Tuesday, February 28, 2017

#43: Chuggin' Monkey

The Bar


Chuggin' Monkey. 219 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 2/18/17 @ 4pm.

The Drink



Monkey Juice. Deep Eddy peach vodka, Sprite, lime, and Red Bull Red Edition. $9.50.

I don't like drinks that come with a side drink that's not alcohol. It comes off like the bartender was too lazy to determine the proper proportions for my drink and threw up their hands: "here, you figure this out". Someone more charitable might see it as me getting a bonus side drink of Red Bull to consume at my leisure, like I was a passenger in coach and the stewardess with the drink cart left me a full can of Coke instead of the normal few ounces. Sure. In fairness, I did enjoy the drink. Peach is Deep Eddy's newest vodka flavor, and it's just as good as all the others, and I have to admit that the extra energy that I got from the Red Bull couldn't have hurt me during my later stops.

The Crew


Rome, Aaron.


Notes


Chuggin' Monkey is a college classic, one of those undergrad-friendly joints that attracts newly-minted drinkers like a days-old cup of warm Natty Light attracts gnats. Little has changed since I graduated: during our Saturday afternoon visit, two dudes were playing a game of beer pong off to the side. They were using water in their cups instead of beer, that ritual display of responsibility which bars use to ward off the vengeful ghouls at the TABC who hover around to be invoked at the slightest sign of a liability event. The rest of the arcade games and other amusements looked fairly undermanned, but why play those when you have beer pong, the greatest college game ever invented?

Chuggin' Monkey is still a bar that doesn't demand much out of its patrons other than that they can pay their tabs, although I don't remember drinks costing $9.50 back in the day. You can listen to the acoustic strummings of the musician of the day, kibitz at the beer pong table, play some games, wander between the floors, and otherwise pretend to be on the kind of endless spring break reserved for a Harmony Korine movie. It's owned by the same folks as the Dogwood, although unlike the Dogwood there isn't a sister bar up in the Domain. Then again, for many Austinites the Domain isn't exactly where they'd want to go on a spring break, or really any break at all, even if the Domain also has plenty of $9.50 cocktails. It's all about finding your own scene.

Monday, February 27, 2017

#42: Bat Bar

The Bar


Bat Bar. 214 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 2/15/17 @ 8:30pm.

The Drink



Skywalker. New Amsterdam berry vodka, melon liqueur, sweet and sour, Sprite. $6.

After I gave my request, we were given two choices: this Star Wars-themed drink, and one that wasn't Star Wars-themed. My decision could not have been easier. I was a huge Star Wars nerd when I was a kid, to the point where I still have the Thrawn series on my bookshelf and occasionally find myself looking at non-canon spaceship renderings or hilariously elaborate technical commentaries. Bat Bar isn't exactly a cantina, and I didn't gain any Force powers after I drank this mildly sweet concoction, but it was a fine drink for the price.

The Crew


Aaron, Rome, Travis.


Notes


Bat Bar has three sub-bars to handle busier times - a quick shot bar, a VIP bar upstairs, and the "main" bar we ordered from, which on a Wednesday night was the only one open to serve the handful of patrons. It's got to be tough for dance/party venues on off-nights, and especially for the acoustic duo playing to an essentially empty room when we walked in. Not to get all Inside Llewyn Davis about it, but sometimes I wonder what the musicians rocking out to a handful of people are thinking. It's really difficult to make it as a musician, even in such a music-friendly town as Austin, for many reasons that the city's survey identified in detail. But beyond prosaic monetary pressures, it takes a real commitment to your craft to go out on a Wednesday night and play your heart out to the indifferent churn of Sixth Street stumblers who stay for a song and then depart, like us. As a patron, I appreciate live music almost no matter what it is, since few things are lamer than a thoughtless Pandora station. But for a band that's hoping to make an artistic statement, the sheer paucity of people can't be good. The opposite of fame is not notoriety but obscurity. I know it's literally meaningless to hope that everyone gets big (attention is limited, and if everyone is equally famous then no one is), but I really feel for the guys strumming like their life depends on it to nobody in particular.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

#41: Gino's East

The Bar


Gino's East. 214 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 2/15/17 @ 8pm.

The Drink



Eye-talian margarita. Lunazul tequila, triple sec, sweet and sour, lime, and Disaronno amaretto. $7.

Our bartender was from the Northeast, with an accent to match, and this was her creation. I've used Lunazul tequila before, when I was trying to make Trudy's Mexican martinis at home, and it's a really solid mid-tier tequila. This drink closely resembles the one from Trudy's with the substitution of the Cointreau for a side glass of amaretto, which was specifically chosen because she "wanted to drink like an old Italian man". I am part Italian, but before I descend into my bocce-playing dotage, I want to enjoy a few more drinks like this first. I drained part of the margarita, poured the amaretto in, and enjoyed the almond flavor it gave to the remainder. It reminded me of the almond cookies my Italian relatives in New York make, which, as it happens, are nearly identical to Mexican wedding cookies, so this drink was a happy union of the two cultures. If only all cultural interactions could be done via cookies and alcoholic beverages, I think the world would be a lot happier.

The Crew


Rome, Travis, Aaron.


Notes


Fuck the haters, I love deep dish pizza. It's not the same kind of pizza as New York style pizza, but it doesn't have to be, and as long as the breath of freedom still flows through the lungs of America, I will continue to transfer deep dish pizza to the stomach of Aaron as vigorously as possible. Gino's East is one of the handful of Chicago pizza joints who competes for the essentially bogus title of "original deep dish pizza". I've eaten at one of the ones in Chicago but, for reasons of laziness, never at the Austin location, which has been open for a year or two. It's obviously more of a restaurant than a bar, tucked underneath the staircase to The Parish, but on a Wednesday night we had no issues at all strolling in for our round and then departing. They are one of the few places on Sixth where you can hear Emerson, Lake & Palmer wafting gently from the speakers. We didn't eat here, but I was strongly tempted to. This location also maintains the pro-graffiti tradition of the Chicago locations, which meshes nicely with Austin's affinity for the same. Another great cultural connection.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Rome Zone 5: Driskill, Eureka!, Buffalo Billiards, B. D. Riley’s, Friends, Barcelona

February 11, 2017 - First night on Dirty Sixth

Pregame
Shiner Coffee Ale

My plan was to go to the Driskill and head out, but Aaron said “just 3 and out;” three bars, one drink each. We drank a couple of beers at Aaron’s waiting for everyone to trickle in. Geoff, Elijah, and Pope came into town.

Six of us piled into an Uber, but really a Fare because this is Austin. Fare and Fasten seamlessly replaced Uber and Lyft, though others would argue that Uber leaving was a travisty. Same situation where drivers work both Apps.

Driskill
Geoff REALLY wanted to go here. It was classy, but I didn’t feel out of place like I did on West Sixth. I guess it’s because they’re on the edge of Dirty Sixth, they get a lot of walk-ins from sloppy drunk 21 year olds.
 Me, Aaron, Geoff, Pope, Elijah, Cat, and Travis. Vince showed up for round two.
When Aaron said “Drink that best represents…” we ended up with a Manhattan (my favorite Manhattan thus far). There have been a lot of bourbon/whiskey drinks. Luckily, that’s my favorite liquor. Elijah got a second round of drinks there. I had a mint julep.  
I was sober and took many photos.

Time to head out.

Eureka! (or in my notes as Not Logan’s)
A lot of nostalgia walking along dirty sixth. Logan’s was often the start of the night, with a liter of Bud Light for $4. It was a frat bar. I don't mean that as a perjorative, but that's the best I can describe it. Every night, the bar went silent when they played the same clip from Wedding Crashers or Full Metal Jacket. And it was probably the same people from when I turned 21, since everyone in the bar was over 30, with a similar vibe.

"How's that ginger in your eye?" said Geoff to the bartender.
There was a 45 minute line for a table, which surprised me since most places on Sixth are either at capacity or below capacity. We had a really good whiskey/ginger drink. 8 or 9 whiskey craft cocktails took a lot of bartender resources. If she knew there were that many of us, the bartender would have said that a whiskey and coke or Bud Light was the "drink that best represents…” 

Pizza Break: Paparazzi Pizza. 
Aaron: “This isn’t great pizza, but it’s pizza, so it’s great.” 

No beer, just street pizza. I thought it was Roppolo’s. The timeline of pizza in relation to bars is disputed. 

Buffalo Billiards 
I rarely went here as a college kid, but I always enjoyed it. Lots of games, food, pitchers. But in those days of $1 domestics, few wanted to spend time/money on things that weren’t beer. 

Played one game of foosball, ate too much of Vince’s queso, and drank what I assume was a piňa colada. Pretty good. But sweet Jesus, I wanted a beer. I tried to convince everyone to stay for a beer, but we soldiered on.

B. D. Riley’s
Whiskey shot = Pain
Friends
We had rumplemintz shots. We were in and out in 10 minutes, and I have no memory.  

I think that's everyone else in the mirror there.


Barcelona
Supposition  Whiskey cocktail : West Sixth :: Rumplemitnz : Dirty Sixth

Barecelona is a dark dirty dance bar. Again, I don't mean that as an insult. It seems on the higher end for that area of Sixth, and I'm pretty sure they offered us bottle service one time.
 Here’s a collage of my blurry attempts at photographs.
Second rumplemintz shot. It was sweet, not bad. I started drinking water. It was long before midnight, but I was done. Travis and Cat wanted to dance. I wasn’t into it, but I tried to do a middle school dance hip move.

Post game analysis
We left at 11:28 according to the time stamp on the photo.  
Spent the night on our college stomping grounds. It was a blast. Most of the fun is just hanging out with good, old friends.
archerisms tumblr
Nonetheless, we're older and paid double or triple the next day. 

Friday, February 24, 2017

#40: Bikini's

The Bar


Bikini's. 214 E 6th St A, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 2/15/17 @ 7:30pm.

The Drink



Shiner. $5.

It's always mildly amusing to me when my standard spiel of "give me the drink that you personally feel shows off this bar the best" throws bartenders for a loop, even if their reaction to my oddball request is perfectly understandable. Some immediately start to ask more questions to get a feel for what they can make that I'll like: this is good. Others don't want the responsibility of having to make decisions at all and desperately try to pass the baton back to me: this is bad. I ended up with a Shiner here, so draw your own conclusions. To be fair, it's hard to go wrong with a Shiner - every one of them I drink reminds me of my college days, like a nostalgia film in a bottle.

The Crew


Travis, Rome, Aaron.


Notes


I have mixed feelings about breastaurants. I have nothing against scantily-clad women in theory, but in practice I that the corporate use of sex appeal is usually just a way to cut corners elsewhere, under the theory that doltish men are so easily distracted by the female form that they won't care if the rest of the product is subpar. Since this depressing theory of male intelligence has been proven correct by essentially all of recorded history, be aware that the same thing holds true here at this bar. Not that it's actively awful or anything, it's just that the equation of More Sex = Better Than doesn't always hold true, and while there's not really anything morally wrong with this kind of crass marketing (unless you're the nominee for a major Cabinet department), it just comes off as kind of tacky, less a playful melding of sex and suds than a grimly calculated deployment of titillation for profit. The word "exploitation" gets thrown around a lot, but it might fit here.

That makes me think, though: under what conditions does adding a layer of sexuality on top of an experience make it better? It rarely hurts anything: adding in nudity to a movie doesn't harm it, as we learned from Seinfeld. Same with the finer arts like photography. But with something like a bar or a restaurant, I'm not sure that upping the titillation factor adds all that much to the experience (Tom Wolfe once had a piece in The Pump House Gang about a restaurant with topless waitresses in the 1960s that confirms this impression). With something like a strip club, you know what you're getting: the nudity is the product you're paying for, and everything else is incidental. At a bar, however, you're generally there for the beer and the company, so forcing your patrons to go through this semi-conscious am-I-allowed-to-be-aroused-by-this-in-public routine is likely to be more distracting than anything else, in addition to raising uncomfortable questions how much sexual harassment the poor servers have to undergo on a daily basis. I can't find any data on if the tips are better, but presumably it's worth for the servers, at least for a little while.

In sports news. we watched enough of ISU @ KU to get into a discussion about some upcoming NCAA rule changes, and then left as quick as we could.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

#39: Barcelona

The Bar


Barcelona. 209 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 2/11/17 @ 11:30pm.

The Drink



Rumple Minze shot. $4.75.

Imagine my lack of positive emotions upon being presented with another Rumple Minze shot, mere minutes after receiving one from the previous bar. Actually don't imagine it because I'll tell you: I was pissed! I imagine that serving a round of shots is normally a smart move for bartenders: any group of people ordering one round is almost certainly going to order more (especially if they're observing the code of the round), and as they get drunker and drunker the odds of them racking up a big tab get better and better. The joke was on him, since we didn't order more rounds, but that doesn't make a second consecutive Rumple Minze shot any easier to swallow.

The Crew


Geoff, Rome, Aaron, James, Vince, Travis (not pictured), Elijah (not pictured), Cat (not pictured).


Notes


Barcelona is a subterranean dance club, accessible by a poorly lit staircase that someone thought would be fun to watch drunk people try to ascend and descend (he was right). Once you've made it down into this alcoholic oubliette, there's a bartender to the left, and ahead of you the dance floor, with a DJ who was playing some pretty solid EDM, as I recall. At least the crowd was digging it; maybe not to the most intense degree possible, but certainly more than we were. EDM isn't really my genre, although I did go to raves and such in high school. I can listen to the music, and even more to the genre's precursors, I just don't consider myself "an EDM person" to the extent that I'd go out of my way to a club and jam to it.

This was the sixth stop of the night, and so my memories of this bar don't have quite the crystalline clarity you've come to expect. I was definitely feeling the effects of what had to be at least ten drinks, so allow me to subject you to yet another terrible piece of doggerel commemorating my mental state at the time:

You're quite a few bars in, and the air is clear as gin
You've had a couple shots, and your stomach's tied in knots
You need a calming beer, but your brain is out of gear
You've had your fill of toasts, and all you want to do is ghost

Of all the negative side effects this project has had on me, from hangovers to expensive tabs to acting a fool trying to get girls' numbers, perhaps attempted poetry is the worst of all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

#38: Friends

The Bar


Friends. 208 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 2/11/17 @ 11pm.

The Drink



Rumple Minze shot. $8.

I was trying to think of how to best convey the taste of this peppermint liqueur, but esteemed purveyor of quality journalism TotalFratMove.com once described it as like "blowing Santa Claus", and I can't hope to improve on such a phrase. It's rarely a sign of a quality bartender if, when asked for your best drink, you respond with a this kind of tourist bait, and an even worse sign if the tourist bait is $8. However, I can't claim that we didn't deserve it, and I suppose any bartender who treats his patrons with the contempt they deserve is only doing his civic duty. Would I have done the same in his position? Asking yourself if you would serve you Rumple Minze is the kind of question that could keep you up at night, especially on those dark nights when the answer is yes.

The Crew


Ben, Cat, Elijah, Aaron, Vince, Travis, Geoff, James, Rome.


Notes


Friends has NO COVER printed prominently on its sign outside. Before you start making "don't judge a bar by its cover!" jokes, know that cover charges on Dirty Sixth are extremely common, especially on certain nights. This is either a legitimate method for ensuring bars don't get too crowded for comfort and safety while providing a stable income stream for the band playing, or a sinister ruse to extract more money while controlling the demographics of who's inside. Or both at the same time - Sixth Street is full of these fun little puzzlers.

Another fun puzzler: given that most of us were on at least our sixth or seventh drink of the evening, should we have been filed into the riffraff column and been shown the door? I guess there's a real difference between a profitable drunk and an unprofitable drunk, and after our second round of shots in two bars, we were certainly in the first category. To be perfectly honest, I don't recall much about this bar, although it seems like the kind of place I would generally avoid. We took our drinks, goggled at the fishtank that is the interior's star attraction, and shuffled onwards through the night, stopping only to get some pizza. "It's not great pizza, but it's pizza, so it's great."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

#37: B.D. Riley's

The Bar


B.D. Riley's. 204 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 2/11/17 @ 10:30pm.

The Drink



Powers whiskey shot. $7.25.

Forgive me for seeing the world of whiskey through Jameson-colored glasses, but even though I've seen Powers plenty of times before, I can't actually remember the last time I drank it. It is part of the Pernod Ricard family (along with Jameson, actually), and it's not as famous as its sibling for a reason: when consumed in shot form it's one of the whiskeys that's not shy about what it is. I started out this project thinking that shots might be a fun occasional alternative to whatever beers or cocktails I was given, but I'm now distinctly less fond of them. When I say I want a drink, for $7 I should get an actual drink.

The Crew


Vince, Ben, Aaron, Travis, Rome, James, Cat, Geoff, Elijah.


Notes


There's a lot to say about the "Irish pub" as an institution, a particular bar experience that partakes of the spirit of the Emerald Isle yet can be reconstituted at will in stranger climes. I can't claim any special expertise with the "Irish" part of that, even though I'm one of the 40 million Americans with vague Irish heritage. I have visited the mother country, though (it was lovely, thank you for asking). And since all of my experiences with bars come after the pint is served rather than before, all I can do is judge a bar's atmosphere based on the highly subjective metrics of how it makes me feel at the time. As for the craic, that legendary Irish term for good times, leave that to me and my friends.

On their website, they brag that parts of this building were shipped from Ireland, which I imagine is not an uncommon claim. Part of the wall is Austin-original, however, of an 1875 vintage. Inside they support the very Irish-American teams of Notre Dame and the Patriots, which makes me wonder what they did for the UT-Notre Dame games in 2015 and 2016. A house divided will not stand! In this town, I expect to see burnt orange wherever I go.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Rome Zone 4: Little Woodrows, Sophia’s, Austin Ale House, Gloria’s




February 8th.


Great way to combine my birthday with structured drinking.

Little Woodrow's
It started out me, Aaron, Travis, and Chris (Geoff’s dad). We had a slow start, as we trickled on. Little Woodrow’s seemed game, but a little confused, by Aaron’s request (best drink that represents…). Gotta respect a place that knows they’re a beer joint instead of trying to get you to buy a super sweet blue something. 
Shiner Cold Brew Coffee Ale
We were going to get food there, but they never gave us a food menu (probably because we literally said one-and-done). Chris talked us into getting burgers at Austin Ale House, which sounded better than anything I imagined Little Woodrow's had.

We were on our way to Austin Ale House.

Sophia’s
But we stumbled on a random bar along the way, half underground like a speakeasy.  Pretty good Old Fashioned.  It was packed, but we got to sit in the lounge immediately. Chris became very talkative, and we talked a bit of taxes.  

Probably the classiest place I drank in a while, if not ever. And if that place doesn’t have a bathroom attendant, Sherlock’s sure as shit doesn’t need one.

That empty spot is where I was sitting.
Austin Ale House
The dinner portion of the evening. Michael and Ashley showed up. Aaron tried to ask some questions (like why are there buffaloes everywhere), and the waitress kind of shrugged and walked away. The bar was pretty lackluster, but with a big enough group, you create your own atmosphere. 

I got a Texas Mule, my favorite drink of the evening. Probably my favorite drink so far on this trek. A jalapeno moscow mule. Strong on the Jalapeno, strong on the ginger, and I’m fairly sure strong on the vodka. Low on cucumber, which is my least favorite ingredient. Traditional copper mug because of some BS about copper.  

I got a plain cheeseburger and fries, and it was everything I needed at that point in my life.
This was when I finally stopped consuming long enough to take a photo. 
 
Gloria’s
Nice, but low key, and they were cool with us showing up 30 minutes before close just to get drinks.
The service was great, and the waitress tried to roll with the punches.  I was surprised she brought us chips and salsa since we were just getting drinks. Even though I was full, I dug into those red and green salsas. Salty, savory, and warm.

I think this was the third time Geoff called/texted to do a welfare check on his dad, at which point Chris grabbed Aaron's phone and texted Geoff himself. 

I got a strawberry margarita, for which my compadres ridiculed me.  The waitress asked if I wanted salt or sugar on the rim. I said yes, thinking she said salt AND sugar, and she too made fun of me. I thought it was a real thing because of Parks and Rec

Would've been better with a salt and sugar rim.
End of the Night
We tried to make it to another bar; 10:30 seemed pretty early for everything to be closed. We looked rather pathetic trying to get into 3 closed bars. We did get one more beer at Barfly's, since that is still my favorite bar, and it was a birthday request. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

#36: Buffalo Billiards

The Bar


Buffalo Billiards. 201 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 2/11/17 @ 10pm.

The Drink



Happiness. Malibu rum, pineapple, grenadine. $6.50.

Our bartender was one of those innocent drink-wranglers thrown for a loop by my best-drink request, so he hemmed and hawed for a while before we cornered him into concocting this. It felt like the kind of drink that you'd get on an all-inclusive cruise, not so much girly as generically tropical. I wasn't necessarily any happier after I drank it than I was before, merely more drunk. But the bartender had personally bestowed the drink's name upon it, and so to honor its christening we partook without complaint.

On a side note, I've long thought it was interesting that in many languages, the word for "happy" often does double duty for "lucky": French heureux, German glücklich, Spanish feliz, Latin felix, Russian счастливый, Swedish lycklig, and so on. I've never read a good explanation for exactly why. Is this just a case of convergent understanding that good luck brings happiness (or that unluckiness brings unhappiness)? Either way, I wonder if there's an language out there where "drunk" means "happy", because that's the language for me!

The Crew


James, Vince, Ben, Aaron, Elijah, Cat, Geoff, Rome (not pictured), Travis (not pictured).


Notes


There are a lot of games you can play here while you drink. Pool is obviously #1, but don't let that stop you from exploring. I've known this as Buffalo Billiards for forever, even though it's only been around in the building since 1999. The structure itself is the Missouri House, a historic boarding house/brothel/ghost nexus that dates back to the Civil War, although chances are you'll be too busy drinking, playing billiards, etc. to be paying much attention to the brickwork. Often I wonder exactly what the people who built these buildings back in the day would think of their current uses, after they got over the shocks of electricity, indoor plumbing, bachelorette parties, etc. There's a strong element of optimism inherent in the act of development - only the most pessimistic architects deliberately plan for collapse - yet in some ways, once you've built the four walls and the roof, everything that comes after is out of your hands. Would the builders approve?

It might seem silly to wonder what a bunch of Civil War-era real estate developers would think of a group of Millennials playing foosball while drinking ersatz tropical cocktails. And it is - if there are any living descendants of the Ziller family, they're as likely to be eating queso at the bar alongside us instead of shaking our heads how upset great-great-great-great-granddad would be at what we've done to his brothel. But as Austin continues its slow march towards greater affluence and leisure, it's worth spending a minute to consider how that progress requires the living to repurpose the capital stock of the dead, and how the depreciation of the buildings can be mirrored by the inebriation of their occupants.

Friday, February 17, 2017

#35: Eureka

The Bar


Eureka. 200 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 2/11/17 @ 9pm.

The Drink



The Penicillin. Corsair triple smoked whiskey, ginger, honey, lemon. $13.

This bar was slammed, so we pursued a multi-pronged divide-and-conquer strategy to flag down a bartender. This recommendation was a house special, one of several which looked intriguing. They have an extensive list of all kinds of wines, whiskeys, beers, and so forth. I liked the drink, although I've never understood why people use ginger as a garnish when there are so many other things in the world. Ginger beer was so unpopular for a while that they had to invent an entire drink in order to get rid of it (it also spawned a fun court case), and raw ginger itself is better as a sushi topping than as a drink accessory, in my opinion. Nevertheless, it failed to ruin the drink, and that's about all you can ask from a garnish.

The Crew


Geoff, Aaron, Cat, Elijah, Travis, Rome, James, Vince, Ben (not pictured).


Notes


I knew this location as Logan's for a long time. I'm not sure what happened to the former occupant, but on Saturday night its replacement was jam-packed, which was unfortunate for our crew. Moving with a large group is logistically arduous even if everyone has the best intentions - whose round is it? do you have any cash to cover me? where'd X go, should we wait? can you hold up while I hit the restroom? is it okay if I get food? what if half of us stay for another round and meet up later? - but even though we'd had a few already, we were disciplined enough to queue up for our spot at the bar, like a well-oiled machine. In fact, we might have been a little TOO well-oiled - a group of drunk people can transform from a herd of cats to a herd of elephants in the blink of an eye - so the fact that it took us half an hour to get our drinks may not have been such a bad thing.

Regardless, once you do have a drink, you can take in the interior, which nods to the building's historic status as one of the oldest buildings in town while still providing all the expected comforts of modernity. Well, comforts and ginger garnishes.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

#34: Driskill Bar

The Bar


Driskill Bar. 604 Brazos St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 2/11/17 @ 7:30pm.

The Drink



Manhattan. Maker's Mark, Angostura bitters, cherry. $12.

Since we were in the 130th anniversary of this place, they had specialty drinks of Texas Revival and Driskill Julep, but for my official drink I was unhesitatingly recommended a Manhattan. Unlike Café Josie's revisionist take on the classic, this was done by the book. Maker's Mark is a great choice, and they executed it well. We did stay for more rounds, however, so I can wholeheartedly recommend the Texas Revival as well. This is the kind of cocktail bar that seems untouched by time.

The Crew


Rome, James, Cat, Elijah, Travis, Geoff, Aaron, Vince (not pictured).


Notes


The Driskill was by far my most anticipated stop of this whole trip, since I had never been to it before embarking on this project. Exactly why, I'm not sure, although I don't think it's unusual for people who have lived in their cities for years simply being too busy with life to seek out its more touristy sides - for many years, when friends would ask me what hotels in Austin were the best, I simply had no idea. So even a place with as fascinating a history as Austin's oldest hotel might manage to escape my attentions while I was busy chasing down Lone Star specials like the juvenile product of the working class I am, until a special occasion made me break out of my groove and seek out more high-end drinking opportunities.

That phrase "high-end" is a bit funny, since even though The Driskill is the very first place on Dirty Sixth to drink at, it has absolutely nothing in common with any of the establishments around it. I really loved its atmosphere, with its air of sumptuous luxury that simply wouldn't be built today. The interior is exactly what you'd expect a 19th century businessman's idea of high-class to be: gold everywhere, tasteful wood paneling, rich Corinthian leather.... Okay, maybe not that last one. but every detail means something: even the lush carpeting nods to the very interesting connection between the Driskill, the State Capitol, and the XIT ranch up in the Panhandle. We tried to go up to the balcony that overlooks Sixth Street to gaze at the chaos below, but unfortunately it was blocked by renovation work that was ongoing.

Many bars struggle with creating an intimate atmosphere that enhances your experience without overpowering it. The Driskill is just a cool place to drink and soak in the history, or even to people-watch - I don't know that I would ever be a regular here, but I would definitely return.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sixth Street Sector Roundup: West Sixth

I did not expect to get through so many bars so quickly. We did only 2 bars in the first night in January, and I figured that we would keep up a similar leisurely pace. But I started having so much fun that I just couldn't stay away, and before I knew it I had conquered West Sixth. It's very difficult to sum up an entire third of Sixth Street in one post, but I'll try.


Clarksville is a famously insular neighborhood, a lasting redoubt of Old Austin, and so many of the bars west of Lamar have a cozy, neighborly feel to them. Some of them have been open for a long time, and even the ones that haven't have an air of intimacy to them, like you can't get to truly know them without spending a lot more time there. I've long thought that Old Austin's sense of aesthetics was basically that of a permanent grad student: somewhat shabby, not particularly impressive or even looking to impress, but egalitarian and welcoming to anyone on the same wavelength. When no one has any money, you find other ways to measure status, but at least everyone is in the same boat, and so bars on the quiet stretch of Sixth look mostly like everything else.

Meanwhile, east of Lamar the street gives way to what you would characterize as New Austin: flashy, modern, nice. There are older bars on the street, in fact some are even older than the ones further west, but this stretch of Sixth is changing too rapidly to leave the older establishments much peace. What's different about the newer bars is the attitude of the clientele, and while some bars have an atmosphere of self-confidence that comes from their heritage, ones that cater to a younger or less deeply-rooted population feel like they could be anywhere. Austin has an extremely high civic esprit de corps, but even one of the most newcomer-friendly cities in the country can struggle to assimilate a new generation of transplants, especially ones with much more money than the past.

But I was genuinely touched by one constant: throughout the whole street, everyone was extremely friendly. It wouldn't be my city without a smile for everyone. Austin doesn't have quite the history that some cities do, and it struggles with its identity in an era of great change, but I hope it maintains its reputation as a city with a handshake and a cold beer for everyone forever.

And now for some statistics!

Top 5 Bars


Using a completely subjective formula that takes into account the quality of the drink, the ambiance of the bar, the friendliness of the bartender, and my own level of intoxication, here are my top five bars:


  1. Ruth's Chris
  2. Café Josie
  3. J Black's
  4. The Rustic Tap
  5. Concrete Cowboy


Booze Brothers participating


Total: 13

  • Aaron: 33
  • Travis: 22
  • Rome: 15
  • Sonali: 8
  • Michael: 6
  • Karen: 4
  • Chris: 4
  • Kyle: 3
  • Ashley: 3
  • Vince: 3
  • Geoff: 3
  • Cristy: 3
  • Louis: 3

Establishments visited


Total: 33

  • Bars: 16
  • Restaurants: 12
  • Clubs: 4
  • Grocery stores: 1

Drinks consumed


Total: 33*

  • Cocktails: 20
  • Beers: 8
  • Shots: 2
  • Other: 2
  • Wines: 1

* Obviously I drank WAY more than that.

Money spent


Total: $279.*

* That doesn't include taxes, tip, or the food or extra drinks I bought.