Dive bars used to be a dime a dozen in Austin, but these friendly hangouts are an endangered species due to the city’s ever-changing landscape. Sam’s Town Point, far south Austin‘s dive bar paragon, is quietly hanging in there, delivering up the coldest beer in town and tasty live music for those in the know.
Walk into Sam’s Town Point, a portal to Austin’s past, when everybody knew their neighbors, when half of the town hung out day-drinking and two-stepping at their local honky tonk. Live music has been a staple at Sam’s since the beginning. Today, a solid roster of local bands still play their hearts out on the tumbledown stage, under dim lighting and faded signs.
Cowboy Boots Optional
Plenty of bars in Austin have live music nightly, but Sam’s Town Point has been hosting shows since 1986 when it opened. Current owner Ramsay Midwood is an acclaimed Americana musician, longtime resident singer, and advocate for the bar.
And he plans to keep the hits coming. Midwood books fantastic acts. Local darling of Austin’s music scene, Shinyribs, played his first gig at Sam’s Town Point, as did Mike and the Moonpies.
Country punk ensemble Rattlesnake Milk plays there, as do Nikki Lane, Cale & the 45s, Jonathan Terrell, Daisy O’Connor, The Hillbilly Hustlers, and Midwood himself. The list goes on. The talent is impressive, since this dive bar remains super divey-casual.
Newer additions to Sam’s calendar of events are Steel Mondays, a steel guitar evening of fun, Karaoke Wednesday with Scott Wade, and the Crescent Soul Revue with Jimmie Dreams. So while the place has an undeniably honky tonk feel, it’s not all Justins and Stetsons.
Similar to my beloved Skylark Lounge and C-Boy’s Heart and Soul, heading to Sam’s Town Point is always a safe bet, even when you don’t know who’s playing. Odds are in your favor if you feel like cutting a rug or merely having a listening session.
Somehow staying true to its roots and classic honky tonk protocol, the bar patrons and servers are friendly and welcoming. Sam’s is easy to go to alone for this reason. It’s a gathering place for the neighborhood, a place where you can brush off the stress of the city and the traffic, and get to know those around you.
“We aim to be the friendliest little bar in Texas.” This is Midwood’s motto on Twitter, and I’d say he’s at least in the running. The crowd is a mix of loyal regulars, neighbors, music aficionados, and enthralled hipsters.
The dance floor is big enough for a little boot scootin’. Even on a slow night, besotted couples and groups of friends put on a lively secondary show. Step out onto the patio, and you’ll likely be invited to sit with a group of folks. Pull up a chair, order a beer, cider, or wine, and a bite to eat, and relax. You’re in for a real treat.
➡ Keep reading: Places in Austin to Take Your Two Left Feet for Texas Two-step
Sam’s Town Point: Then and Now
In 1986 when the Grossman family opened the bar, Austin had not experienced much southward sprawl. Thus, the bar was literally on the edge of town. Take that fact, and an investor named Sam from Chicago, and that’s how you come up with the name: “Sam’s Town Point.” Penny Grossman and her son, Wally Jr., ran the place for decades, booking acts and cracking open ice cold beers for the masses.
As luck would have it, Ramsay Midwood inadvertently stumbled across Sam’s Point in 2002 and fell in love on the spot. He started playing gigs there and soon headed the house band, backed by a rotating group of Austin musicians. Midwood took an unofficial role as advocate for the bar, helping organize things. He became part of the family at Sam’s Town Point.
Tragedy struck in 2011, when Wally Grossman, Jr. died in a motorcycle accident. Penny Grossman could no longer bear the thought of running the bar without her son, nor could she manage the business end herself. When she started speaking of selling it, Midwood stepped in and offered to help. Grossman was so pleased at the thought of Midwood’s involvement that she decided he should be the one to take over the bar.
On Wally’s birthday, Dec. 13, 2016, Penny Grossman handed the reins to Midwood. She declared that if he took over the bar, “It would make the 30 years worthwhile.” The previous owner didn’t go far, though. She still has her designated chair at the front of the bar, where she can see the stage and hold court. Midwood is protective when he speaks of her. He is determined to take care of her and her legacy.
While dive bars offer buckets of charm and personality, they often also come with a sheen of decades-old funk on everything. When he took over, Midwood set to work deep-cleaning the place and updating a few essentials. One can’t help but notice that Sam’s Town Point sits on a spacious plot of land. Midwood wanted to make use of this incredible asset.
He first had to survey the property, then clear all the brush and debris. He added fire pits for winter, and twinkly, green laser lights to the grand old oak out back.
He’s slowly starting to see plans materialize for the rest of the buildings, with music studios and Airbnb rooms to rent. A gazebo and old beauty salon sit on the property. Midwood has some ideas for the beauty salon, so check back in a few months to see what comes to fruition in that space.
“Friends Are the Best Part of Life”
The sign as you leave the bar states, “Friends Are the Best Part of Life,” a reminder of how friendly our Austin was and can still be. Sam’s Town Point recalls a time when neighbors knew and looked out for each other. Without getting too many tears in my beer over this nostalgic feeling, I’ll say it sure does my heart good to spend time at Sam’s. This far south Austin dive has stood the test of time for 30-plus years, but staying afloat in a rapidly expanding Austin gets trickier all the time.
Check out the music schedule, pick a show or seven, and go already! We have to support our local treasures like Sam’s Town Point, lest we risk losing them. Bring your chillest vibe and prepare to have a darn good time.
2115 Allred Dr. – Website
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