Wednesday, March 29, 2017

#66: Jackalope

The Bar


Jackalope. 404 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 3/29/17 @ 10:30pm.

The Drink



Sake bomb. Ace pear cider, sake. $4.

I think this might have been my very first sake bomb ever, meaning a beer or cider with a shot of sake. I've had plenty of boilermakers (beer with whiskey) and Irish car bombs (also known as "peacemakers" at Trinity Hall in Dallas, due to historical baggage, but they're Jameson and Bailey's with Guinness either way) before, but I can't say I've ever had a sake bomb. As with all drink + shot combinations, its true value lies not in the flavor of the drink but in the performance of the drinking, so as a group we engaged in that time-honored ritual of a chug-off. Judging by the appreciative reaction from the rest of the patrons around us, we managed to fulfill our duties as the entertainment du jour - even more so after one of us (I won't use his name, but it starts with "V" and is spelled the same as "Vince") claimed he didn't realize when we were starting and demanded a rematch. Spoiler alert: he didn't win that time either. But it was worth it, because it turns out that the combination of cider and sake is actually pretty good, with the cider's sweetness mellowing the bite of the sake. Our bartender picked it perfectly.

The Crew


Vince, Davis, Aaron.


Notes


As weird as this sounds, in what most be almost a half-dozen trips to Jackalope, this was the first time I ever went there solely to drink. I've mainly known Jackalope for their food, which is excellent - their massive NY style slices of pizza, their gargantuan burgers, and their truly excellent waffle fries. Seriously, just look at these beauties. I've always thought that waffle fries are the best fries, due to the high surface-to-area ratio for maximum flavor. I respect those that prefer steak fries, even though their lower surface-to-area means that the double-frying has to be done right, and the underlying quality of the potato has to be higher since there's less room to hide behind tricks of dip or seasoning. There's just something great about the more complex structure of the waffle fry, which gives you more exciting angles to dip from, as well as a more interesting eating strategy. You'll never be bored with a plate of waffle fries, and one order of them here is easily enough for two people, or even more if you get the waffle fry nachos.

In, uh, other news, Jackalope has a pretty cool interior. Besides the gigantic statue of a jackalope right in front of the entrance, which has the drunken photo op upside without the downside of the mechanical bull mishap like you'd find at Trophy Club. There's also a ton of pinup art on the walls, just like you'd find at their sister bar Chupacabra up the street. Pinup art is cool, it brings a fun atmosphere to the bar without the weird overtones of a breastaurant like Bikini's, and given all the other goofy illuminated or stuffed items over the ancient brick walls, it fits right in. The crowd is also a bit different than your typical Destination: Wasted crew. After you spend enough time on Dirty Sixth, the seemingly subtle differences between what look like identical barfronts become as bright as roadside flares, some guiding you to high-dollar cocktails, others directing you to cheap shots, others pointing you to waffle fries and sake bombs. Don't miss this place.

#65: Peckerheads

The Bar


Peckerheads. 402 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 3/29/17 @ 9:30pm.

The Drink



Adios, motherfucker!. Tequila, whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, triple sec, blue curaçao, sour. $5.50.

I love that Dirty Sixth offers drinks like these. A bunch of liquors together in a glass? Why not: no matter your preferred liquor, this drink has got you covered. This neatly solved my "drink that best represents the bar" question as well, since it's basically the Venn diagram intersection of every cocktail at once, so it was win-win for both me and the bartender. I don't see any mezcal or scotch hiding in there, but in true trash can punch style you wouldn't want to waste your higher-end liquors on this kind of slumgullion anyway. The only actual flavor you can taste in this drink is "blue", thanks to the sour and the curaçao; don't worry, underneath it, the alcohol is definitely working its magic. That they serve this giant glass with an extremely strong pour for $5.50 is either highly concerning, if you're a TABC agent, or a noble act of public service, if you're me. I had thought that Shakespeare's Long Island pitcher was Dirty Sixth in a single drink, but this is certainly a strong contender as well.

The Crew


Aaron, Vince, Davis.


Notes


Peckerheads is a kind of semi/quasi/unofficial Longhorns bar, at least judging by how often the staff mentioned all the members of the football team who had allegedly been drinking within these hallowed walls. Their amazing wall decoration, a riff on the iconic Jo's coffee shop mural, is certainly evidence that their hearts are in the right place, and as you can see, we bleed burnt orange as well (crank that song loud). I would feel right home in a bar like this - even though it's only been around for about 10 years, it feels like generations of just-turned-21 kids fresh off a victory in the Red River Shootout have been ordering gigantic drinks that cost almost no money for forever. On the Wednesday night that it was, we were the only patrons, so we had plenty of time to explore the cozy darkness of the venue, which you reach by climbing up some stairs from the street. Once I get done with this bar crawl I'm going to think on if being on the second floor changes the bar's vibe at all. There's no balcony here, and the interior has the sort of unwindowed dankness which makes it feel like it could be at the bottom of a mineshaft and you'd have no idea, but it felt more like a refuge than many other places I've been to. We watched our bartender spill a bunch of liquor all over herself and have to run to the CVS for some new flip flops and shorts, and return to talk about what it's like to have seen Austin change over the years. Good thing fandom never changes.

#64: Old School

The Bar


Old School. 401 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 3/29/17 @ 9pm.

EDIT: Old School has closed.

The Drink



Ginger special. Deep Eddy lemon vodka and blueberry vodka, ginger beer, soda. $5.50.

Originally this drink had no name. When I was giving my spiel about wanting the drink that best showed off this bar, our bartender suggested a cocktail, and after we assented, he thought about what would be best for us to make and whipped up this simple refreshing drink in no time at all. Deep Eddy makes such great vodkas that even an oddball pairing like lemon and blueberry ends up tasting delicious, even over the ginger beer. I didn't grow up drinking ginger beer, so it has always tasted like a cocktail ingredient to me rather than something to drink on its own, but like with many things, it tastes better when you add vodka to it. After we all finished off our drinks, I went up to the bartender and asked him what he called it. He was stumped until his coworker suggested naming it after his bright red hair: the Ginger Special. My mother is a redhead (I have dark hair, though not due to any kind of climate change factor), so I've always found the whole "wow, a ginger!" thing to be kind of weird, but you don't pass up a marketing opportunity like that.

The Crew


Vince, Davis, Bobby, Aaron.


Notes


I'm pretty sure this place isn't named after the hit film from 2003, but it really seems like the kind of place that Will Ferrell would have gotten into. Right after we wandered in, fresh from having seen Blade Runner: The Final Cut and still having a heated nerd argument over whether Deckard being a replicant makes any sense at all (the correct answer is no, it destroys all narrative tension and logic in the movie), the bar staff started setting up for a beer pong tournament. Dear friends and loyal readers know that I have a real weakness for beer pong, the king of bar sports, and we were sorely tempted. Old School has a weekly tournament with free entry and cash prizes, and if only there had been another team for us to play against we might have stayed. However, the fact that it was a Wednesday night, and that we are old, meant that we decided to leave. Old School just looks like a fun place to spend an evening watching your opponents drain their cups, maybe with some streaking towards the end of the night. It has the same owners as Night Owl, a newish bar on Burnet that I still haven't been to. If they're as fun as Old School, I'll have to check them out soon.

#63: Chupacabra

The Bar


Chupacabra. 400 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 3/29/17 @ 6:30pm.

The Drink



House margarita. Milagro silver tequila, Solerno blood orange, agave, lime. $5.

Austin is a big Tex-Mex city, so naturally you find a lot of margaritas around here. The margarita's origins are shrouded in mystery, as is so common, but it's become ubiquitous. With so many bars offering nearly identical takes on the classic, I enjoy finding places with slightly different versions, and in an environment as margarita-saturated as this one, adding Solerno counts as different enough from the norm for me. Solerno comes from Sicily, and it lent a really great citrus flavor to the margarita. I've been loving all these Italian liqueurs that bars have been sneaking into my drinks, and this is one of the best I found so far; next time I'm in a requesting mood I should specifically ask for a drink that features it a bit more. Since we were still in happy hour, this was a great bargain for the margarita. Our bartender was really friendly too, which didn't hurt either.

The Crew


Davis, Aaron.


Notes


As you can see by the guac girl pinup behind us, Chupacabra has a playful attitude. It's the sister bar of Jackalope, a few doors down the street, and so they both have novelty drinks like the "Cockfight", a cocktail served in a comically oversized martini glass and other offbeat items like that. Also like Jackalope it serves food in addition to beverages, though Chupacabra has more of a Tex-Mex flair - fish tacos and the like (yes yes, I know those are more of a Cal-Mex thing). We didn't get to hang out for very long, since we were just killing time with a drink before seeing Blade Runner: The Final Cut at the Alamo very shortly (I like that cut although I've become more anti-Deckard-replicant than ever - maybe more on that later), so we watched a bit of OKC @ ORL before leaving for our movie. I would definitely return.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Sixth Street Sector Roundup: Dirty Sixth Part 1

It took exactly a month to finish the first half of Dirty Sixth. I had originally planned to take a breather during SXSW to avoid the madness, and as luck would have it we scored the very last missing bar right as SXSW was starting. My pace was aided by some marathon nights - at my ancient, decrepit, crippled age of 33, six bars in three hours with two drinks each on average counts as a marathon, and I felt every step.


I have to admit that I was not looking forward to Dirty Sixth, on the whole. Most of the people I know don't really go there, and I think the same is true of a lot of Austinites. Sure, we'll catch a show on Red River, and maybe grab a quick pre-show drink or a bite to eat on Sixth, but for the most part, Dirty Sixth is the province of newcomers, college students, and out-of-towners. It's funny that such a well-advertised part of the city's identity would be so infrequently patronized by the people who actually live here, but I think that's the case for most things you see promoted to tourists. Some markers of Austin identity like Town Lake and Zilker Park get used by locals frequently, but others like the State Capitol or the Congress Avenue bats get visited during elementary school, maybe, and then rarely if ever again. When I was just starting out as a young drinker, it was a truism that you could go to Sixth and be guaranteed to run into at least one person you knew. Now, most of my friends drink at their neighborhood bars, and only go down to East Sixth (or, God forbid, Rainey) as infrequently as possible.

And maybe we're missing out, at least a little. Dirty Sixth contains the whole spectrum of nightlife: dive bars, music venues, speakeasies, dance clubs, and even a movie theater. And, to an even greater degree than on West Sixth, I visited on weeknights, weekends, and afternoons to capture a fuller picture of the drinking life. I still recommend going on a weeknight, but I realize that most of the time this isn't possible. And in terms of the experience, even though I had a terrible experience at 311 Club, for the most part I found fun bars, decent drinks, friendly people, and good times. Despite being biased towards my hometown, one of the things that makes Austin stand out among all the other midsize cities I've been to is its friendliness - no matter who you are or where you're from, you'll find people ready to welcome you. I found that to be true no matter if I was in a swanky cocktail lounge or in a college bar. Ultimately a city is its people, and the thing that make Austin's bars so much fun is the Austinites. Not that I'll be pounding Lone Stars at many of these bars on the regular, but it's nice to know that I could, if I wanted.

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. Driskill Bar
  2. Parkside
  3. The Four Horsemen
  4. Midnight Cowboy
  5. Shakespeare's

Booze Brothers participating


Total: 28

  • Aaron: 28
  • Travis: 23
  • Rome: 18
  • Vince: 11
  • James: 6
  • Geoff: 6
  • Elijah: 6
  • Cat: 6
  • Sonali: 5
  • Kathryn: 5
  • Nick: 5
  • Davis: 5
  • Ben: 3
  • Brent: 1
  • Anthony: 1

Establishments visited


Total: 28

  • Bars: 23
  • Restaurants: 3
  • Clubs: 1
  • Theaters: 1

Drinks consumed


Total: 28*

  • Cocktails: 18
  • Shots: 6
  • Beers: 3
  • Other: 1
  • Wines: 0

* Obviously I drank WAY more than that.

Money spent


Total: $211.25*

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

#62: Waller Ballroom

The Bar


Waller Ballroom. 700 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 3/17/17 @ 5:30pm.

EDIT: Waller Ballroom has closed.

The Drink



Gin and tonic. Waterloo gin, tonic. $8.

One gin and tonic, two tonics with gin
Once each was done, I got one again
The more I drank, the better they tasted
Before I knew it, I'd gotten wasted
Eight dollars was steep, but I'd pay it once more
Drinks cost during South By, it's what you're in for
Waterloo's smooth, a great go-to liquor
And compared to a beer, you get drunk way quicker
At festival time, you drink what you find
Don't expect top-shelf, mid-range is just fine
I have no regrets, it's my favorite mixed drink
Just watch out for cops, upstream's the the precinct!

The Crew


Aaron, Ryan, Travis (not pictured), Rome (not pictured), Geoff (not pictured), Cat (not pictured), Eliah (not pictured), Tim (not pictured), Jacob (not pictured).



Notes


Waller Ballroom is a special event venue that's not normally open to the public, so visiting it kind of violates the spirit of the "every bar" pledge. However, I wanted to watch some bands cover-free and drink with friends, since it was both SXSW and St. Patrick's Day, so I swallowed my scruples and chased them down with the first of several G&Ts. I was originally planning to put my journey on hold during SXSW - much as I love the festival, the deluge of tens of thousands of people from out of town changes the balance of the street, in the same way that a rush of saltwater makes a riparian environment too brackish for freshwater species. Since repeated reciprocity is the foundation of trust, a sudden influx of outlanders can make bartenders hunker down into "festival mode", where you're lucky to get more than a grunt and a beer shoved at you before the next person barges in for their own round. Happily, that was not the case here, as I got my drinks at just the right rhythm to accompany the pace of the shoegaze bands chugging their way to the appreciative crowd.

Waller Ballroom is right alongside Waller Creek, with all the good and bad that that entails. In the excellent anthology Literary Austin, there's a moving piece from Joseph Jones about Waller Creek during the 70s that makes it sound like an oasis of calm in the downtown area, full of interesting flora and fauna, and an underappreciated link to the rare natural heritage of Austin that made it so attractive to those settlers in 1839 when the city was founded (Edwin Waller, the man who surveyed Austin and served as its first mayor, was sent by President Mirabeau Lamar to locate a new capital away from the coast, which was dominated by Sam Houston and his loyalists). In contrast, these days Waller Creek is mainly known as a convenient latrine for drunk college students on UT campus, and as a flume of garbage and waste picked apart by scavenging hobos in order to be finally jettisoned into Town Lake near the boathouse. The Ballroom offers a nice patio to stand outside and watch whatever's going on in the stream named after our city father, but be warned that not all the sights and sounds of the creek are equally pastoral.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

#61: Roppolo's Pizza

The Bar


Roppolo's Pizza. 316 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 3/11/17 @ 7pm.

The Drink



Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap. $6.

Pearl Snap is still a nice crisp pilsner, just like the last time I had it. Roppolo's has no liquor, just beer and wine, but even though SXSW was just beginning to rev into high gear, our bartender thoughtfully asked what kinds of beer we liked before suggesting it. It's a great choice - light and drinkable, perfect for accompanying the slices we ordered, with just enough flavor to balance out each bite of pizza crust. Or, as the exchange went:

"What goes with pizza?"
"I think beer goes with pizza".

True enough. They also had $7 mimosa specials, but mimosas are a daylight drink, and we were patrons of the night. Wine and cheese, vodka and caviar, beer and pizza: that's how it works.

The Crew


Aaron, Brent, Anthony.


Notes


Roppolo's pizza has been a staple of late-night dining on Sixth since forever, continuing even into this era of food trucks and upscale restaurants. I can't count the number of times I've walked up to their counter and tried to gauge which of the slices in the display window spoke most strongly to my heart, but I had never been inside until this visit. I'm glad I made the journey across the threshold, and certainly the rotating cast of other drunk people who needed something to wash down their slices agreed, as the crowd gradually grew and grew until suddenly the bar area looked like a Chuck E. Cheese with all grownups and no children. Late-night pizza and beer joints are true democracies of the stomach and liver, knowing no distinctions of age, race, religion, sexuality, or origin. Pizza in particular is one of the world's great international foods, with a strong claim to being Italy's greatest gift to the world, although that's an extremely tough battle. I wouldn't claim that Roppolo's makes the greatest pizza in the city, or even on the block, but for a cheap price it's damn good, especially with a beer.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Nina's Opinion-yas Part 3: The Blind Pig, Alamo Ritz, Maggie Mae's, Thirsty Nickel, Iron Cactus



Challenge: Where to get a taste of Christmas in February
Going to 6th street during Mardi Gras is not the best of ideas and going there when you’re old enough to know better is even an even worse one. That said, FOMO took over and I decided to join the merry band of misfits down “Dirty 6th.” We went to the Blind Pig where I made the mistake of saying I had never had a Rumplesmintz shot (a giant portion of Rumple Minze German-style peppermint schnapps). Having one of those made me quickly realize I was in for the long haul and I’d better put my seat belt on. We traipsed across the street to the Alamo Ritz where we (thought) we engaged with witty banter with the waitstaff. They said they made certain drinks based on movie themes but did not seem to appreciate it when I suggested they make a whiskey shot served in a bullet casing mold for the John Wick 2 movie. (if this ever comes to fruition, I request/demand a portion of the proceeds!). We settled on a pretty decent White Russian drink. The next few stops became a bit more forgetful with us ultimately ending up in a beer pong game at Thirsty Nickel and the epic journey to find the best  Chicken Tortilla soup.
Nina Verdict: Just ask for a RumpleMintz shot at any bar. It’s basically doing a shot of mouthwash for ~$6 but at 50% alcohol, you get your money's worth.

Nina's Opinion-yas Part 2: Steampunk Saloon, Pop, Key Bar, The Rustic Tap



Challenge: Where to get a bargain tasty drink.
Despite being called Steampunk Saloon there were honestly no stereotypical Steampunk motifs throughout the bar. For example there were very few metal works, the staff were dressed like every day people, and even the drink menu was very bland. That said, it is quite a large venue that is perfect for huge parties because there is a large wrap-around patio that is mostly covered, an outdoor band area, and several pool tables. Per my usual quest to eat I found that I was limited to one of two food carts that serve the establishment on alternating days. To my delight it was the “Rock N Roll” Lobster truck. Though pricey, if you can afford the ~$12 lobster sliders there are 3 hearty portions that you can share with a friend as long as you savor each bite for a few seconds. The next bar we went to was Pop bar, a champagne themed one. I was impressed that the menu was on an electronic tablet but the champagne prices were definitely not for the bargain drinker. Perhaps that’s where they pass along the cost? That said, a few of the mixed cocktails were affordable (especially on a weekday) and were quite tasty. Following a quick pit stop there, we journeyed onto Key bar where we indulged in some very large drinks. If you are looking for an affordable drink that packs a punch then I recommend the popsicle drink. Though it was a chilly night when we went there I can see how it’d be quite refreshing during a scorching hot day. 

Nina Verdict: If you’re looking for a unique drink with a cool twist, go to Key Bar and check out their selection.

Nina's Opinion-yas Part 1: Z'Tejas, 24 Diner, Hut's Hamburgers, The Grove


Z'Tejas 24 Diner Hut's Hamburgers The Grove

Challenge: Where to get the best hangover food.
Participating in this challenge was partly motivated by my ever present “FOMO” syndrome and as well as the slight disdain I feel for my liver. Our first stop was Z’Tejas where I indulged in some flowery drink I can’t remember anymore.  More noteworthy were the nachos appetizer as the guacamole had the most unusual texture. The avocados had been either frozen or given an additive because I have truly never seen such a solid (in nature) avocado. We even held the container upside down and it didn’t fall out! It tasted normal however. Next we went to 24 Diner where I grabbed the breakfast hash, a solid drunk food staple. Though I wasn’t intoxicated, I knew that I had to lay a solid food foundation if I wanted to be awake for the rest of the journey. I believe I had an elderflower drink here that was pretty divine. We made a pit stop at Hut’s Hamburgers for burgers and I unabashedly split a greasy yet delicious pastrami sandwich with another person. Though 6th street complete may be an epic drinking adventure, I apparently took it upon myself to eat my way through it. I can truly say that all of the food choices were tasty and filling. By the time we reached the Grove I had tapped out of the race but I did like the bar ambience.
Nina Verdict: If you’re hungry go to 24 Diner either prior to or after embarking on a 6th street soiree. Their breakfast hash is hearty, filling, and can last as a return-from-the-bar meal if you remember to take it with you.