1995 Readers Poll
1995 Critics Picks
Best Concept Band

Their own births postdated the Great Society beagle abuser's fall from power, but the members of the Administration possessed a fixation on Lyndon Baines Johnson and his cadre that rivaled Robert Caro's in intensity, if not longevity. Like the subject of their tuneage, they burned out early and declined a second term, leaving behind one theme, three shows, seven songs, and six T-shirts. Fleeting, histrionic, historic.

Best Concept Bar

This snazzy martini bar serves up more than the traditional gin/vermouth mix, including a purple Chambord martini and the Zilker, a Midori-green concoction garnished with a slice of Granny Smith apple. You'll feel kind of retro, carrying those big geometric glasses around while the appropriately selected musical accompaniment - big-band jazz, the Sinatra-like crooning of Lucky Strikes, or the French cabaret sounds of 81/2 Souvenirs - plays in the background.

Cedar Street Courtyard
208-C W. Fourth

Best Gay Tavern With Possibilities

In a town full of what, in polite company, are referred to as "meat markets," the gay community has too few lazy, casual hangouts. Just last June (1994), our town lost one of the best: Chances. Right next door to the old Chances location is an often-overlooked but cozy little bar. As gracious as the hostess for which it is named, Auntie Mame's is a great place to meet up with friends and just hang out.

photo by John Anderson

Best Happy Hour Deal Downtown

Though we are overly fond of the happy-hour tapas spread at Louie's 106, we are drawn back to Manuel's time and again for the incredibly cheap deals on their excellent appetizer menu. Recently 15 of us celebrated there, consuming many margaritas and lots of appetizers, spending less than $10 each with a very generous tip! What a party, what a deal!

310 Congress, 512/472-7555
10201 Jollyville Rd., 512/345-1042

Best In-your-face Club

Take those musicians off the pedestal. They're people just like you and me. Now, if we could only tell where the band ends and the audience begins. See, in a place the size of your closet, where there is no elevated stage, the Blue Flamingo defines the phrase "audience participation" since you're practically in the band once the punk riot begins in this raucous just-off-Sixth-Street club.

Best New Bar

With wide open spaces and lounging areas reminiscent of the old Cannibal Club but better, Casino el Camino is really too laid back for its Sixth Street locale. The bar has more comfortable seats and couches than any we've ever frequented, pool tables, a great CD jukebox, and a really cool open-air back patio complete with fountain. They also serve food 'til late, and since the owners are from Buffalo, they have the right to boast the best buffalo wings in town (the real things aren't battered, but smothered in redhot and served with blue cheese dressing and celery). Hang with the hip here.

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth

Best Obscure Bar

After seven years as a private club, new ownership has opened this tucked-away watering hole to the public. The beer is cold, the shuffleboard fast, and the sunset view over nearby Austin Zoo is spectacular. On a recent visit, we had the dart board, shuffleboard, domino table, and patio all to ourselves. The crowds haven't discovered it yet, but they will.

Best Pair Of Aged Intoxicants

The historic Paramount's revivals of vintage film classics is sweetened by the sale of beer, wine, and spirits at the concession counter.

Paramount Theatre
713 Congress

photo by John Anderson

Best Place To Find A Girlfriend

You're into sports; she's into sports. These events are true magnets for hearty mamas - thousands of them. So, forget the bar scene, grab your big orange foam finger, brush up on your verses to "Texas Fight" and you, too, will be a lodestone of love.

University of Texas at Austin / UT
University of Texas Department of Athletics, 326 Bellmont Hall, 512/471-4602
Texas Governor's Room (3.116), Texas Union, 24th & Guadalupe
UT Main Bldg., P.O. Box 7399, 512/471-6036
UT School of Nursing, 1700 Red River, 512/471-7311
UT Press, 2100 Comal Book Dr., 512/471-7233
UT Employment Center, MLK & Red River, 512/471-3656
UT Urban Issues Program / Custer House, MLK & I-35, 512/475-7900
UT Athletics Mktg, PO Box 7399
Jessen Auditorium, 200 W. 21st, 512/471-7764
UT Tower Observation Deck, 2247 Guadalupe, 512/475-6633
UT Development Office Building, 2901 N. I-35, 512/475-9677

Best Place To See A Musician Onstage

This young theatre group which emerged last year with a series of on-the-edge, original works has given local musicians a chance to work on a different stage. Swangkee Lowtel's Jack Conover and Chad Nichols, singer Molly Rice (ex-Seizureville), Lowbrow's Jacob Schulze, and the Gay Sportcasters' Nashville Bill have appeared in SVT shows, and they've been consistent and, in some instances, quite good.

Best Re-invention Of An Eastside Tradition

Johnny Holmes' Victory Grill was once Austin's premier venue for the biggest names in R&B and soul in the Fifties and Sixties, from Bobby Blue Bland and Ike & Tina Turner to locals T.D. Bell and Erbie Bowser. Though Holmes has long since retired, the newly reopened Grill has expanded its cultural vision to include poetry readings and dance. Talk about a long time coming...

Victory Grill
1104 E. 11th

Best Reason Not To Serve Liquor

Other brewpubs in town are steaming over the fact that Waterloo is the only brewery in town that can legally have live outdoor music, drinking on the patio, and beer to go. The reason? The 'loo is the only one that doesn't serve hard liquor, leaving them without the legal hassle other houses of the homebrew have. Actually, the Draught Horse doesn't have a liquor license either, but it has yet to take advantage of that situation.

Best Reason To Still Be In Your Jammies At 5pm On A Saturday

Kick back on the comfy velveteen couch, sip that grande moccachino - or even a beer - and get ready for a full frontal cartoon assault hosted by the Chronicle's own Ken Lieck. Will it be the existential, anarchic musings of Duckman? Vintage WWII propaganda cartoons? The Critic? The Simpsons? Or something that even the most hard-core cartoon fan hasn't laid eyes on yet? Whatever you see, you can count on an organized, developed theme, and solid entertainment that even the most burned-out, party-all-night, is-it-really-tomorrow-afternoon forebrain can comprehend and enjoy.

Best Salsa Dancing

The salsa at Calle Ocho is hot, spicy, and goes great with a margarita - the dancing, that is. On Wednesday evenings from 6-7pm, Alvaro Gomez gives semi-private lessons for $3 an hour, and on Thursdays and Fridays there are group lessons from 5-8pm with happy-hour specials on drinks. Dance to the fiery rhythms of house band La Clave on Friday nights; single girls will find no shortage of willing partners. A real Latin experience without heading south of the border.

Best Thing To Happen To Poster Art Since The Seventies

The fab four are to Austin poster art in the Nineties what Michael Priest, Guy Juke, Danny Garrett, and Jim Franklin were to the Seventies. Picking up from where Frank Kozik skewed local posters in the Eighties, these artists take off in their own retro-alternative and positively sonic senses of color and design. Most of their works can be seen in Emo's and Electric Lounge posters, though Kuhn does numerous national tour posters for bands like Seven Year Bitch, and Bolton's recent experimentation with cheesy, Seventies-style flocking has been seen in posters for Ed Hall and White Zombie.

Best Twofer Fix

Bolster your before- or aprés-movie visit to the four-screened Village Cinema Art with a caffeine and pastry refueling at either Texpresso or San Francisco Bakery and Cafe. (If cappuccino's not your thing, other options range from Italian food at either Al Capone's or Mangia Pizza to Indian delights at Star of India to Chinese at Shanghai River and Korean chow at Korea House.)

Best Vegas Flashback

From the glitz of Vegas she rode, no doubt on a fuchsia Vespa, her voluminous 'do abso-friggin'-lutely stiff in the wind, the motor's sputter lost in her lusty version of "It's Not Unusual." She's Margo Lee, and her arrival last year with a kooky cabaret sending up Sixties schmaltz, from Anthony Newley hits to Sinatra schmooze, gave us a big lift. Margo's alter ego, Meta Rosen, is a new mom, so the next appearance of the Chartreuse Chanteuse isn't set, but we pray to the lounge gods that it's soon.

Biggest Art Mystery

The music is gone for good at La Zona Rosa; the memories remain. But what happened to the art? Whatever became of those tabletops by local art-stars, wall art by the likes of Peter Saul and Ken Hale, Guy Juke, Jim Franklin, not to mention the inimitable and abundant aesthetic contributions of Gordon Fowler? Just curious....

Biggest Piano Bar

When the bartender told us that we were sitting in the biggest piano bar in Austin, we asked, "How do you know it's the biggest?" "Because Donn called up all the other piano bars and asked them how big their piano was," he replied. "And ours is the biggest." The staff here is fun, the live lounge music sprightly, and they'll sell you their Bass Pale Ale draft glasses for $1.50 each. And for the gals, there's the added bonus of getting to spend a little time in the ladies room amid its red-flocked wall paper and deep, red shag carpeting.

Donn's Depot
1600 W. Fifth

Highest Expression Of The Lowest Form Of Humor

Vowel play rules at this annual battle of wits, a home-groan tribute to verbal abuse held on the grounds of the O. Henry Museum. Aficionados bring picnics; Mr. Porter would've packed a flask.

O. Henry Museum
409 E. Fifth

Making The Best Of A Bad Situation

We salute this group of mega-talented vocalists who must ply their trade in the worst acoustical situation in the city - Ancho's Restaurant in the lobby of the Omni hotel. Imagine singing opera from the bottom of the Grand Canyon four shows a week and you've just about got it.

700 San Jacinto

Most Friendly Poetry Slam

As oxymoronic as that sounds, Garland Thompson's monthly Shootout at the Planet Theatre is more of a community gathering than a flat-out competition. Judging is done by hidden ballot, and Thompson's gregarious, generous emcee style gives the event an undeniable and heartening positivity. When poet/actor Zell Miller edged Wammo in a recent slam, Wammo was the first to run up to Miller and give him a big bear hug. That doesn't happen at just any slam.

The Vortex
2307 Manor Rd.

Next Best Thing To Having Don Walser At Your House

Tuesdays, from 8-10pm, out on their back patio, under the shady oak trees and army netting, Jovita's offers the best in Austin music. The yodeling Pavarotti of the Plains, Don Walser and the Pure Texas Band are just that - pure Texas. Be sure to tip your waitresses - if you can catch them. And it's hoppin'; so come early.

Sweetest Door Folks

Steamboat's doorman David Cotton might be the nicest in the business, but even when he has a replacement working the door, you know you're dealing with a kind, courteous pro. Sure, they hawk their low cover and beer specials like all the other obstreperous shillers on Sixth Street, but the inviting demeanor of these doordudes is a change of pace that smiles, "Welcome!"

110 E. Riverside

Critics: Arts & Culture
Critics: Food

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