Wednesday, April 26, 2017

#79: Voodoo Room

The Bar


Voodoo Room. 419 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/26/17 @ 11:30pm.

The Drink



Green tea shot. Jameson, peach schnapps, sweet & sour. $6.

I realized that the last time I got this at Lux, I didn't actually describe what it tasted like. Well, as you'd expect, it tastes a lot like green tea, or at least a lot like a cheap brand of generic green tea that you'd find on the bottom shelf at HEB. Sometimes you get a drink that feels like a main course and sometimes you get an appetizer, and this was the latter: a quick and tasty drink that gets you ready for more. After I had one of these I felt ready for another round, but this was unfortunately our last stop of the night.

The Crew


Aaron, Hannah, Travis, Davis.


Notes


According to the bartender, Voodoo Room and Majestic, which sits upstairs, used to be the same bar, until some kind of divorce occurred. I didn't inquire too deeply into the details of the split, because we're focused on the here and now. Voodoo Room bills itself as "A Premier Bottle Service Lounge and Club", which explains all the little VIP nooks with couches and room for bottle service. There weren't too many other people then when we visited, so by default we became the VIPs. Winning by default is still winning, I suppose. There's all kinds of eclectic decoration around the interior to enjoy while you lounge in your couches, like the icosahedral light fixtures, the giant neon American flag, the swings hanging from the roof (tragically unused during our visit but I bet they're a ton of fun), or any other attractive VIPs that might be in your general vicinity. Like I've said, I'm not really a patron of bottle service places, because they cater to the kind of people who buy bottle service, but they can be a good time in the right circumstances.

#78: Vulcan Gas Company

The Bar


Vulcan Gas Company. 418 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/26/17 @ 11pm.

The Drink



Gin and tonic. $3.

The guy who made this was not their regular bartender (on Wednesdays I guess they can afford to turn the keys over to the JV squad), and as a consequence he was not putting up with any of my nonsense about "drinks that best represent the bar". He was adamantine in his refusal to accept the burden of choosing me a drink, so after I'd finally exhausted my repertoire of synonyms for "whatever you recommend", I accepted defeat and just ordered my go-to of a G&T. It worked out for both of us though, because in return for my simple order he made me one of the most eye-wateringly stout G&Ts I've had in a long time, the kind of drink where you take one sip and go "Whoo!" while making that involuntary half-pained/half-incredulous facial expression like one of the wretched lush characters in a William Hogarth print. A gin and tonic might be one of the few drinks that can actually claim some legitimate health benefits, beyond that legendarily apocryphal "one glass of red wine a day" thing, but a few of these would take you right back to the hospital. Hooray for bargains!

The Crew


Hannah, Travis, Aaron, Davis.


Notes


If you're here, you're here to dance. Vulcan has a long history as a music venue first and foremost, and even on a Wednesday with a bare smattering of patrons, all the action was on the dance floor. As we were walking in, the doorman said half-jokingly "Where's the party at?" and I confidently proclaimed "The party's here!" As it turned out we were not the party; not even close. Perched on our barstools chatting amongst ourselves as we were, we couldn't match the revelry of the small group grooving their hearts out on the floor to the music of the band, or even the liveliness of the couple in the corner playing beer pong. But whatever: we're on a bar crawl, not a dance crawl.

Vulcan has multiple levels, which weren't quite so relevant on the quiet Wednesday we visited, but are necessary when there's a big show there, which there has been the past few times I've been there. Unlike the old Vulcan, which was legendary for its place in the 1970s "cosmic cowboy" psychedelic rock scene in Austin, the new venue focuses more on hip hop and EDM. If you're sad about that, just accept that times change, and music popularity changes as well, no matter how great the music scene in Austin was back then. EDM (let's, just call it that, because getting into subgenres is indistinguishable from mental illness) is a $7 billion market segment, it's fun to party to, and you really can't ask for more than that. Also unlike the old Vulcan, they sell alcohol. That's great for their operating revenue, seeing as how crucial a moneymaker alcohol can be for music venues. but this was unbarlike enough to ensure we didn't stick around for very long.

#77: Touché

The Bar


Touché. 417 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/26/17 @ 10pm.

The Drink





Hot apple pie. Fireball whiskey, apple schnapps, pineapple juice. $9.

Once again, a bartender tried to give us a Flaming Dr Pepper, and once again, we demurred in favor of a slightly different fire-adjacent drink. I don't know what your opinion of Fireball whiskey is: to me, it's a necessary evil at best. Its aggressive cinnamon bite over a cough syrup-y undertaste, in addition to its "shots for idiots" marketing strategy, makes it something I usually try to avoid. But I'll drink just about anything once, and our bartender was so good at his job that he had us practically champing at the bit to drink these flaming Fireball shots over a schnapps/juice base. What do you know, they tasted exactly like hot apple pie, or at least the gloriously deep-fried McDonald's version from about 25 years ago (feel free to mock me for that "Only 90s kids will remember this!"-type reference, but I ate about a billion of those as a kid and those memories are cherished). It was a great choice on his part, but I was also intrigued by all the other cheap drinks they had, including a this-can't-be-real $1 shots special. Normally I go for a one-and-done strategy at the bar, but our bartender was so convincing he got us to stay for multiple rounds of shockingly cheap drinks. If you insist!

The Crew


Aaron


Notes


Somehow I had always overlooked Touché, even though it's practically primeval in Sixth Street terms. It dates from 1986, meaning that of the non-Driskill bars, only Maggie Mae's is older. Like I already said, we had truly superb bar service here, so the onus is probably on me for not seeking them out (like our bartender said about a dozen times, they're a "regulars-driven bar"). On the other hand, there's just a ton of bars on Sixth, and while you might have your own views on whether the paradox of choice is true or not, it remains indisputable that often you have to choose something and just stick with it, since you can only drink at one bar at a time. Everyone else sitting at the bar looked fairly well-ensconced, so perhaps it's worth paying them a few more visits.

I liked Touché's layout. It was nothing fancy, just the typical long walkup to the bar, but the tiny group of tables next to the entrance was perfect for us, since after downing several rounds of the drinks we were cajoled into buying, we were able to sit down, relax, and watch the foot traffic go by. I'll always prefer rooftop views just for the sheer pleasure of gazing down at the lights of the street illuminating the thousands of drunk people in churning Brownian motion, but nothing beats sitting just on the right side of the glass from the seething mass of humanity that promenades down inebriation avenue. Well, not that seething, since it was only a Wednesday, but there were certainly enough curious characters to make it difficult to focus on Celtics @ Bulls. I wonder how a graph of the motion of street drunks compares to, say, ants in their colonies. There's a question for a $1 shot.

#76: Cheers

The Bar


Cheers. 416 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/26/17 @ 9:30pm.

The Drink



Inception. Part 1 (blue shot): Vodka, lime gimlet, blue curaçao, grenadine. Part 2 (clear shot): Coconut rum, peach schnapps. Part 3 (base): Red Bull. $9.

Cheers is a shot bar, but not the kind of shot bar that gives its patrons Rumpel Minze; unless you were to request it, that is. They don't have one of those shot wheels, so you'll just have to rely on your friends to order you something good, and not a "my friends are jerks" scam drink like the infamous Blue Wave. At least, not more than once. On the contrary, we got a round of one of the most complex drinks we've had so far. The very first three-part drink I've had, the Inception was not only really nice-looking but nice-tasting as well. The bartender was all set to make us some Flaming Dr Peppers, but after learning that we'd just had some Flaming Dreamsicles at their sister bar Big Bang, he decided to mix it up a bit and give us a shot with a show. The way this works is that you pull out the blue shot, which makes the clear shot drop into the Red Bull, drink the blue shot, then drink the clear shot/Red Bull mixture. Easy. Perhaps a true Inception shot would featured a smaller version of the drink inside the larger version, or you would have to listen to an Édith Piaf song while drinking it. Either way, I cannot emphasize enough how much more pleasant this was than another Rumple Minze shot.

The Crew


Aaron, Davis, Hannah, Travis.


Notes


Cheers is the third in the TV show-themed bar family we've visited, after Friends and Big Bang. It's been on Sixth for a long time - 24 years, according to the bartender, which doesn't make it quite as antediluvian as the Driskill, but still far more venerable than almost any other spot on the block. Yet another one of my college classic hangouts, Cheers is "just" a shot bar, but with 99 different varieties to choose from it goes quite a bit beyond your typical shot bar. That might seem like a dead-simple subgenre of bar to specialize in, but if it's so easy for "just an average shot bar" to stay around for nearly a quarter of a century, where's all the others? Clearly they're doing something right, and Cheers has certainly earned its place on Sixth.

In fact, while we were being served I had a major nostalgia moment, and once we were done with our drinks, and even though a good chunk of the bar was closed for renovations they let me wander around to indulge myself. Back in college I spent a lot of time here, almost as as much as at The Library. Cheers is huge, with four different bars arrayed on multiple levels of roof and balconies amidst large leafy trees, and when I was surveying the temporarily empty landscape outside I had flashbacks to my younger drinking years, when we'd get round of shots from one of the outside bars, standing in a floodlight-bathed semi-circle wearing weeknight best and drunkenly toasting to school, life, each other, and whatever came to mind. Over a decade later, I feel like I have more to toast to, but I do it less often. Maybe all toasts are aspirational, and as time goes on you have less to aspire to, whether because your wishes have come true, or because you've stopped wishing. Either way, I'm glad Cheers is still around.

#75: Big Bang

The Bar


Big Bang. 412 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/26/17 @ 9pm.

The Drink





Flaming Dreamsicle. Pinnacle whipped cream vodka, Licor 43, orange Fanta. $8.75.

Drinks that involve fire are cool; on this I think we can all agree. I would have thought that they're as exasperating for the bartenders to make as they are exciting for the patron to drink, but on a slow night like it was, the bartender practically demanded that we try these, I guess as opposed to him having to make his ten millionth plain-Jane Jameson shot. Here's how it works, if you have somehow never had a flaming drink before: you stand back while the bartender holds a mouthful of booze in his mouth, splashes a bit more on the bar and lights it, then dips his finger in the puddle's flame, holds the lit finger to his mouth, and spits fire across the row of drinks, which ignites them all in a spectacular fireball. The flaming shots fall into the beers and are instantly extinguished in time for you to then grab your glass and chug, to the general approval of the bar. The Flaming Dr Pepper is the gold standard for this type of drink; this differs only in that it tastes like an orange Dreamsicle thanks to the Licor 43, a Spanish citrus liqueur with 43 "secret ingredients". That seems like an excessive number of secret ingredients for a citrus liqueur (it's not a fried chicken recipe or a nuclear warhead), but the end product was exactly the kind of childhood taste memory in a glass you'd want. They also have plenty of other, more complex shots that looked great.

The Crew


Travis, Hannah, Rome, Aaron, Davis.


Notes


I didn't put this together until the bartender told me, but Friends, Big Bang. and Cheers are all part of the same TV show-themed bar family. I personally would quibble with some of those specific choices, but the general concept is sound, and of course I suppose there are far worse things to start naming your bars after: war criminals, venereal diseases, and so forth. Keep in mind that these bars share only the name with their respective shows, so don't walk into this bar expecting the same level of laugh-a-minute zaniness that's kept that lovable band of misfits a prime-time network television comedy sensation for so many years; this isn't that kind of place. It's fairly low-frills: a small dance area beside the door leads up to the main and only bar, with the typically narrow queueing area eventually leading to the back of the establishment. Nothing fancy, but you're not reading this for the architectural details, right?

I say this a lot, but going to bars on a quiet weeknight like Wednesday gives you a vastly different experience than going at peak times. Sure, the nightlife is turned down a little, but the opportunity to have a good time with your own crew more than makes up for it, as long as your crew is good (it is, right?), plus you get vastly better service, especially when the bar staff is as friendly as Big Bang's was. I think what a lot of people get wrong about Dirty Sixth is that they're looking for each interaction to knock their socks off at all times, and they put far too much weight on the flashiness of the bar. In reality, the bars are for the most part fairly similar, staff are generally pretty competent, and it's the attitude of the patrons that makes the biggest difference in how much fun a bar is. Most of the time, you bring your own happiness with you, and we had a blast here.

#74: Burnside's Tavern

The Bar


Burnside's Tavern. 413 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/26/17 @ 8:30pm.

The Drink



Burnside's Bulldog. Ketel One vodka, Boulaine coffee liqueur, whipped cream, Coke. $8.

This drink was delicious, which is exactly what you'd hope for from a signature cocktail. The rich coffee base with whipped cream on top, livened up by a splash of Coke, means it would be a perfect after-dinner dessert-style drink, if you're one of those people who actually plans ahead to pair drinks with food. We were only there to have our one drink and leave, but it felt like something I should have been enjoying after I'd finished a big fancy dinner, my napkin folded beside the remains of my meal, the candlelight reflected in my glass, with my high-backed chair pushed away from the table to better appreciate the roaring fire beside the frost-tinted windows. They also offered a comically huge Moscow Mule in an oversized mug that requires four people to be present to order, but I'm glad we chose this instead.

The Crew


Davis, Aaron, Travis, Hannah, Rome (not pictured).


Notes


Veteran Sixth Street patrons might have a hard time getting used to the fact that this location is no longer Treasure Island, one of those magical bars that sold 25 cent wells yet somehow mysteriously stayed open. Well, not so mysteriously - when you run drugs on the side, it's really easy to run a bar as a charity. Now in in its fourth year, Burnside's seem to have established its own identity. The bartender was very proud of how popular it was among college students, proudly pointing out the Best College Bar plaques to the left of the picture of General Burnside in our photo. Of course, any title like that is going to be heavily bogus, but in the cutthroat environment of Dirty Sixth, you grab any marketing edge you can get. It's also established its own identity in the sense of being rebranded heavily around the famously shaved but infamously incompetent General Ambrose Burnside, who has no ties to Texas that I know of. Why Burnside and not Sherman, Sheridan, or Grant I don't know, but in a city that makes a big deal out of facial hair like Austin does, maybe the sideburn angle is another marketing win. While you're there you can gaze at the many pictures of the General with hilarious quotes about how inept he was, play beer pong, listen to live music, chill on the dance floor, or just hang out at the bar, safe from being sent to get blown up in a crater or be used for target practice by Confederate artillery.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

#73: The Lodge

The Bar


The Lodge. 411 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/20/17 @ 1:30am.

The Drink



Pickleback shot. Jameson, pickle juice. $5.

What this country needs is a really good $5 pickleback. Unlike the unfathomably overpriced edition we received at The Library, The Lodge's version came in at a mere five bucks, a boon to all the budget-conscious shot-takers out there. I already talked the drink to death so there's not too much else to say about this near-ideal union between whiskey and pickle juice, other than that I still really enjoy them. Evidently there are haters out there somewhere, but I firmly believe that they just need to open their hearts to this two-part shot and savor some brine time.

The Crew


Gary, Stephanie, Aaron.


Notes


I'll be honest, I don't remember much of this stop. I do dimly recall a friendly divey atmosphere, the kind of shabbiness that sits on the comfortable side of the line between homey and tacky. Tons of taxidermy adorn the walls, so they're going for a sort of hunting lodge vibe, as opposed to the "wacky" vibe you get from places like The Jackalope that also do that sort of thing. One moose head is eclectic; several moose heads is a theme. I wonder if that's how all interior design trends start, with one designer finding something he really likes and using it over and over again, turning an eccentric quirk into a theme by sheer dint of repetition. If Piet Mondrian had just drawn some lines and colored blocks once, people would have thought he just didn't know how to make art; but by refusing to stop doing it, he paint-by-numbered his way right into the canon. Same with Andy Warhol and his soup cans: one soup can and you were probably bored and couldn't think of anything interesting to paint; many soup cans, and you surely have something deep and thoughtful to say about society's relationship to the products of consumer capitalism.

In conclusion, any place with reasonably priced drinks will get a thumbs up from me.

#72: Toulouse

The Bar


Toulouse. 409 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/20/17 @ 1am.

The Drink



Adios, motherfucker!. Tequila, whiskey, vodka, gin, rum, triple sec, blue curaçao, sour. $5.75.

I honestly thought that these drinks were a joke when I first encountered one at Peckerheads, but now that I've found another specimen in the wild, it's apparent that they're real, and they're spectacular. At a whole $.25 more than the Peckerheads varietal, Toulouse's rendition of what is somehow a standard cocktail does not offer the cheapest Adios, motherfucker! you can find on Sixth Street. That might be a real drag for those of you saving your quarters for laundry day, but at least for my money they added a lemon garnish, which I appreciated since I'm one of those people who puts a lemon or lime in basically everything I drink, especially ice water. Did you know that the discovery that citrus prevented scurvy caused a global boom in lemon prices, eventually leading to the foundation of the mafia as a protection racket for Sicilian lemon growers? It's true. I'm not sure what you'd do with that knowledge, since to the best of my knowledge the mafia has moved on to other activities besides beating up fruit rustlers, and citrus cultivation is no more or less exploitative than that of other globalized agricultural commodities, but it's something to think about as you enjoy a drink with a lemon in it, especially a drink like this which will shortly remove your ability to think about anything at all.

The Crew


Stephanie, Gary, Aaron.


Notes


This is evidently the second incarnation of the Toulouse brand on Sixth Street, although I didn't have a chance to speak with anyone in charge to get any more backstory on their departure in 1996 or their later return a few doors down the street from their old location (which is now Peckerheads, funnily enough). ​They also don't seem to have much of an online presence either. Theoretically Toulouse has a Mardi Gras theme; in practice it's more of a generic party theme, and when we were there, the main area was dance party central. If you're the kind of person who minds random girls dancing up on you while you're in line for a drink then stay away, but normal people should be just fine. Once we'd gotten our massive drinks we took a quick visit to the back patio to check it out, but we quickly retreated. It's larger than you would expect, but enclosed in a way that makes it feel claustrophobic, and although normally cigarette smoke is just one of those things you put up with in smoking areas, the smell was oppressive here. Plus, the patio is still cozy enough that you're close to the other clusters of people, and you end up making that awkward eye contact with them as you unavoidably eavesdrop on whatever they're chatting about. It's just not the kind of place you want to spend a lot of time, so we didn't. The dance floor is a good place to watch drunk girls grind on each other, though.

#71: The 512

The Bar


The 512. 408 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/20/17 @ 12am.

The Drink



The 512. ​Frozen rum and coke, Sailor Jerry's rum, amaretto, simple syrup. $7.

Naming a drink after the bar itself is a bold move. Is it safe for any individual drink to bear the reputational weight of the whole bar upon its shoulders like some Atlas of alcohol? If customers don't like the drink, is it the eponym's fault, or could they be holding a grudge against the ambiance, the clientele, some subtle confluence of ill mood during the evening? The drink, and the bar, can breathe a bit easier, since Austin's original area code 512 is absolutely ubiquitous around town as a symbol of True Austin (sorry 737-havers!), and therefore the drink can get only positive vibes from the association. The 512 itself is... well, to be honest, it tasted like I imagine the legendary "Super Squishee made entirely out of syrup" did: extremely sweet, to the point where my teeth started to hurt a few sips in. I appreciated that they took frozen rum and coke and added even more rum to it, since it was plenty strong, but man, not even the most dedicated aspiring Junior Camper could stomach more than one of these per session, at least not without their own dental plan.

The Crew


Aaron, Gary, Stephanie.


Notes


In keeping with the goodwill bestowed upon the bar by its name, The 512 endeared itself to me right away, since no sooner did we walk in than the DJ started playing I Wish, one of the greatest hip hop songs of all time. Good background music makes a big difference in a bar's atmosphere, if you're one of those people who walk around with an imaginary soundtrack in your head, or if you like to jam out on the dance floor. There's two levels: the dance floor below, the lounge area above. There wasn't anyone upstairs (or downstairs, for that matter), so we had plenty of time to hang out on the upstairs balcony, awash in the light from colored raver LEDs, and gaze out at the street below. I was intrigued that the upstairs balcony had some peculiar glasswork (which you can see behind the benches in front) that I've only seen at the 1940s-vintage Barton Springs bathhouse. The buildings on this stretch of Sixth are old enough that it wouldn't be completely out of the realm of possibility for some past owner to have installed fancy glasswork, though the neon lights playing upon it here seemed as modern as you could want. The current owner is independent operator Benjamin Scott, which surprises me in this dense bar cluster since you would expect the property to be fiercely fought over by guys with big pockets. I hope there's always room on the street for newcomers to try to make their own mark.

Friday, April 7, 2017

#70: The Library

The Bar


The Library. 407 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/8/17 @ 1am.

The Drink



Pickleback shot. Jameson, pickle juice. $10.

$10 is a steep price for any shot, let alone one that's half pickle juice, the cost of which can't be more than a few pennies. It's especially galling coming from a bar that used to be as cheap as The Library was back in the day. However, yet again I can't fault the bar or claim ignorance: if you're a bartender on a Friday night, when some guy comes up to you and asks you some involved question about a drink showing off the bar with his three friends in tow, are you going to neglect the other patrons and spend 5 minutes crafting some complex cocktail that the rest of the gang may not even like, or are you going to go for the most quickest and high-margin drink you can make? Well, the joke's on them, because I actually love picklebacks. I don't care if it smacks of "I'm a poor college student and all I have in my dorm room fridge is a bottle of whiskey and a jar of pickles". Whiskey's great, of course, but I sincerely love pickle juice: I savored it when I was a kid getting pickles at school lunch, it's surprisingly versatile in food contexts, and as a chaser it's great at eliminating those infamous post-shot "whiskey shivers" your body produces as it attempts to recover from the great wrong you have just visited upon it. I'll still chafe at the price, since this is essentially just a $10 shot of Jameson, but the combination itself is a classic.

The Crew


Karen, Cecilia, Travis, Aaron.


Notes


I went to The Library a lot when I was in college. One of the traits which set it apart from the zillion other Dirty Sixth bars it sits near, which guaranteed it an affectionate spot in the night's rotation, was that it was cheap. Like, "I ordered 7 beers and still haven't hit the $10 credit card minimum" cheap. Traditions are very important to people, even or perhaps especially for college students, and so I can't count the number of G&Ts I ritualistically inhaled on the ground floor or up on the balcony level while all our troubles drained into oblivion, accompanied by really loud music. They're not as cheap now, which is a tragedy and impetus for a bookshelf of Why I Hate Austin Changing thinkpieces in itself, but ironically the only visible change from a decade ago is that instead of the books cut in half on the shelves behind the bar, there are now only flatscreen TVs. Perhaps the replacement of books by television could be interpreted as a subtle metaphor for society's embrace of superficial discourse, or a veiled protest against cost overruns at Austin's always-almost-finished new downtown library. Or maybe they realized that drunk people whose attempts to hit on the person next to them failed would be more readily pacified by those annoying Chive TV feeds showing YouTube compilations than a bunch of unreadable half-books gathering dust on the shelf. The Library is not a place for literacy.

#69: The Rooftop

The Bar


The Rooftop. 403 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/8/17 @ 12:30am.

The Drink



Unicorn cum. Grenadine, sweet and sour, Sprite. $6.

I used to go to a lot of concerts, before I got old and decided to save the rare occasions when I crawl out of my home to go drink next to college students and out of towners. Since I normally went to see smaller local bands, usually the concert bills would have even smaller and more local bands underneath the headliner. If you've ever been to local scene shows, you know that at least one of those opening acts is nearly guaranteed to have a name that's much better than their music, and so for a long time I had a sort of joking theory about the inverse relationship between a band's name and how good they were, until I found some counterexamples who were actually good. I mention this only because this recommended shot has a mildly funny name, but was one of the worst shots I've had so far. It's weird, too, because individually there's nothing wrong with any of the ingredients, yet collectively they tasted awful, without any of the pomegranate flavor that grenadine is supposed to provide. $6 isn't much for a shot on Sixth, but for an all-mixers shot it was still a big disappointment. Sometimes a comically-named drink can surprise you, other times it's just a ruse played on the unwary, as bad as it sounds.

The Crew


Karen, Cecilia, Travis, Aaron.


Notes


"Rooftop" is kind of a misnomer, since nowhere in this bar do you get to stand on the building's roof. You do have to go up some stairs to get to the bar, but it's not called "Stairstop" or "The Landing", so fans of truth in advertising be warned. Once you're up the stairs and into the parlor room of this house of lies, a pair of poles greet you (maybe not literally). On the Good Idea - Bad Idea spectrum, I think dancing poles are firmly on the Good Idea end: when drunk girls decide to ride the pole, it's a good time for everyone else no matter what happens. Thoughtfully, they even have one of those little troughs of beer on ice right near the poles, so you can buy some expensive Coors Light bottles and watch some light entertainment before hitting up the main dancefloor. Inside the big room is the actual bar, with a modestly-sized open floor lined at the edges with a DJ and some drink railings. You could call it cozy, or you could call it cramped, but either way we didn't call it home for very long, departing immediately after we finished our round.

#68: Aquarium

The Bar


Aquarium. 403 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/8/17 @ 12am.

The Drink



Starfucker shot. Crown Royal whiskey, watermelon schnapps, Red Bull. $5.

I know lots of people who are into craft cocktails, but nobody's into craft shots, and the entire concept of a "craft shot" is pretty funny. There are standard shots - evidently the Starfucker shot is one of those - but you can't really consider anything that's designed to be consumed as quickly as possible a "craft" anything. Where's the creativity, the artisanship, the extremely expensive boutique ingredients designed to be savored? $5 for a shot on Dirty Sixth during Friday night peak hours is downright proletarian. Besides, this has Red Bull in it, and I'm absolutely positive that nothing with Red Bull could be a craft shot. Luckily, this was really tasty (my love for watermelon at work again), so I'm fine with it.

The Crew


Aaron, Travis, Cecilia, Karen.


Notes


Even if Aquarium hasn't been around literally forever, it feels like it, because I remember hearing about it even when I was in high school, long before I ever stalked the pavement of Sixth to purchase a beer under my own power. I'm positive I've been there before, but perhaps I've got another case of false drunk memory, because if I actually had been here, surely I would have noticed the bar's most hilarious feature, which is the faulty one-way mirror between the men's bathroom and the main dance floor. Theoretically, dudes going to the bathroom should be able to go about their business safely unobserved by the floor of drinkers, but the lighting inside the bathroom is just bright enough so that once an outsider gets close enough, they can trade waves with the urinal users. What's up dude! To the more distant casual observer it just looks like a face-height mirror, but wallflowers be warned - you're about to get real friendly with someone in an intimate moment.

You would think that a bar called Aquarium would have lots of fish, but that is not the case. There's a small bank of aquariums (aquaria?) on the wall opposite the bar, but the number of fish was in the low single digits when we visited, and they didn't seem in particularly high spirits, even for fish. Perhaps they were just tired of people like us gawking at them and wanted a nap - sleeping with the fishes probably takes effort on a Friday night. There were a decent number of people there, but even though the upstairs was closed the place never got too cramped. I've heard that this place does shot pong, and though that sounds like the worst idea ever, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intrigued.

#67: Mooseknuckle

The Bar


Mooseknuckle. 406 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Visited 4/7/17 @ 11:30pm.

The Drink



Whiskey Coke pitcher. $10.

While not quite the blockbuster deal that you can get at Shakespeare's or Peckerheads, a big ol' vat of whiskey Coke for $10 is still worth a second look, if that's the kind of mood you're in. Something you might want to take into consideration, though, is that while you'll definitely get a buzz off the pitcher, you'll also get brainfreeze. The sheer displacement of these drinks means that unless you want to spend an hour carefully sipping an endless supply of well whiskey and Coke, you'll have to start chugging. And that means sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia! It actually sort of reminded me of high school: Jack In the Box once sold the Quencher, a 44 ounce drink bucket that my friends and I would fill to the brim and try to drink as fast as possible. There's more booze in these than in my high school soft drinks, but the overall experience is similar in how it firmly transitions from novelty to drudgery about halfway through the pitcher. We were struggling. Definitely not recommended if you're ordering at any time when there's a risk of a bathroom line, but on a less crowded night, anyone too lazy to get more than a single drink will find their needs amply served.

The Crew


Travis, Cecilia, Karen, Aaron.


Notes


Mooseknuckle has three different bars inside its walls, the kind of scenario that presented me with a conundrum when I was starting out. I had toyed with the idea of ordering different drinks at each multi-bar venue, just to really and truly get "every bar" checked off for the hundreds of thousands of loyal readers this blog was destined to accumulate, but I quickly realized how tedious, expensive, and ultimately pointless that would be, unless I actually wanted to get down to the level of reviewing individual bartenders. I picked the second one of Mooseknuckle's three bars, after the sodden scrum of the entryway but before the patient queue at the outside bar. There's not much about its interior that separates it from other bars on Dirty Sixth - it has the same historical stonework overlaid with modern touches like flatscreen TVs and backlight liquor racks. Same for the music, which was the same loud DJ-spun club music you'll find anywhere. We spent a lot of time on the smallish back patio dancing a bit and watching local bros hit on out-of-town bachelorette parties. I've spent a long time rhapsodizing about how friendly Austin is, and I guess trying to get laid with a 30something Dallasite could count as friendliness too, or at least as a way for her to cross something off one of those bachelorette party lists. We didn't stick around long enough to see whether anyone was successful, but best of luck to all parties involved.