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Dec 22, 2010 10:23 PM


We'll be in your city from NYE thru the a.m. of 1/4/11. We're staying at Guadalupe and 6th, which I'm told is downtown. We arrive into Austin on 12/31 at about 9:30 p.m. and plan on going out for drinks and “street” food (not sit down) that night.

I've done a good bit of research here, and there are three types of food/venues I'd like to try;
BBQ (duh)
Trailer scene
Tex Mex

I'm not so married to the idea of finding Tex Mex as I am the other two, but if I get recommendations for must-haves, and we're not already stuffed with bbq and trailer food, then that will just round out our trip.

For BBQ, I've got: Kreuz, Smitty's, Ben's Long Branch, Lamberts…. I understand Lamberts is farther away, and we probably won’t have a car. Are the others fairly near where we are staying, and have I picked most of the best Austin has to offer? I had a couple others, but they didn’t show up when I tried inputting them into my list on my profile – Sam’s, for instance, didn’t come up. Any ranking you want to give these names? I realize that’s a matter of personal choice, but I’d like different P.O.V.s.

I’ve also checked out this site: East Side King came up in a post (by another SF CH-er, actually!), and I’ve read a little bit about taco trucks (which we have in abundance in SF), Gordeaux, Little Thai Food, Kochi Grill… Bits & Druthers intrigues me…. We like all kinds of ethnic foods, not so much into the sweets (although he does love doughnuts, hence, Gordeaux). Will you please tell me your faves?

Finally, we want dive bars – true dive bars. I mean, we don’t want the place with the 70 year old guys showing up at 6:00 a.m., but we also don’t want ultra-hipster, we don’t want a scene, or too young of a crowd (we’re in our 40s), but we DO want a pool table or two and we are late-nighters. To give you an idea of what we like: If you’re familiar, in SF, we live in the Mission District and “our” bars are Mission Bar and Dovre Club. I drink tanq and tonics, nothing fancier, and he swigs straight Cuervo Gold – not even 1800, just plain old nasty Cuervo Gold. Willing to stumble home on foot if we’re not too far away. Also not averse to smoky bars – do they allow smoking in TX bars? They don’t anymore in SF – but are also ok taking it outside.

Any help very much appreciated! It was a terribly rough year and we’re excited for this trip to bring in a better one. Thanks!!

oh, and we're aware of your fantastic music scene, but we'll find that on our own. thanks again!

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  1. Lambert's is actually the closest of the five you mention. A relatively short walk. It's also the most upscale, but it's not fancy upscale. Since you live in the Mission, think Delfina Pizzeria. Nice but relaxed. Their 'cue is good, though not as good as Kreuz or Smitty's, but they do have a full bar. You'll need a car to get to Kreuz and Smitty's, as they're actually in Lockhart, which is roughly 40 minutes from downtown. Relatively close to the airport, though, so perhaps you could swing something to or from. Sam's is good. I'm sure folks will mention Franklin's, which is currently a bbq trailer. Probably the best 'cue in the city right now, though they're moving to what I believe is the former Ben's Long Branch location soon.

    Folks love East Side King, and I can certainly see the appeal despite how inconsistent it is. If you ever go to NY, it's kind of like a poor man's Ssam Bar. But it's a great scene and is located in a bar that you might like--The Liberty. I'm sure some on here will complain that it's not a true dive and it's too scene-y, but if you're laid back, it's really not bad. They have a pool table and cheap booze. I happen to like the place. Open 'til 2am, smoking outside only. On E 6th, a short cab ride from your hotel.

    If I had plans to be in town, I'd try to barter a few shots of Cuervo for a loaf of Tartine.

    1. You were told correctly that 6th and Guad is downtown. What perhaps noone said is that 6th from Brazos to Red River will be a madhouse. The street is closed on your average weekend evening, but on NYE (and Halloween, and anytime the Longhorns win anything -- which you won't have to worry about this year ;-P ) it's particularly to be avoided. It's like TMC's "The Walking Dead" at last call, only fraternity guys are slighly less accommodating than zombies, and sorority girls slightly more brainless than their victims, post-attack.

      I love Parkside, but not so much as to be on 6th NYE, so skip that section of 6th and either go east of 35 to the aforementioned East Side Kings and Liberty, plus I've liked East Side Show Room (though I think their stuff should be a coupla bucks cheaper, and I suppose i just digressed, since they're not bbq or texmex or a trailer).
      Odd Duck is an excellent trailer right next to Gordeaux, and they're amply discussed on this board, read a coupla of those reviews to see if it's your thing.
      Ben's Long Branch is no more, supposedly Franklin BBQ taking the location, but I don't think it's slated to open until after the holidays. Seek out that trailer, you won't find better in Austin, but barring that Sam's is good, as is Willie's on East MLK. I've liked everything I've tried at Lambert's *except* the bbq.

      For dive bars, head north on Burnet for LaLa's or Ginny's Little Longhorn. Or Airport for Barfly's. Never been to SF so dunno if that's exactly what you're looking for, but I think comparable divey places might be tough to find in stumbling distance to 6th and Guad without ending up in the aforementioned area to avoid; Lovejoys probably fits, maybe try that on the 2nd or 3rd, but not the 31st.
      South of you from about 2nd to 5th is gonna be the "Warehouse District" which used to be divey but now seriously gentrified, yuppified, and scene-ified. I mean, I like Cedar Street, and love Mulberry but divey pool bars they are not. Perhaps The Cloakroom right by the capitol? There is (technically) no smoking inside or withing 15 feet of the entrance of restaurants and bars in Austin.
      West of you has bars (Tiniest Bar in Texas, Mean-Eyed Cat, Momo's, Little Woodrows), but they're variously young, or ultra-hipster, or primarily music venues, or just terrible (I'm thinking Opal Divine's on that one).

      5 Replies
      1. re: willtryanythingonce

        Thanks for the detailed info, both of you! WTAO, really good to know about our neighborhood - will want to avoid frat boys at any cost. should have posted this before i booked our rooms (but i did that months ago.) but now at least we know what to avoid.

        SD - gladly bring you a loaf of Tartine's if our paths were going to cross. Thanks for the clarification on bbq joints - i see that i did get them mixed up, location-wise. and the Ssam bar reference really helps.

        Is Sam's bbq a trailer or does it have a storefront?

        Thanks again.
        Anyone else want to chime in, will appreciate it.

        1. re: mariacarmen

          well, like i said, mostly it's between brazos and red river, i think you're enough blocks west to mostly avoid the fray. Sam's is not a trailer, it's an old house, and not much to look at but the q is decent and they're open super late. willies is a store front attached to a gas station.

          1. re: willtryanythingonce

            ok, good to know, super late is good, thx.

        2. re: willtryanythingonce

          Seconding SD's rec for the Cloakroom. Lots of character(s) and it's interesting location right by the Capitol make it a good check in for a drink, particularly at non-prime times.

          1. re: puddles

            thanks! we'll be there 4 nights so we'll probably check a few places recommended here.

        3. My two cents - I fit your demographic except I quit smoking a couple of years ago. SF exPat (Mission/NoeValley/Richmond District) whose bars (12-15 years ago) were the 500 Club, the Lone Palm and the Rat and Raven. I think willtryanythingonce's suggestion is good for NYE- it will be plenty crazy on the east side as well. Still, I would cab directly to Liberty/East Side Kings and put check marks next to dive bar and trailer - cab to the hotel for a late check in.

          Franklin's = best bbq in town and trailer.

          Buddy's and Lala's are the closest to Austin's equivalent of the Dovre, but far from where you are. Honestly, there aren't that many neighborhood bars, especially since you will be downtown. I think you might like the Jackalope and Casino el Camino - both on 6th, both with mighty fine burgers. Lovejoy's also, although I think it is more grimey than divey and can be quite sceney. G&S further south? Just a thought, but the front room of the Broken Spoke has all the hallmarks of a good dive bar for me - pool, shuffleboard, neon...and it is kind of an Austin institution.

          I think the "trailer scene" is a little overrated right now - in a boom phase where the best hasn't risen to the top quite yet. I suggest you do some taco eating...breakfast and otherwise, and a search of this board will yield quite a large bounty. Austin/Texas tacos are a different animal than SF...particularly if you search for Jalisco-style.

          If you're packing bread, stick an Acme baguette in there for me! Have a great visit and happy 2011!

          Broken Spoke
          3201 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

          11 Replies
          1. re: reinadetostones

            hey thanks reina! all that is really helpful. I know the 500 club and Lone Palm well (tho not the Rat & Raven..... You have a wonderful NYE yourself!

            1. re: reinadetostones

              Franklin is closed through January 4th, sadly.

              1. re: hlk

                oh, sad! thanks for the info....

              2. re: reinadetostones

                Reina, one question. what does this mean: "Still, I would cab directly to Liberty/East Side Kings and put check marks next to dive bar and trailer - cab to the hotel for a late check in" - do we need to "reserve" a spot at the bar and at the trailer? are you saying that if we get there by 11-ish we won't get a seat or something?

                1. re: mariacarmen

                  i think she meant "check marks" on your to-do list.
                  liberty is the dive bar, and east side kings is a trailer behind it.

                  1. re: dinaofdoom

                    That's what I meant! Since it will be crazy everywhere, I wouldn't risk going to your hotel downtown and then trying to get another cab - and yep, that will take care of two of your requests.

                      1. re: mariacarmen

                        okay, according to their website, east side kings has another location at bar96 (i have no idea where that is):

                        the menu sounds like pure asian yum,

                        1. re: dinaofdoom

                          ok, tho, great to know, thanks for the update!

                          1. re: dinaofdoom

                            Bar 96 is one of the new bars that opened along Rainey Street (Lustre Pearl, Clive, Icenhauer's, etc). With televisions playing different sporting events, Bar 96 tries to be the sports bar on the street.

                  2. my limited experince with the "downtown scene"
                    dont discount a good ol slice of sixth street pizza and the best wurst
                    sunday brunch at Stubbs is worth a looksee
                    La Condesa

                    La Condesa
                    400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: girloftheworld

                      As long as during your "looksee" at Stubb's Sunday Brunch you don't make the mistake of letting any of their "food" enter your gullet you'll probably be alright.

                      If Christopher Stubblefield could see what the restaurant group in charge of his barbecue business had done to his good name, we'd have a George Romero scene on our hands.

                      As far as finding a true dive bar anywhere near downtown Austin, good luck.

                      Fake dive bars like Casino El Camino, Jackalope and their ilk abound but a true gritty dive where working class folks go to drink cold beer, smoke and get their minds off their jobs have all been priced out of downtown.

                      Casino El Camino
                      517 E 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

                      1. re: scrumptiouschef

                        i like the cut of your jib. i'll watch what goes into my gullet.

                        so, if we had to take a cab ride to a dive bar (which i know seems so antithetical), where would i go? other than anything suggested above?

                        1. re: mariacarmen

                          TC's Lounge over on Webberville Road is one of the last old timey bars left over from the chitlin circuit.

                          Old timers still rail against the name change [it was the Blue Flame til the 70s] but it has significant veritas nationally amongst a certain subset of ancient musicians.

                          Gravel parking lot, set-ups for the bottle of booze in your purse and a respectable soul food kitchen in back.

                          Avoid Monday night as the Oxford shirt/shit flops crowd take over on that evening.

                          1. re: mariacarmen

                            Carousel Lounge
                            or the aforementioned Ginny's little longhorn

                            oops, just read your entire post, both these only serve beer (and wine too), but you can bring in a bottle, they have set-ups.

                            1. re: TroyTempest

                              i love this idea of "set-ups"! i had only heard of that in books - i think Tennessee Williams! You're both saying you bring in your own booze and they provide mixers?

                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                it's something i never saw myself until relocating to texas.
                                i think, and someone correct me if i am wrong, that beer/wine licenses are easier to come by than full liquor licenses so places get creative.

                                most places charge you a fee (kind of like corkage) and then you get glasses etc.

                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                  yup, that's pretty much it. Some places now will limit the size of the bottle you can bring in to a pint, i think.
                                  Also, depending on the place, Tonic water might be kind of exotic, usually you get soda, club soda, ice, maybe oj.

                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                    If you go to Ginny's Little Longhorn, go on Sunday for Chicken Sh*t Bingo. It starts at 3 now I believe. Bring your own bottle of liquor and you can buy a can of soda for $1. Just be sure to buy the liquor on Saturday because liquor stores are closed on Sunday.

                                    It's a honky tonk hole in the wall and can be crazy on Sunday's but if the weather is nice you just hang outside in the parking lot and listen to the live music pouring out. If you want to have a table you will need to get there early. There is never a cover and there is a band playing every night but Monday.

                                    They have free chili dogs on Sundays. You may want to eat one just to say that you did. Or not. I never have. Enjoy your trip and please let us know what you do and what you eat!

                                    1. re: missmitzi

                                      thanks, and i will definitely report back!

                            2. re: girloftheworld

                              thanks for the suggetion. girlof theworld, but we have tons and tons of pizza in SF and I won't be using valuable stomach space for pizza on this trip!

                            3. For trailers, you have got to go to Odd Duck if you go to Gourdoughs. The food there is amazing. But if you go anywhere, cabs aren't easy to find in Austin, so you may want to take a taxi to the hotel, tell them to wait, run inside, check your bags at the front desk, run back out, and then go to wherever you want to go. That way, you don't have to haul your luggage with you.

                              1 Reply