Best Pubs For SXSW Visitors
Some friends are coming into Austin tomorrow for a week of festival going.
They're ardent fans of pubs: bars and/or taverns that have a wealth of draft and bottle beer and just as importantly a menu of pub grub that won't break their pocketbooks.
It would also be nice if the establishment was slightly out of the zone of madness.
A respite type place with a patio, good music [Gourds, James Hand, Scott Biram et al] and all the aforementioned.
Since I spend most of my time in beat up old honky tonks or squatted down on some blacktop near a taco cart I figured I should enlist the aid of experts.
I've always liked Billy's on Burnet. Decent draft beer selection, tasty though not life-changing burgers, and that neighborhood bar kind of feel... Parking sucks, but there's plenty of street parking between the firehouse and Jorge's.
If you were way North, I'd suggest Opal Divine's Marina. The food is only ok, but the beer selection is divine.
Way out at Lake Travis, Uncle Billy's for the lake view and beer.
Best places in the danger zone:
Lovejoy's (scuzzy dive frequented by tattooed locals, many in the service industry. Totally gross bar but has amazing beer selection, including their own brews, one of which is always on cask)
The Ginger Man (the same as above, minus the scuzzy element. I like Lovejoy's better)
Frank (gourment hot dogs, nice beer selection)
Fado (irish pub)
Outside of the danger zone:
The Draught House (north austin, great beer selection, nice place with a good patio)
House Pizzeria (amazing pizza with great beers on tap)
Whip In (South Austin - awesome place with tons of beers and great indian food. Probably the best beer selection in all of Austin)
There are quite a few more, but that'll get you started.
Oh yes, Black Star for the beer...they have a great selection of beers from other breweries in addition to their own brews. They offer nitro on their stout, Recalcitrant Dockhand.
Food was only ok when I went, but I want to give them a second try. My fried fish planks were totally flavorless while the fries were way way too salty (good cut on those fries though so they have promise). Best part of the meal was the spicy peanut toffee.
Terrible acoustics inside, so definitely try to snag a patio table.
I 2nd this lackluster Black Star evaluation. I dig their menu and will be back to try other things, but my sole experience so far was with a fairly unadventurous burger and side salad. The salad is nothing but greens, which is a perfectly legitimate recipe if you're trying to make the dressing stand out or it's a particularly interesting mix of greens, but the dressing wasn't standout, so this'd benefit from SOME kind of additional veg. It doesn't even have to be boring standbys like tomato/carrot/cucumber just gimme something to work with here and i'll give you the benefit of the doubt, was just kinda yawning and chewing at the same time.
The burger looked great, i dunno if the bun is made in house or they get from a bakery, but it's definitely not off-the-shelf supermarket, and tomato/pickle/leaf lettuce similarly seemed fresh and like some thought went into them beyond cracking open a Sysco bulk order, but when I bit into it the burger, it tasted... well... it kinda didn't. I mean, there's some kind of nice mustard on it, and I tasted that, but it was weird to be chewing a burger that was most defined by a single condiment. The "sharp cheddar" wasn't even making the slight sharp impression on my palette. And shouldn't I be able to taste the beef?
I was also a little put-off by the constant presence of tiny gnat-like flies. They've got a patio and a door that's constantly opening, so maybe they were just unavoidable invaders from outdoors, so not exactly questioning their cleanliness (everything else seemed well cared for) but they sure looked like the kinda fruit flies one gets if you forget a bag of produce on your shelf for too long.
I like the concept and the beer selection and it's a convenient location, so my first ho-hum experience wasn't enough to sour me on returning to try some other things on the menu that caught my eye, but local ingredients only get you so far if they're bland ones.
I have had nothing but ho-hum experiences here, over the four times I have visited.
On the plus side, beer is quite tasty, whether house beers or guest taps.
Food has always been a bit bland. Atmosphere is weird and cold with terrible acoustics.
Service is always frustratingly slow, almost like the register workers can't establish a rhythm to process orders. When I am here, I think to myself that I should have gone to billys on burnet or draughthouse instead.
It seems like the elements are there to make this place great, but it just is not happening.