|Digital Art by Chet Phillips|
Austin, TX is known for it's great food and love of music. I did not know that the city is also known for a common in the South type of bird called The Grackle. Whenever your in a more wooded area with trees in Austin this beloved/annoying bird is hissing, making weird gurgling noises and cackling at very high pitches while flying from one tree to a lamppost and back and forth. The Great Austin Grackle Kill of '07 still has people talking and there was even a movie Day of the Grackle about an evil Grackle from hell. Austin has become well known enough for them that a beer bar called The Grackle opened up in tribute.
I would recommend this bar if it did not make you feel yourself like a bird in a cage. On a gravel lot in a particularly rundown stretch of Austin this bar is reminiscent of a prison cell, a birdcage or perhaps some kind of biker bar. Walking indoors I felt immediately out of place and like I had stumbled into that biker bar in the first scene of the Terminator, like Arnie walking in naked and catching the attention of the locals. Surprisingly these guys have all craft beer on tap and one of the cities most famous food carts in town in the parking lot.
Speaking of food Austin is home of great Mexican and Tex-Mex as well as BBQ of course. Unfortunately traveling with my vegan brother I did not get many chances for great BBQ but luckily most mexican places have some vegetarian and vegan options. My favorite may have been Polvo's.
It may not be a great beer spot but sitting on the colorful patio with the sun setting, temperature holding at 78 degrees and some extremely tasty and fresh tex-mex with a salted margarita can be just what the doctor ordered.
One of the more funky spots I found in Austin was the Whip-In and it's just what it sounds like, sort of. It is a drive up mini-mart on the side of the high way with a handful of parking spaces and a liquor store sharing the storefront. However when you get inside the place it is so much more. They have taken what once may have been a place to pull in for candy, a beer and a corn dog and turned it into a full on craft beer and wine haven complete with a bar, booths, stage for live music and an outdoor patio all the while cooking up housemade Indian inspired hybrid food.
I made it here twice to meet with different old Portland friends like Brian Koch who used to be with Roots Organic Brewing and Jason Wallace - original founder of the Portland Beer & Music blog.
I really liked this spot for it's unique vibe, each visit they had local musicians playing and a decent crowd to see them, the bar was full of regulars and others just stopping in to pick up bottles to go from their solid selection of coolers. The food was also surprisingly high quality from an invisible kitchen, I actually dont know where it came from and can scarcely imagine a full size space in this small truck stop like building. The taps here are great and rotate and the Indian styled Chicken fried steak with sauteed veggies and curry gravy was very tasty. Highly recommended.
Also on the recommendation of both Austin Beer Guide and Charles Culp I checked out The Workhorse a beer bar so new you could find scarcely any info on it and it doesn't show yet on google maps. Located on a weird little dustbowl of a strip that reminds me more of a Texas stereotype out of a movie like U-Turn.
The bar while small clearly means business about beer. Just check out this wall of taps (pictured above). Then again maybe not as the bartender pulled a pint glass out of a frosty freezer before filling it. I do suppose if there is anywhwere I could forgive this out of date tradition it would be Texas with their hot weather.
The bar also had some nice style flourishes like old, presumably salvaged wood tables with chess boards built into them, bar stools made from tree stumps. The menu looked decent but mostly typical pub grub and the afternoon lunch crowd was nonexistent. The bartender was attentive but the tv distracting. Overall it seemed like a solid neighborhood beer bar but probably not worthy of the buzz I had heard about it.
I did however discover some exceptional brand new beer pubs in the gastropub spectrum that are worth seeking out on any visit to Texas. More on those in part 3.