1996 Readers Poll
1996 Critics Picks
Best Bar To Drink Alone

If you walk into this place, you probably won't know anyone, which is reason enough for readers to give the nod to this unpretentious working class bar. We wish we could say the same for our beloved Lala's on the northside, but ever since Quentin Tarantino hung out there, those jingly elves at the bathroom door haven't been the same.

Best Beer Selection

It's a tough court for darts, with its hanging drape of dark atmosphere, but all the more a challenge, we say! By the time you get half-way through all their on-tap offerings, your game's sunk anyway.

photograph by John Anderson   John Anderson

Best Brew Pub

Whatever's ale-ing you won't be after you and your brew-ed hit a happy hour at this much-loved watering hole. With four beers brewed on premise year round and two seasonal (Wildflower Honey Ale, and Hefeweizen -- a wheat beer), all going for $1 a pint daily between 5-6pm (not to mention plenty of other happy hour specials) you'll soon be able to answer the question: "What's the pint of it all?"

Best Coldest Beer

It ain't called Icehouse for nuttin', baby. Austin has called this the coldest Brrrrr-ew for two years now. The Draught Horse and Deep Eddy chill in second place.

Waterloo Ice House
8600 Burnet Rd., 512/458-6544
6203 Capital of TX Hwy. N., 512/418-9700
9600 Escarpment Blvd., 512/301-1007
9600 S. I-35 Ste. D-100, 512/292-7900

Best Country/Western Club

This longtime Southside venue has played host to Ernest Tubb, Bob Wills, Willie Nelson, and many other C&W legends, and it has cheap chicken-fried steaks. What more could you possibly ask for, except a little Dale Watson, Cornell Hurd, Alvin Crow, and possibly the best dance floor anywhere? They've got that? Subject closed.

Broken Spoke
3201 S. Lamar

Best Cover Band Club

Austin's alterna-crowd is passing up a great beer selection as they frequent other clubs, but readers think Maggie Mae's bands have something that keeps their crowds happy. Clearly, familiarity breeds regulars.

Maggie Mae's
323 E. Sixth

Best Dance Music Club

If you close the door, the night could last forever at this wild club known for its afterhours scene. Last year's winner, Paradox, is second.

Best Downtown Club

Okay, this whole cigars-and-lounge-music routine is getting just a little too precious for some of our tastes, but readers think that when the smoke clears, Cedar Street will still be pumping the hottest jazz in town. After all, it's home to Jon Blondell, who's as ready to drop in a riff from "Pipeline" as play Duke Ellington. Smoooooooth!

Cedar Street Courtyard
208-C W. Fourth

Best Drag Show

Cootchie, that's who! Charlie's fine ladies pumped in at second.

Best Free Entertainment

This is one place where you don't hear people complaining about the silliness of Austin being called "The Live Music Capital of the World;" it's living proof of that. Town Lake... the downtown skyline... the bats at dusk... plus that fabled Austin music.

Auditorium Shores at the Long Center
South First at Lady Bird Lake

Best Gay/Lesbian Club

Year after year, Oilcan keeps getting the votes. Why? Um, you'll just have to take a look for yourself -- and no one will care who you're with!

211 W. Fourth

Best Happy Hour Drinks

That place with the smart-aleck marquee, El Arroyo inexplicably became rather fratty a while back but that hasn't diminished its oh-so-Austin appeal to our readers. Indoor/outdoor dining and an obvious sense of humor add to the buzz brought on by those happy hour 'ritas and brews.

El Arroyo
1624 W. Fifth, 512/474-1222

photo by John Anderson

Best Happy Hour Entertainment

Nothing screams "best of the best" like the CC's happy hours. No-cover sets by the likes of 81/2 Souvenirs, Pete Gordon, Rocket 69, Glover Gill, and the utterly charming, inimitable Toni Price, all in the comfort of that famed Continental ambiance. 5pm never sounded so good.

Continental Club
1315 S. Congress

Best Happy Hour Food

Check out one of Serrano's many locations for your happiest "hours" d'oeurves!

6510 W. Hwy. 290, 512/891-0000

Best Inexpensive Date

Watching the bats at dusk and going to Zilker Park tied this category for our readers, but honestly, the two activities are located so closely together, you can combine both for the best bargain and heart-winning effect.

Best Jukebox

From lounge to "grounge," this juke rules! If you run out of change, try Casino's free weekend movies.

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth

Best Margaritas

Make ours Swirls, please! For the first time in four years, Trudy's beats out Baby Acapulco's (second place and previous winner). Chuy's comes in third by a very short hair.

Trudy's North Star, 8820 Burnet Rd., 512/454-1474
Trudy's South Star, 901-C Little Texas Ln., 512/326-9899

Best Movie Theatre Concession Stand

Forget the mad dash to the convenience store and stuffing Big Reds and Milky Ways in the purse. We're writing this with a bag of Gummi Bears leftover from our last visit to the Dobie, where you can also pick up such goodies as chocolate-covered espresso beans and Snapple, plus the best buttered movie show popcorn in town. Maybe we'll stay for the second feature....

Best Movie Theatre Facilities

Living proof that our readers don't all live in Hyde Park and South Austin, Arbor 7 has handily snagged this category for the last three years. Pass the popcorn, please.

Best Movie Theatre Programming

We're fortunate to have two theatres in town (three when you count the UT film program) that cater to the indie film audiences. The Village again gets the nod from the people for its steady diet of impressive foreign fare and many of the tastiest nuggets from U.S. indie filmmakers.

Best Neighborhood Bar

A clear favorite of our readers, this university-area pub is a popular spot to "sit outside and hang," according to a SXSW staffer who's a regular there and who also gives it high marks for good beer on tap and cheap, tasty burgers. We're headed there now.

Crown & Anchor Pub
2911 San Jacinto

Best Non-downtown Club

You can talk about your Junior Browns, your Toni Prices, your 81/2 Souvenirses. You can wax philosophic about the atmosphere, the murals, and the pool table. But nothing, nothing takes the place of the Continental's annual Graceland Revues headed up by Ted Roddy. Here's the Rule and the Drill: Rule -- You must have a bottle or glass (doesn't have to be alcohol) in your hand until Elvis sings "Viva Las Vegas." Drill -- When he sings the title twice in the chorus, raise the bottle/glass both times. Repeat three times at the end.

Continental Club
1315 S. Congress

photo by John Anderson

Best Place To Dress Up

This town offers more than enough excuses to get dolled-up, but our readers designate "Bass Concert Hall" as their favorite for breaking out the sequins and dress jackets. The crown jewel of UT's Performing Arts Center routinely hosts world-class artists and such high-tone local faves as the Symphony, Lyric Opera, and Ballet Austin that just make you feel like dressin' to the nines.

Bass Concert Hall
2350 Robert Dedman

Best Place To Drink Outdoors

We love those little vibrating pagers you get when there's a waiting list here, and the yuppie trailer-trash ambiance of this Barton Springs Road eatery is undeniable. Undeniably Austin, anyway.

Best Place To Eavesdrop

With over 70 contestants in this category, when do y'all have time for your own damn conversations? When you're not minding your own business, you're usually at Kerbey Lane, Magnolia, ForRay's, Mezzaluna, or Ruta Maya, according to this poll.

Kerbey Lane Cafe
3704 Kerbey, 512/451-1436
13435 Hwy. 183 N. #415, 512/258-7757
2606 Guadalupe, 512/477-5717
4301 W. William Cannon, 512/899-1500
3003 S. Lamar, 512/445-4451
2120 N. Mays St., Round Rock, 512/879-2827
701 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/879-2820
2200 Aldrich #100, 512/879-2818

Best Place To Meet People

The fall semester brings a breath of fresh air to town -- not to mention enough apple-cheeked freshmen to put a smile on anyone's face. Ponder the academic community as a whole, however, and your heart will leap at the scope of intellectual delight our happy li'l college-town provides! If fresh-cut, thesis-driven apron strings aren't your style, you can always handle the apples at runner-up Central Market.

University of Texas at Austin
727 E. Dean Keeton, 512/471-3434
Sarah M. & Charles E. Seay Building, Speedway & Dean Keeton, 512/471-1157
UT Architecture Library, 200 Battle Hall, 512/495-4620
University of Texas Department of Art & Art History, 2301 San Jacinto, 512/475-7718

Best Place To Smoke A Cigar

Okay, this whole cigars-and-lounge-music routine is getting just a little too precious for some of our tastes, but readers think that when the smoke clears, Cedar Street will still be pumping the hottest jazz in town. After all, it's home to Jon Blondell, who's as ready to drop in a riff from "Pipeline" as play Duke Ellington. Smoooooooth!

Cedar Street Courtyard
208-C W. Fourth

Best Place To Stay Cool

This place is so famous, people that have no idea who Stevie Ray Vaughan is know about it. And is there any phrase more wonderful to hear in the middle of July than "68-degree water"?

Barton Springs Pool
2131 William Barton Dr.

David Brendan Hall

Best Pool Hall

Rack 'em up, gang -- the Ritz is as hardy as an armadillo. This year it emerged as the best place to chalk up and shoot a few rounds.

Best Rock Dancing

We confess to never having seen any bona fide "dancing" here, at least not in any traditional sense, and since Don Walser's shows fall a wee bit outside the realm of rock, they don't exactly count. Readers' opinions rule, though, and if they say it's the best here, it must be.

Best Teen Scene/Hangout

Hey, they're clean, well-lit, and there's probably one near you. Just don't let those young'uns head to one with the credit card! The most telling cultural tale here, however, is that the runners-up this year were all coffeehouses, the new star on the teen scene horizon.

Best Tejano/Conjunto Club

Now, something is really happening here at this premier Tejano showcase club disguised as a margarita-swilling disco. Some of the hottest names in Tejano music have been seen here over the last year and the readers are paying attention.

Tejano Ranch
7601 N. Lamar, Ste. A

Best Video Store (chain)

We gripe about the corporate censorship involved with Blockbuster's selection (remember when they wouldn't carry the benign The Last Temptation of Christ ?) and so do some readers. That's not stopping the votes, though -- they're the clear favorite of chain video stores.

1112-A N. Lamar

Best Video Store (specialty)

An old personal favorite of ours, too, this year saw Vulcan Video double its space and still not have enough room for all the cool -- and we mean kewl -- videos.

Best Wine Selection (Retail)

Adding Best Take-Out to last year's Grocery and two previous Wine Selection awards, Central Market has certainly enhanced our shopping (and sampling) pleasure. Still, grocery-goers frequently steer their carts through Wheatsville, other HEB stores, and Whole Foods Markets as well. Wiggy's gets a strong second for its wine selection, while Tamale House, Whole Foods, and Wheatsville round out the leaders in Take-out.

Central Market North
4001 N. Lamar

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