There are few beer joints we hold more dear in the dive bar pantheon than Cactus Rose. We first discovered it a few years back on a barbecue run through Williamson County. We’d been eating at the heavyweights [Louie Mueller and Taylor Cafe] for so long we wanted to try something new so we ventured up hwy 95 for a bit to see if we could run into a roadside meat stand.

As soon as we saw Cactus Rose it was love at first sight. Maybe it has something to do with it being in a building constructed in 1946.

Walking in on a hot Texas afternoon the open door shoots sunshine, briefly piercing the veil of Pall Mall smoke and good smells coming off the free crockpot bound chili dog buffet.

The room is dark, cold and everybody turns their head to look at the stranger walking in. We keep our mouths shut and our ears open when we’re in a new bar. Tipping heavy and feeding the jukebox, we reckon, will get us in good stead soon enough.

It’s a plan that almost always works.

After a dozen or so visits we’re no longer looked askance at, we don’t necessarily fit in but our presence is no longer merely tolerated. Hell, barmaid Eva even remembers what kind of cold beer we like.

Cactus Rose fulfills several criteria for best dive bar status:

Beer is cheap with prices hovering around two bucks depending on your brand and what time you’re doing your drinking.

The bar is dark with a good healthy gloom settling in around you as you begin your hang. Sometimes nowadays we walk into a bar and it’s so damn bright we just turn around and hightail it. Glaring light does not a good bar make.

Food is delicious and free. We’ve had sausage wraps, chili, hot dogs, frito pies, chips and queso, chips and salsa…..we’ve eaten like kings at Cactus Rose and never been charged a penny. Look at the crockpot in the photo. This is the fount of deliciousness from which Cactus Rose showers it’s patrons with love.

Jukebox is cheap and filled with legends. George Jones, Ernest Tubb, Hank Sr, Conway Twitty and other beer drinking icons of country music are on the stacked and loaded juke over in the corner.

Saucy staff. Barmaid Eva gives as good as she gets with a well versed saloon patter.Her regulars adore her but she’s not cutting anybody any slack. Sit back at the bar and listen. She’ll make you smile.

We’ve written about Cactus Rose before here:

As much as we love Austin it’s a great city to escape from for a day trip to our neighboring communities. Taylor Texas and the Cactus Rose get plenty of our brisket and cold beer money these days.

Make a run up there one afternoon and you’ll see why.


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