For the fifth destination on my Austin speakeasy tour, I visited DuMont’s Down Low in the Warehouse District. Be warned: you may miss the entrance if you aren’t looking for it. But once you make your way down the dark stairs off West Fourth Street and into this basement bar, you’ll be glad you made the effort.
DuMont’s offers drink options that will satisfy everyone, a great happy hour, an open yet intimate space, food from one of Austin’s best taco joints, and perhaps the company of a ghost.
But before we get into all that, let’s take a step back to understand how DuMont’s came to be.
Rich and Winding History
The space at DuMont’s Down Low, like many downtown Austin bars, has a long and winding history. The name “DuMont” is an ode to Blanche DuMont, a madam who ran one of Austin’s most successful brothel operations in the late 19th century.
After shedding its seedy past, the street-level space became home to the legendary Fado, an Irish pub that hosted many St. Patrick’s Day parties over the years–before it closed in 2018.
The basement area, where DuMont’s Down Low operates, was forgotten over the passage of time. Before the bar opened in November 2018, it was simply a storage room for Fado, and thought to be a small one. It wasn’t until a wall was knocked down that the space opened up and its full potential could be realized.
In speaking with manager Nate Nyberg, I learned those who are running DuMont’s Down Low have no intention of hiding the mysterious and fascinating past of previous tenants. In fact, they plan to embrace it.
What to Expect
If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn during my deep dive into the world of Austin speakeasies, it’s that the term “speakeasy” means different things to different people. Meanings tend to change over time.
To some, a speakeasy always has a password for entry, while to others it simply has an entrance that’s hidden. Some believe a speakeasy must specialize in craft cocktails, while others believe it’s about the decor and aesthetic.
In my estimation, DuMont’s satisfies a number of the qualifiers. Beyond the barrel-lined stairway entrance with little signage, the atmosphere of the bar would make any Prohibition-era bar proud. Candles sit on brick pillars and distressed windows give the illusion you may not be underground.
The space can sit 80 people comfortably, and the open, common seating lends itself to mingling. “We want to cultivate the type of experience for guests where they can talk to each other,” Nyberg told me.
Keeping Austin’s “Weird” Alive
The dimly lit basement bar feels like a haven from the street-level world. A callback to simpler–if more creepy–times. “We are a basement bar, we want to be a little creepy, to bring in that French Quarter feeling,” Nyberg explained.
There’s a French Quarter vibe, for sure, but Austin also has its own brand of weird and different. DuMont’s hopes to carry that tradition forward. Yes, Austin’s old creepiness, or should I say weirdness, has found a home at DuMont’s Down Low. Nyberg agreed: “People want to see something different. Austin is just a little off, and most of us appreciate being a little off.”
I noticed random oddities that lent themselves to this feeling. Black and white photos that seemed just a little odd, for example. Some believe the ghost of Blanche DuMont still roams around, appearing now and then, moving chairs and glasses to make her presence felt. Needless to say, DuMont’s will be hosting a giant Halloween event this year.
“If we can give you the chills once when you’re down here, I think that sets us apart,” Nyberg explained. “You’re in an old brick basement, and there were some wild times here in Austin in the early 1900s. We want to try to give you a taste of that.”
Apparently Austin has been “weird” for longer than I knew, and DuMont’s Down Low wants to keep that tradition alive for as long as possible.
Let’s Drink (and Eat)
DuMont’s Down Low is working to become one of the preeminent whiskey and bourbon destinations in Austin, with over 80 (and growing) options on the menu.
But that’s not to say you won’t feel welcome as a lover of other drinks. There are cocktails that deserve to be served at a speakeasy lounge, and you won’t go wrong with the old fashioned, margarita, paloma, or aptly-named Blanche.
I can say without hyperbole this is one of the best happy hour deals in town. There are discounted cocktails and wine, and you can’t beat $2 beers, can you? Yes, there’s something for everybody at DuMont’s. “We want you to feel just as comfortable ordering a Lone Star and a shot of whiskey as you do a cocktail,” Nyberg told me.
All of this drinking may leave you hungry, and DuMont’s has that covered, as well. Chispas, which recently opened upstairs, offers an abbreviated menu that can be ordered right from the bar. You won’t go wrong with any of the tacos!
Preserving the Warehouse District
DuMont’s Down Low is in the heart of a rapidly changing area, Austin’s Warehouse District. These days, people recognize these blocks for their architecture and the steakhouses, but some new concepts are moving in.
“When I moved here in 2005, this was my favorite part of Austin,” Nyberg told me. “If you really look around the Warehouse District, it holds a lot of Austin’s history.” It takes a special place to preserve and carry on this tradition. DuMont’s is up to the challenge.
So come by for a drink (and a bite). DuMont’s is as reliable as it is original, and visitors are starting to notice. “We want people to walk down those steps, and we’re going to win them over, customer by customer,” Nyberg promised.
And if you see Blanche, tell her Austin’s “weird” is alive and well.
214 W. 4th St., Ste. B – Website
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