This guest blog article is by Kip Sikora.
Austin’s musical heritage is a well-worn, groovy tapestry woven with a kaleidoscope of sonic threads that make it worthy of a lone star. Not even a mixed up box of chocolates from Forrest Gump’s mama could match the musical diversity here. And in a town where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a musician, it’s inevitable that some of its watering holes wind up immortalized in song.
Here’s a list of three Austin beer joints with such a connection. Check them out. Perhaps you too can draw a little nectar from their boozy wells of inspiration.
Texas Chili Parlor + Guy Clark
The Texas Chili Parlor opened its doors in 1976. And although its name indicates a focus on chili, which is outstanding, the bar is not to be overlooked. It’s dark and ripe with tavern perfume. The Mad Dog margaritas made such an impression on Guy Clark that he thought about them all the way over in Dublin.
Just what is a Mad Dog margarita? Thankfully it doesn’t have anything to do with the bright orange, sulfite laden wine in the cooler at your corner store. The Texas Chili Parlor recipe calls for Monte Alban Mezcal, Cointreau and fresh lime. A couple of these babies will send your blues on vacation for a spell.
Address: 1409 Lavaca Street
Texas Music Connection: Guy Clark, “Dublin Blues”
Horseshoe Lounge + Slaid Cleaves
Slaid Cleaves wasn’t born in Texas. In fact, he originally hails from Maine, but he didn’t let two thousand miles stand between him and the Lone Star state. Once he got to Austin, he gigged around at a handful of clubs and finally worked up to the courage to check out the Horseshoe Lounge. Apparently his apprehension was unfounded because he recorded a double disc live album at the Shoe in 2011.
Regulars filter in through the unmarked backdoor every afternoon and perch atop stools around the padded horseshoe shaped bar. No sooner had I adjusted my butt on the bar stool than owner Tennia Brown welcomed me in with a beer on the house. She treated me like a long lost regular. With that kind of hospitality, it’s easy to see why the Shoe has been slinging beers since 1965.
A sign reading “Just a few clowns short of a circus” hangs next to the cash register, which gets a lot of action at the cash only joint. Light oozes from the requisite collection of wall-mounted neon. Above the bar, also in the shape of a horseshoe, hangs a checkerboard light fixture resembling a Christmas themed disco hall dance floor. A shuffleboard that may or may not be haunted by the ghost of a departed regular occupies the north wall.
It’s not fancy, but it’s friendly, the beer is cold, and the jukebox is stacked with great tunes.
Address: 2034 S Lamar Blvd
Texas Music Connection: Slaid Cleaves, “Horseshoe Lounge”
Dry Creek Cafe and Dock + Owen Temple
Speaking of jukeboxes, they don’t get any better than the one at Dry Creek Cafe and Dock. Whereas a lot of bars have hopped the online train, Dry Creek still plays records. That’s right, vinyl 45’s, some of which date back to 1956 when the joint first started jumping. Four songs for a dollar. Consisting mainly of outlaw country greats, this thing sounds like a honky-tonk angel with snaps, crackles and pops that give it the unmitigated authenticity of a bygone era.
You might run into a cosmic cowboy, a Ferrari mechanic, or a Tibetan lama in full garb. If you’re lucky, all three will be seated at the Round Table of Reason drinking cold beer. It’s a crowd that transcends demographics and that’s what makes it legendary. Also worth noting are the number of high dollar condos and homes surrounding Dry Creek. The property has got to be worth a small fortune, and although original owner Sarah Ransom passed away in 2009, her feisty spirit anchors the bar and its loyal regulars. Take a listen to Owen Temple’s tune, “Dry Creek.”
Address: 4812 Mount Bonnell Road
Texas Music Connection: Owen Temple, “Dry Creek”
It’s hard to pinpoint what animates these places, but a cold glass sandwich, good chatter and great music are part of the magic. Add a double shot of longevity, and that’s what makes them cultural landmarks.
Sometimes history smells like the pages of an old book and sometimes like stale beer and cigarette smoke. Sure, books are educational, even fun sometimes, but how many jokes begin with, “So a priest, a pirate and Michael Jackson walk into a bookstore…” Nope, nothing sets the scene for a good yarn like a suds soaked saloon. But until somebody runs with the idea of a designated driver internship program for high school students, enjoy yourself responsibly.
Kip Sikora does a great impression of himself after six beers. Unfortunately, exactly zero beers were consumed before writing this stale, uninformative bio. Find him online at Abstractersunz, KipSikoraPhotography.com or on Instagram at @kip_sikora.
How many of these immortalized Austin bars have you been to?