini at all. But form follows function, and if you put something in a martini glass then I guess in some way it does takes on some aspect of a martini. Right?

The Crew


Travis, Rome, Sonali, Kyle, Aaron, Michael.

Notes


We started off the night at Z'Tejas, where I hadn't been since just after high school. Austin has many many Tex-Mex restaurants, and I had vaguely remembered Z'Tejas as falling somewhere in between Chuy's and Chili's on the food spectrum, while being almost exactly on Trudy's wavelength in terms of drinks. Turns out I had the right drink frequency, but I don't think either restaurant would offer something like the Bananas Foster French Toast I saw on the chalkboard by the entrance. That shift towards more of an Iron Cactus vibe is not coincidental, as due to a bankruptcy filing both places are now owned by the same Arizona holding company.

While that's sad news for a local chain originally founded in 1989, for the consumer it just means that the profits from the queso will be flowing to their desert instead of to our hills. I liked their queso a lot - it had a smoky ancho/chipotle taste to it that went well with my "martini", and had we not had both 24 Diner and Hut's on our agenda their food looked great. I was too busy scoring guac and queso to drink at a reasonable pace, so I had to basically pound my martini as everyone else was finishing their drinks and paying tabs. Then I discovered that it came with a tumbler with enough for a whole second round! Luckily, the Grand Marnier and OJ made it smooth enough to go down easy.

Monday, January 16, 2017

#6: Café Josie

The Bar


Café Josie. 1200 B W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703

Visited 1/14/17 at 10pm.


The Drink




The Tenochtitlan. "A Manhattan with mezcal". $10.

In the same way you can judge a burger place by its beef, or taqueria by its tortillas, a lot of people use a Manhattan as a standard candle for a bar. Though this is so different from a regular Manhattan as to be practically in a different galaxy, sharing only the vermouth and bitters while swapping the whiskey for mezcal and the cherry for lemon peel, I thought it was "supoib", as The Simpsons would have it. Maybe not conquer-your-enemies-and-sacrifice-them-to-Tlaloc supoib, but depending on how many of them you drink, who knows where the night might end up?

The Crew


Aaron, our noble bartender, Travis.



Notes


We finished up the night at Café Josie and it was a blast. You know those barhopping nights where you get a good buzz going and the company gets better, the conversation improves, and everything you're drinking is just the best in the world? This was one of those. It's funny how much better everything gets when you're four drinks in, and also funny how the probability of you ordering a round of shots seems to rise by the minute.

In any case, even if I was getting up there on the drunkometer (I have the phrase "hat rack" scrawled in my notes and have no idea what the heck that could mean), I enjoyed this stop a lot. While the interior decor was oddly stark, due to some kind of complicated situation with the gallery next door who typically provides their artwork, it looked really nice. We arrived right before close and stayed for several rounds, including the aforementioned shots. We didn't eat any of the food that their website advertises, but if they put as much effort in creativity into the food as they did into the drinks, it would probably be worth the $45 for the all-you-can-eat Experience.

#5: Clark's Oyster Bar

The Bar


Clark's Oyster Bar. 1200 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703

Visited 1/14/17 at 9:30pm.


The Drink



The Port of Mahón. Gin, amaro, celery, cucumber, and soda. $11.

One of the best things about asking each server/bartender for "the best drink in the house" is seeing how differently each answers the question. Our bartender ran through a few different drink scenarios for me, but unlike the Kobayashi Maru, here there were no wrong answers. Gin is my liquor, and this gin vehicle was superb.

The Crew


Travis, Aaron.


Notes


My mom is the oyster connoisseur in the family; I'm more of a "dump enough horseradish and lemon juice on it to make it palatable" kind of guy. However, we partook of an oyster each while we were here and didn't regret it one bit. Though nearly $4 each, these were quite tasty, and if you're willing to pay that price in order to get the straight-from-New-England finest, I'd place them among the best in the city. They served theirs with a vinegar sauce that I've never had before, and we also got some truly excellent bread.

We sat at the bar counter right next to the open kitchen. Open kitchen designs are always interesting to me, as you get a little show along with your meal (they do have traditional seating as well as a patio, but this isn't a restaurant review series!). Flanked by the grill and a full fishtank, we chatted with the bartender when she wasn't busy mixing other drinks and moved on to our next stop.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

#4: Rounders Pizza

The Bar


Rounders Pizza. 1203 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703

Visited 1/14/17 at 8:30pm.

The Drink



Real Ale Devil's Backbone. $5.

Real Ale has long been one of my favorite local breweries. Devil's Backbone is a great Tripel style beer, 8.1% but not tasting like it. The real Devil's Backbone is a scenic highway out in the Hill Country that I've never driven on. Evidently I'm really missing out, and not just some nice scenery - there's ghost horses there too!

The Crew


Aaron, Travis.


Notes


Rounders was the first true test of my "every bar" goal. A pizzeria is obviously not a bar in the strictest definition of the term, yet at Rounders you can walk in and order either canned beer from a cooler case or drafts some from a small tap wall. As a house becomes a home through the act of living, a restaurant becomes a bar through the act of drinking. So that's exactly what we did.

As you can see from the showgirl legs in the picture, the interior design is something special. I'm not sure how long they've been around (as is common in Austin, trying to guess how old something is by how grungy it looks can be surprisingly difficult), but they're really serious about their Vegas theme and have put a lot of work into it over the years. You have to respect someone with good enough taste in movies to name their bar after a film. All the classic arcade games made this place very tempting to sit and stay a while, and the fact that they offer free garlic knots was also a powerful argument. But this was only the second stop of the night, and so after we finished our pints and the Texans nearly caught up to the Patriots by halftime, we left.

#3: Winflo Osteria

The Bar


Winflo Osteria. 1315 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703

Visited 1/14/17 at 8pm.

The Drink



"Nameless", according to our bartender, who designed it. Jameson, peach brandy, lemon, simple syrup, and "some honeydew melons we had lying around". $7.

Despite a decent pour of whiskey I could barely taste it. Not overly sweet, and reasonably priced. The melon was excellent; it's not everyday that your strongest memory of a drink is a melon garnish but it really was that good. Proof that you don't need a name to be memorable.

The Crew


Aaron, Travis.


Notes


According to Wikipedia, an Italian osteria is "a place serving wine and simple food". An Austin osteria has that, plus fine cocktails and even a basement for live music. I would think that surely the neighbors wouldn't stand for live music (Clarksville has gotten quite a bit more upscale since the outlaw country of the Townes Van Zandt era, which you can see in Heartworn Highways, let alone the gospel of the black and Italian era), but apparently the venue hasn't had any complaints, which is a pleasant surprise in this era of conflict over live music.

Whoever was responsible for the interior decoration had an impressive commitment to hardwood and knickknacks; the wood is on every interior surface with the odd teapot tucked away near the bar. Also near the bar are cool-looking floor-to-ceiling glass wine shelves, and the ceiling above it has a constellation of glass ornaments. Outside there's a neat sunken patio seating area with convenient access to the basement for shows. Sadly we didn't have time to catch a show, but I would definitely return, either on a date or to get some more of that melon.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

"The Rome Zone" – Cover 3 and Night Cap



Aaron wanted us to fill in blog with our impressions along his trek. I am Rome. These are our first two stops.

I’m not a fancy man.  West 6th is not the place for me. My ideal bar is dark, dirty, and cheap, with good beer on tap. 

Cover 3 is a decent sports bar chain. I had a $10 old fashion. The drink was good, the restaurant was quiet and clean. But I was bored and ready to go.

It was a short walk to the next bar. We skipped Winflo that night since it was already closed. Aaron and Travis doubled back the next day.  

Nightcap is an upscale bar built in an old house. Lots of people in nice clothes, probably on a date. I sat on the patio couches and watched my friends play corn-hole as traffic zoomed by, drinking my “Cough, Please”: a hot cocktail with honey whiskey, lemon, and whole star anise. Everyone’s cocktails were good. Honestly, I could have stayed there for hours. I love a good patio. 


I’ve never been to a restaurant with dental floss and laundered cloth towels in the bathroom before.

#2: Nightcap

The Bar


Nightcap. 1401 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703

Visited 1/13/17 at 10pm.

The Drink



Year 3030. "It's basically a Boulevardier crossed with a Vieux Carré". $14.

Our server had to think for a bit before recommending this. A Boulevardier is whiskey, vermouth, and Campri; while a Vieux Carré is whiskey, vermouth, cognac, and bitters, and indeed it tasted much like a mixture between the two. I enjoyed it, but then again it's hard to go wrong with rye whiskey and bitters, in my opinion.

The Crew


Ashley, Aaron, Travis, Rome.


Notes


We visited Nightcap on Friday the 13th at 10pm, immediately after Cover 3. The journey from Cover 3 to Nightcap on foot is typically unpleasant given Austin's poor sidewalk infrastructure. However, as you're trundling along the cracked and broken pavement, you can enjoy the sights of the pricey boutique businesses in converted houses along the street. Nightcap is no different, mixing the vibe of an upscale craft cocktail bar with the atmosphere of the nice old house that it is. Every single one of the the other patrons almost certainly made way more money than we did.

I appreciated the pink lights frosting the top of the fence around the patio, which has cornhole so you can amuse yourself while waiting for your drinks to arrive. One of the things I like best about Austin's general aesthetic is the devotion to year-round Christmas lights, which give a friendly, vaguely festive cast to whatever business they adorn while giving enough light to be "intimate" (marketing speak for "bright enough so that you're not bumping into anything but still making you have to lean in to actually see"). The craft cocktails on their winter menu have generally saucy names like Banana Hammock and The Full Monty, and Gold Digger, and start at $9. I liked this bar, but I wouldn't recommend making it the only stop of your night.

#1: Cover 3

The Bar


Cover 3. 1717 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703

Visited 1/13/17 at 9pm.

The Drink



The Dougie. A house frozen margarita with a Coronita. $9.50.

When I asked my server for the best drink they had, he said that this was the owner's favorite. If you can't trust the owner, who can you trust? It was your basic margarita plus beer: not too sweet, not too sour, but decently strong. My main challenge with these is always brain freeze. I'm a man who likes to drink at his own pace, and even if I tend towards the slow-drinker persuasion these days, I get annoyed if it takes me forever to make it through my drink before it's turned into a watery mess.

The Crew

Travis, Aaron, Ashley (not pictured), Rome (not pictured).




Notes


We started off our journey on Friday the 13th at 9pm. An auspicious omen?

From the outside, the bar looks almost unchanged from its previous incarnation as a Third Base franchise. It sits at the very western end of Sixth Street inside a mixed-use complex, as the street itself dissolves into the asphalt and concrete vortex of the Mopac interchange.

Inside, the decor still reminds me of a Buffalo Wild Wings, with a few added flourishes. Like the chandeliers, which are interesting circles of candles. Or the bathrooms, which now offer mildly cool circular switches for faucets. Set a course for hygiene!

So expect a sports bar with a decent wine list, a few local craft beers, and some cocktails. We watched the Rockets give up to the Grizzlies in the fourth and headed off.