Should a drinkery be disqualified from being considered the best dive bar in Austin if they sell cans of Pearl, the oldest and cheapest beer in Texas, for $4.25?

Not necessarily. After all, they’ve got to keep the lights on one way or another.

A far more egregious sin for a dive bar is hiring a snarling harridan to serve that beer. Walking into The Jackalope a few weeks ago I smiled as a pleasant rush of old memories carried me toward the bar.

I was there on opening day a decade ago. Back then, Ed’s Cucaracha was my favorite bar in Austin, and I was excited for the opening of their sister bar in the adjacent space. Jackalope immediately went into heavy rotation for my drinking dollars (not a slight sum as back then I was still in my 7 nights a week David Allan Coe-drink/fight/fuck mode.)

How’s the current incarnation of Jackalope?

After depositing a dollar on the bar, and receiving my second eat shit and die look from the harpy/bartendress, I beat a hasty retreat to the outside bar where a more civil fellow is pouring beers.

Nashville Pussy is on the hi fi, and the sun shines down on the patio, breaking just right off the fetid mud puddles dotting the ground. A pair of neo-Bohemians are idly shifting about discussing gigantism and yellowbelly vs Coors Light.

It’s a nice scene.

It’s a roll of the dice as to whether I’ll return to Jackalope. On one hand, cans of Pearl that routinely go for a couple bucks in Central Texas dives, run double that here; on the other hand, I have zero interest in spending an evening in an emergency room having my boot surgically removed from a sour pussed bartender’s ass.

There is no 3rd hand.

When our affairs of the day carried us to Parmer Lane recently we wanted to make the most of it. It’s not often we make our way to the southern edges of Dallas so we felt it was incumbent that we either eat, drink or do something beneficial to our humor.

Score. Parmer Lane Tavern sits quietly in a strip mall a few blocks east of the old Missouri Pacific line. Walking up we note the extreme use of total black-out tint on all the windows facing toward the parking lot. This is something we always enjoy in our bars as it affords us a degree of privacy that lends added comfort to our tippling.

This tavern is quite large with vaulted ceilings soaring upwards to great effect. A poker table greets you as you walk in and each seat is taken as the assembled drinkers are hot after a game of Texas Hold ‘Em.

Normally this is the moment when we bull our way in and make like Texas Dolly as we relieve the locals of their paychecks. But we don’t have the time for a spirited game so we continue deeper into this cozy den.

We always ask for a cold Pearl beer when we walk into a Texas bar room. We like to see whether the establishment’s bona fides are in order or not before we settle in for a good session of imbibing.

The girl bartender makes a face. “Uh, the closest thing we got to that is a Lone Star”.

Nice save. Lone Star is always a good second choice. No, it does not have the rich history of Pearl [ drunk by Texans since 1886 ] but it still has a good 70 or so years of consumption under its belt and it will serve nicely in a pinch.

Since we know where the fun lovers always are we ask after a patio section and quickly make our way out back where, sure enough, a good group of merry makers have gathered to drink and partake in some tobacco.

We proceed to have ourselves a time with this band of drinkers. Everybody’s good and friendly chatting amongst themselves and more than happy to welcome a stranger into their midst.

A big, fancy smoker is off to one side with some delicous smelling smoke rolling off it. Inquiries confirm that hot meat will be coming off shortly and everybody’s welcome to partake while the football Longhorns dust off whoever’s unfortunate enough to step onto the field of Royal Stadium this evening.

But we have an appointment so we have to beg off in spite of the bewitching smells.

Parmer Lane Tavern is just the kind of watering hole we like. It’s big yet cozy, it’s a dive bar but it’s clean, there are pool tables [burnt orange!] and a stage for a honky tonk band to clamber upon and ply their trade.

If we find ourselves up in north Austin again anytime soon we know where we’ll settle in for a nice session of cold beer and genuine camaraderie.

all Austin Dive Bar coverage http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/Best-Dive-Bar-In-Austin

The list of bars and restaurants we’ve been tossed out of is a short one but Cloak Room is on it.

We love old people. They’re a link to our past and we always treat them with the reverence and respect due to a person who’s exhibited the resilience it takes to survive for multiple decades on this giant hunk of earth relentlessly spinning it’s way around the universe. Then there’s Beverly Pruitt. After reading the puff piece that Emma Janzen penned for the Statesman last week on the Cloak Room and their resident curmudgeonly bartender Bev we feel compelled to make a new addition to our Best Dive Bar In Austin series.

The bars that we frequent the most tend to be old timers joints. We love the company of the pensioners in our drinking lives and we love even more a good bartender who qualified for AARP back when Moses was young.

We’ve long since learned that if you’ll keep your mouth shut and your ears open, the old timers can regale you with stories that even the most seasoned person under fifty could only dream of telling.

It was frigid evening perhaps 10 years ago and it was date night. A little Mexican firecracker and myself were making the rounds hitting the bars and having a good time in the run up to what would become a pretty serious relationship.

We found ourselves in the Cloak Room, enjoying a drink or two and the dark ambiance that has made the space famous for people who enjoy a life in the shadows of a quiet bar.

Until Guadalupe made the mistake of bussing me on the cheek in the manner of young mom grazing her newborn with a kiss.

Beverly Pruitt exploded. She’d been a fairly gracious host up til that point but this tiny act of affection instantly morphed her into a shrieking harridan.

The passage of the years has robbed the exact speech from memory but it was one for the ages. Our fellow patrons at the bar exchanged glimpses of sympathy as we were lambasted as though we were found wildly copulating on a knocked over table in the corner.

Over a kiss on the cheek.

We love that Janzen in her article used phrases like no-nonsense and forthright to describe Pruitt. That’s being polite to put it mildly.

Austin and the surrounding areas still have a few old timey places like Cloak Room for an afternoon of tippling. With a little research you can even find some that have classic, elderly bartenders who treat their patrons with “respect and kindness” traits that Janzen mistakenly attributes to Beverly Pruitt.

If you want a classic, old fashioned Austin evening head up to Buddy’s Place on North Burnet. You’ll have the time of your life, hear some great music and if you happen to get a buss on the cheek the barkeep won’t give you a second glance.

That’s the kind of “historic drinking den” we favor.

all best dive bar in Austin coverage http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/Best-Dive-Bar-In-Austin

Sitting out in Hare Texas looking out across the vast plains of the Blackland Prairie, Pancho and Lefty’s is just a quick sprint up the road from Austin. But you might as well be a million miles away from America’s fourteenth largest city.

Inside the old dive bar it’s good and dark with just the faint glow of beer signs and televisions piercing the gloom. It’s a good gloom too. Very peaceful. Beer is cheap as it should be out in these parts, nobody’s trying to get rich selling overpriced Lone Star in Hare Texas. If you’re a big ol country hoss you might want to tackle their Big Kahuna Burger challenge. It’s a four pounder with all the fixin’s. Eat it and you’ll walk away with a hundred dollars and a story to tell everybody back at the office.

Out back the proprietors have installed an al fresco movie theater with a nice screen and plenty seating. When we visited the burn ban was in effect so they’d suspended their outdoor cinema operation for the time being.

No Werner Herzog in Hare as the town’s a tinderbox.

Pancho and Lefty’s runs all sorts of specials: Ladies night, Karaoke, bike night, live music and what have you. It’s a classic country bar with a history stretching all the way back to the 1920’s when it housed a meat market.

relevant http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/Best-Dive-Bar-In-Austin

There are a few cocktails so iconic that if you’re a bartender and you can’t make them you might as well call it a day. Near the top of that list is the Dark n Stormy, a witches brew of rum and ginger so potent and delicious that we became hopeless slaves to it years back when the cocktail revival swept through America and then Austin Texas bars. Yellow Jacket Social Club fails this crucial test. As in; they can’t make it because they don’t stock ginger beer. Which also means they can’t make a Moscow Mule. Which renders them impotent in the discussion of Best New Bar In Austin.

However, if you like to take ol Blue with you when you head out for a night on the town they do have a nice selection of water dishes for dogs.

Next.

Swan Dive is a nice bar and we’ve enjoyed our evenings there but we laughed ourselves silly over this description in the Austin Chronicle’s piece on their victory: “whether your duds be vintage, goth, or themed, it’s time to bust out the big-kid clothes. The crowd will be beautiful”

What?

We called out for this bar to put a dress code in place so the crowd could match the furniture here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2011/4/24/Austin-Daily-Photo-Swan-Dive-Sunday-April-24th-2011 and we stand by our remarks.

Typical Austin where biologically mature males like to wear their little sister’s footwear when it’s time to go out for a night on the town. We get it. Flops are cheap and you’re casual aren’t you brah?

Read our piece on Yellow Jacket Social Club here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2011/5/9/Austin-Daily-Photo-Yellow-Jacket-Social-Club-Monday-May-9th-2011

Best new bar in Austin is Frontier. You may read about them here: http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2011/8/13/Best-Dive-Bar-In-Austin-Part-Six-Frontier-Bar

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: http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2011/5/18/Austin-Daily-Photo-Cactus-Rose-Wednesday-May-18th-2011

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.

512-365-7802

all dive bar coverage here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/Best-Dive-Bar-In-Austin

Frontier Bar fulfills several criteria we hold dear in our dive bars. Firstly, we love that they will sell you a delicious, ice cold beer for exactly one dollar.

While it’s true that we’ve been in Austin long enough to remember when plenty bars did just that, our recent journeys through the nightlife scene found the trait to be vanishing.

Settling in at the bar with a one dollar Miller High life, The Cramps on the juke box and the soft mechanical clatter of the ancient beer cooler, we begin our hang. The walls of Frontier bar are painted a deep, bloody red, the floors have been polished by 1000’s of ostrich skin boots in the bar’s former life as a Tejano nightclub; El Cedro.

Gazing about we spy an MC 900 Foot Jesus poster which brings to mind a show we saw him perform in Atlanta a million or so years ago at the Cotton Club in Atlanta.

For some reason a gang of skinheads were in the club that night and having themselves a good old time skanking about til the MC took umbrage at something one of them did and the brawl was on!

While we’re still a few years from our dotage we do love reflecting back on such memories.

Frontier Bar has a small stage that will surely play host to one of Austin’s dozen or so bands that are always on the lookout for new music venues. We wish there was something our city could do to coax more rock n rollers to come to town as they are a vanishing lot.

Pool tables, two, are available for those into that sort of thing.

We adjourn from the chilly interior of the bar to soak in some atmosphere on the surprisingly spacious patio. It’s ramshackle which is how we prefer our verandas. A handful of picnic tables are strewn about, an outside bar has been hastily erected and a giant shade tree holds sway over all.

It’s quite nice.

Back inside we chat with the barkeep for a bit. Frontier Bar is the latest offering from the man who owns Nomad Bar up on Cameron Road. We love Nomad in spite of our most recent visit which found the lounge invaded by a group of young gentleman in backwards baseball caps exhibiting the untoward behavior of a group of knaves.

Instead of letting fists fly we disembarked to nearby Carousel Lounge.

Frontier Bar is still finding its crowd. It literally is on the eastern frontier of the recent trend of Tejano bars being converted into watering holes for the downtown set. We have mixed feelings on this social movement but for now we’ll content ourselves with ice cold dirt cheap beers and good music on the hi fi.

All Austin dive bar coverage here: http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/Best-Dive-Bar-In-Austin

2421 Webberville Rd

[512] 243-7153

Hours of operation

Daily

5pm -2am

Dollar beers from 5pm – 9pm

Lone Star, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Yellowbelly, Miller High Life

This bar is also stocked with plenty liquor

The Tale of Ed’s Cucaracha could stand as an object lesson to bar owners everywhere. Don’t buy the bar next door.

The Cockroach was running along just fine a few years back. Every night was the perfect dive bar milieu of scenesters, punks, mechanics, rockers, ex-Lubbockites, bewildered collegians and good old squares. Then the owner bought the bar next door, christened it the Jackalope and everything went south. With a bigger, shinier version of The Cockroach just steps away the hard won band of drinkers all slowly migrated to the new joint.

It was a sad sight to see.

Eventually The Cockroach shuttered leaving the door open for the pitiable Moose Knuckles to open up.

I still have friends who only come to Austin once in a blue moon who clamor to be taken to Ed’s Cucaracha. I then have to deliver the bad news.

The Cockroach is gone. Lost to the lore of other Austin greats like the Skyline Club or the Split Rail.

When my best friend Lukey got a pool table I devoted myself to the game and quickly figured out it could be a good way for me to relieve some of our friends of their pocket money.

I was ten.

Those halcyon days are long gone. I sold my stick years ago and haven’t played a game in a coon’s age.

Yet I still like The Grand. Back a few years ago when it opened, the thuggish, ruggish crew that used to call it home base when it was Eric’s Billiards were basically given the heave ho.

It was real simple. To come in you had to have an id. No exceptions. Since only the most base miscreants don’t have a driver’s license or state id card that cleared out the ne’er do wells almost overnight.

The new crowd is just as rough but they’re a little less likely to stick a sharpened coat hanger in your eye like the hooker did to her pimp a stone’s throw away a couple years back.

Rough and tumble little neighborhood.

Still it has it’s charms.

4631 Airport Blvd

Austin, Texas

78751

(512) 454-1986

Hours of operation

11 am – 2 am
Mon-Fri

Noon-2am
Sun

A few years back a buddy of mine was working his way through the kitchens of Paris trying to make his mark in the world of cooking.

On a trip to Austin he wanted the best our city had to offer which meant a soul food lunch at Galloway Sandwich Shop and a crawl through our cities’ finest dive bars.

It had been awhile since I’d been to Airport Club and Grill, known locally as Airport Bar so I called them up. “What are y’alls hours?”

A deep raspy voice responded; “Who wants to know?”

We both fell out laughing and made our way with great haste to the bar where we spent the afternoon sitting around with the owner, drinking and listening with interest while he pontificated on every subject under the sun.

Back in its’ heyday this was a good little rough and tumble joint where you got searched at the door for knives and guns and sent away if your pants were too baggy or you were wearing a sideways ball cap.

Just like it should be.

They used to have a sign at the entrance that said “grownups only”.

Would that all bars had the same policy.

Sadly, Airport Bar has shuttered.

I rolled by last night for a cold one and the ol girl is padlocked good and tight.

Hopefully a new owner will take the club over and lead it into a new era.

2037 Airport Boulevard,

Austin Texas

78722-1402

512-499-8744 ?