Sports bars can be overwhelming. Bar tops bathed in the harsh light of tightly packed TVs and beer sign neon. Average food options like bland wings, onion rings and the dreaded over-cooked nacho plate. Liquor ads serve as wallpaper, designed to distract you from the real mission: rooting on your favorite team. Sports bars don’t have to be “pinkies up,” but they don’t have to be blaring noise machines either.
With a cut above menu of comfort bar food, inspired cocktails and a modern yet welcoming ambiance, BaseCamp hopes to elevate Austin’s expectations of what a sports bar should be.
BaseCamp’s Serious Credentials
While BaseCamp is a new venture, the people who made it happen are local restaurateur veterans. When co-founders Chad Barrett and hospitality veteran Dan Wyman (Parkside, Olive & June) saw a need for an upscale sports bar downtown, they found a cozy space underneath the Summit Rooftop Lounge and set up shop.
“With BaseCamp, we wanted to bring together the energetic vibe of a sports bar with a fresh and accessible menu,” shared Barrett. “I think we have a unique combination with our location and our team’s culinary and hospitality experience.”
Upscale Bar Comfort Food
Handling the culinary side, Executive Chef Eric Kuypers, formally of Uchi and The Peached Tortilla, has crafted a menu full of American bar food favorites with a local twist. Everything is kicked up a notch. The 50/50 Burger is made with an even split of beef and bacon, while the steak frites combine classic hanger steak with a habanero bordelaise.
I got a chance to try their mac and cheese. The cheese sauce is a delectable blend of fontina, taleggio and white cheddar. Although the cheddar sits up front, the fontina and taleggio deliver a distinct aroma and creaminess. The macaroni is cooked a touch over al dente, and the breadcrumbs provide the crispy texture you would expect from a baked mac and cheese. A dish that may have made our Extraordinary Mac and Cheese list if it were around last year.
The bar also features a fantastic small plates menu, well suited for sharing with friends as you check out a UT game.
Craft Beer and Cocktails
BaseCamp’s liquor selection contains a splash of everything. The modest yet well curated beer selection features local options like the 512 Pecan Porter and Pinthouse Pizza’s Electric Jellyfish IPA, while the wine list holds 17 different varieties to choose from.
The cocktail list is where BaseCamp wants to stand out from the rest. As a big whiskey fan, I was drawn to the Texas Old Fashioned. Made with brown sugar, pecan syrup and Maker’s bourbon, the drink has a surprising up front sweetness. Big whiskey hits as well, giving the cocktail an almost overwhelming first sip. Take a few more, and the burn gives way to an earthiness that’s unlike any old fashioned I’ve ever had.
Other distinctive cocktails include the bizarre yet alluring Beam & Hops (Jim Beam whiskey mixed with elderflower liqueur and draft IPA) and the Blue Steel (Dewar’s scotch, crème de violette and agave). The Sexi Mexi (tequila, jalapeno, agave, grapefruit and Topo Chico) in particular has received rave reviews from the after-work crowd.
Adult Contemporary Vibe
But it wouldn’t be a sports bar without a lively environment to enjoy the big game. Thirteen TVs dot a space that’s a cross between industrial warehouse and laid-back man cave. BaseCamp offers seating for any occasion. The spacious bar top is perfect for solo snacking, a large communal table at the front accommodates large groups and a number of bar tables allow for intimate date nights.
The back of the bar is where things really warm up. Plush, luxurious couches line the back wall and face two big screens. The wall behind the couch is full of sports pictures and memorabilia. Everyone from Peyton Manning to Andre Agassi makes an appearance. They even had a picture of Bobby Orr, delighting my internal hockey fan.
Add to the mix private rooms for large groups and tantalizing deserts (my bar seat neighbor had the beignets, which looked amazing), and BaseCamp seems poised to make a splash in the downtown sports scene. If the bright lights and beer neon of traditional sports bars cause you to seek refuge on the couch, give BaseCamp a try. A more upscale way to root on your favorite team.
Basecamp is located at 120 W. 5th St., between Colorado Street and Congress Avenue. For menu, social media and happy hour specials, visit basecampatx.com.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Where do you go to check out your favorite team in Austin?