1997 Readers Poll
1997 Critics Picks
Best 83¢ Margarita

They never even offer change for your dollar so it's a bit pricier than advertised, but we still can't complain. The 83¢ margs were originally in honor of plans to remodel the restaurant, but they've been available since at least January, when we would bundle up and brave it out on the patio, the only place you can get 'em. Last we heard, the special price was still valid on Fridays.

1530 Barton Springs Rd., 476-8141

Best Addition To The Local Film Scene

An award-winning documentary film producer (Eyes on the Prize, Vote for Me), a film professor, and the head of UT's Radio-Television-Film production department, Stekler has already made an impact on the greater Austin film community. He has offered support and advice to filmmakers and has helped initiate the monthly documentary film series at the Alamo. Most important, he is serving as a catalyst to all kinds of filmmaking.

Best Audience Member

We see him at Emo's and at Antone's. At the Music Hall and the Continental. At Liberty Lunch and at Steamboat. He pays cover at the door and for his own drinks. He shoots pool, often brings his wife Linda, and he actually watches bands. His name is Bill Lodwick, and most members of the music press know him because he's the only other person who goes out as much as they do. A respected member of the medical profession by day, Bill Lodwick is a band's dream. And he won't ask to get on the guest list.

Best Bar Name

"Honey, I'm at the Office- Yes, dear, I'll be a little late-"Need we say more?

The Office
3526 E. Seventh

photographs by Kenny Braun   Kenny Braun

Best Bars To Relive Your Childhood

Usually we're well into a bottle of cheap tequila before we start seeing flying elves and pink elephants, but Lala's and the Carousel offer those childhood charms from the moment you hit the door - it's always Christmas at Lala's, and at the Carousel the circus never stops. So if you're the type who likes your nostalgia on the rocks, strap on your jumpers, hop on your Big Wheel, and grab a high chair at either of these fine northside institutions.It's always Christmas at this unobtrusive, blue-collar little place on Justin Lane, with Santa Claus and reindeer decorations perpetually on the wall and a tree forever in the corner. La-La's is the classic lounge, and not in the hip, retro way - it just never stopped being what it always was. Look for the elves to dance over the bar whenever someone heads for the restroom. And tip the waitress - she's great.

Carousel Lounge
1110 E. 52nd

2207 Justin

Best Bloody Marys

Cedar Street's reputation for martinis, cigars and jazz is clearly the big draw every weekend. In exploring much of the bar's drink menu, we've found another bragging right for the popular club - their Bloody Marys. Consistently excellent, the perfect mix isn't simply in the glass. Sink into one of the sofas inside and enjoy not only your drink, but also the people-watching opportunities.

Cedar Street Courtyard
208-C W. Fourth

Best Cinematic Resource

The Austin Film Society shows movies and gives money to filmmakers. It offers consistently interesting programming, whether it is an Abbas Kiarostami festival, a film noir series, the films of Powell & Pressburger, or a Satyajit Ray retrospective. The Film Society supports local and regional independent filmmakers by giving them money, by showing their films, and by screening such eclectic works. The Film Society is the brainchild of Richard Linklater, but the hands-on work is done by Elizabeth Peters, who has turned the Film Society into a clearinghouse for contacts and information about the local independent film scene, and by Jerry Johnson (who is leaving in a few weeks), the programmer whose tastes have served the Society well.

Austin Film Society
1901 E. 51st

Best Doorman

Club Deville could probably take home an award for "Best Underlit Bar," but the intentional darkness has a better effect: highlighting the city's best doorman. Local poet and Deville gatekeeper Matt Baker is in fact the only face you're likely to see, in full, all night, and he's invariably smiling. He's also got a quick memory, which means once you've been I.D.ed - even some six weeks or more earlier - he'll likely remember, spare you the trouble again, and share a line that's become a club classic, "Welcome home." And should you leave the club to perhaps run by Stubb's and return, he'll offer a quick "Welcome home again" on your way back in. That's a bright guy.

Best Emergent Fest Crew


1107 S. Eighth

Best Friendly Bar Attitude Without The Booze

Be you a recovering alcoholic or just someone who enjoys camraderie sans alcohol, High Time is the place for you. Owner Phil has had a couple of other locations for the business before settling into this cozy corner. All along he's maintained an excellent ambience. The patrons are encouraged to hang out, get to know each other in this intimate space, and play any of the many board games offered on the games shelves.

1501 S. First, 445-5405

Best Heavy Breather

Sxip is the "world's premiere industrial flutist and tampon applicator player." Performing with PeACh (Performance Art Church) and solo, he presents his bizarre mix of music/activity/puppet show/glorious stuff. He is a man with a vision. His music defies definition, but let's just say it's real percussive and involves lots of heavy breathing. Definitely first date material.

Best Hoot Night Series

It started as just a one-night stand at the Electric Lounge - a record release party for Fume Records' Prince compilation Do Me Baby. But with a packed house happily celebrating the Man In Purple and an all-star cast, host John Riedie decided he had a good thing on his hands. So it carried over to an SRO crowd at SXSW and another celebration on Prince's birthday. It may be over now, but Riedie's found no shortage of Eighties acts to celebrate. Now where did we put our eyeliner?

Fume Records, 326-1823

Best In-store Wine Tasting Series

The casual, informal weekly wine tastings at this pleasant suburban wine shop are one of the best kept secrets in Austin. Leonard and Sue Carter always offer interesting samplings and are generous with their knowledge and wry British humor. Whether it's a comparative tasting of reasonably priced sparkling wines or the first exposure to the red wines of Spain, the tastings are always educational. We discover something new and wonderful in their inventory every time we visit.

The Cellar
3520 Bee Caves

Best Inexpensive College Crowd Pleaser & Best Place To Drink Beer Without Getting Hit On

Never fancy but always fun, good beer specials and cheap food packs \'em in Fridays and Saturdays. The Crown & Anchor Pub's picnic-style tables out front have plenty of room to bring all of your friends for a pint and watch a game or two. The relaxed atmosphere and location lends itself to a great evening.There must be some unwritten metaphysical law governing the place because nobody has ever left this bar with someone they didn't know before they showed up. Bonus points: you can bank on Dinosaur Jr.'s Green Mind, The Replacements' Let It Be, or Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted being in the CD changer. And if that ain't enough, the cheeseburgers are greasy and the Shiner is still relatively cheap. Sounds a little like Utopia.

Crown & Anchor Pub
2911 San Jacinto

Best Karaoke

The grassroots name of this bar devoted to the fine art of the "empty orchestra" ain't for nothing. Here you'll witness everyone from the feathered-hair woman singing Pat Benatar with her eyes closed, to yucksters belting out "Danke Schoen" off-key, to very serious patrons gifted with actual vocal skill rendering soul classics. If the occasional group of sorority girls singing modern country favorites is just too much, you can cool out in the side room with a game of pool, or warm up for your upcoming number with the more private, pay-as-you-sing karaoke machine.

Common Interest
8440 Burnet

Best Lesbian Hot Spot

If you're a single lesbian and you haven't heard of Club Skirt, get out of the house, girlfriend. The hugely successful event, held once a month at the Zilker Clubhouse, benefits the Cornerstone Gay & Lesbian Community Center and brings out the kind of gal you wouldn't mind taking home to meet mama (unless of course, she's single and shopping, too). Heck, even the bar flies are starting to make it over to Club Skirt.

1117 Red River, 708-1515

Best Low-key Bar On Sixth Street

No, that's not an oxymoron. There is one place on the strasse where you can lounge and lounge without all the hubbub: Casino El Camino. Once hip, then excruciatingly ultra-hip. Now it's so passé that it's again safe to wander in without having to worry about whether the color of your fingernail polish clashes with that of your backpack.

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth

Best Mariachi Accompaniment

A Thursday night at La Feria is a great way to fill up on Mexican food and culture. Mariachi Estrella takes the stage (actually, a tiny section of the patio) at 7pm and turns S. Lamar into Old Mexico. Call ahead to reserve a table; it's packed.

La Feria Restaurant
2010 S. Lamar, 512/326-8301
315 N. Bell Blvd., Cedar Park, 512/275-0916

Best Mead

As the only purveyor in town, the Bitter End wins this category by default. Mead, which most are probably acquainted with solely by name from reading Beowulf back in high school, is essentially just honey, water, and yeast. Left to ferment it works itself into a potent little potion. What is at first a peculiar taste becomes an obsession after just a couple of rounds. Yes, beware the vicious hangover; but, with the right partner, the wonderfully libidinous drunk is well worth paying for in pain.

Best New Saloon

Something about this tony new jazz venue in the busy downtown beef emporium just screams "Sinatra" to us. It's one of the only small rooms in town actually designed for listening to music and the simple, classy decor is very inviting. We expected the Rat Pack to drop in all evening long. This is a saloon in the very best sense of that word.

Ringside at Sullivan's
300 Colorado

Best Nightclub Newsletter

Even when we can't make it to the Spoke for a dose of chicken-fried steak and boot-scootin, we're still privy to all the inside information at the legendary local honky-tonk. Proprietor James M. White keeps us up on the straight skinny on celebrity sightings (everybody goes there), who sat in with what band and who danced the night away with whom. The cheery bi-monthly missives are also laced with tidbits about Austin history, White's country-style humor, and regular updates on his ongoing genealogical expeditions around the nation. And if we need souvenirs for friends around the country, there's a handy order blank on the back.

Broken Spoke
3201 S. Lamar

Best Pint Night Every Night

Sometimes we're a little cash poor. Does that mean we must suffer bad beer? Does that mean we can only afford to go out on certain nights of the week? Not at Lovejoys! Here we can enjoy a freshly poured pint for $2.00 any and every night of the week - pitchers just $7.50. They've got over 20 fine beers here on tap, including an ever changing menu of their own brews - all priced cheap until 10pm.

Best Place To Drink A Cold Beer & Listen To George Jones On The Jukebox

A fine watering hole in its own right, the Horseshoe boasts a top-notch shuffleboard pit, a friendly disposition, and a bar shaped like a- like a- well, like a great big U. The jukebox here is one of them newfangled CD contraptions, and it'll give you four plays on the dollar. Now, some say George Jones ain't George Jones without the pop and hiss of worn-out vinyl, but we're not so sure: drop a quarter, pop a beer, and wait for those digitally encoded chills to start running up your spine. You'll be crying in no time.

Best Place To Drink A Cold Beer & Listen To Merle Haggard On The Jukebox

There's something right and good and true about drinkin' a cold beer in the cozy confines of Ginny's Little Longhorn, one of the last great holes-in-the-wall, god bless 'em. (Ginny says: No Fussin' No Cussin' No Hasselin' No Wresslin' and that suits us fine.) The jukebox is a classic David C. Rockola "Singature Model," and it'll play you seven heartbreaking singles for your every dollar. At those prices, well, "-I think I'll just stay here and drink."

Little Longhorn Saloon
5434 Burnet Rd.

Best Place To Drink A Cold Beer & Listen To Van Halen On The Jukebox

The P-Dog may have something of a rough reputation, but in truth they're just a big bunch of pussycats. Just don't tell 'em we said so. The CD jukebox in this roomy, swaggering pool hall has a wide selection, but last time we were in there, Miles Davis didn't sound quite right. Melissa Etheridge either. Then we tried Van Halen! Panama! Barkeep, another roll of quarters and another can of Schlitz.

Best Place To Eat Peanuts

After a hard fought game of giant Jenga, there's nothing quite like saddlin' up to Charlie's bar for a juice pitcher full of Shiner and a plate of salted-in-the-shell peanuts. As you eat, take care to throw the empty shells on the floor - Charlie would be hurt if you didn't. Charlie likes to keep his place littered with peanut shells - some ground into the floor, others piled high in the corners - and it's an ungrateful guest indeed who won't drop a shell for the cause.

5420 Airport, 454-0381

photo by John Anderson

Best Place To See A Movie Premiere

John Sayles and Maggie Renzi introducing Lone Star, Richard Linklater and Quentin Tarantino introducing From Dusk Till Dawn, Linklater introducing Before Sunrise (was this at the Paramount?), Matthew McConaughey and Linda Obst introducing Contact, each one more an event than just a mere movie screening, and the splendor of the Paramount helped make them special.

Paramount Theatre
713 Congress

Best Place To Stargaze On The Avenue

A visit from President Clinton earned Guero's a reputation as the place to be if you're both famous and visiting. Over the course of one Saturday morning breakfast, we spotted Lyle Lovett, Quentin Tarantino, and ER's Julianne Margoules, each munching migas separately from the other celebrities. Even more notable than seeing Tarantino mow down was seeing him mug down with his female companion.This South Austin taco bar is where we go when we hope to catch a glimpse of Hollywood's heart throbs like Sandra Bullock or Brad Pitt. Grab a margarita and a Tex-Mex platter and keep your eyes on the door.

Guero's Taco Bar
1412 S. Congress

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Best Place To Sweat With The Oldies

Shag carpets, free popcorn, and a drink called the "Train Wreck," sway us in Donn's favor, but it's the shimmying senior singles that make this one of our favorite places to cut a rug. This way, we when get shown up on the dance floor, we can chalk it up to years of experience (not our own).

Donn's Depot
1600 W. Fifth

Best Place To Watch Sports And Not Be Harassed By People In Potentially Distracting Outfits

It's a chain, and it's on Sixth Street, but between the wings and the reasonably priced beers and the giant screens and the ergonomically shaped stools on a balcony that puts you at eye level to the action, it's hard not to endorse BW3 for watching the game, or on those weak nights on ESPN2, the World's Strongest Man competition. And no one there is wearing orange shorts.

Best Reason To Get Up On Sunday Morning

A longstanding tradition on small-town radio stations around Central Texas is the Sunday-morning polka show, catering to the many area residents of Czech, Moravian, and German descent. Thanks to KOOP, us city folk can wake up dancing as well, as enthusiast Thomas Durnin spins the Tex-Czech hits and reads off a calendar of upcoming dances at local SPJST halls.

3823-B Airport

Best Sense Of Humor In A Club Owner

He was our cover boy for the Burger Round-up issue. He patiently waited on a weekend day while our photographer and models cut-up and posed in front of his club for our fashion issue. And he runs a hell of a club. Steve Wertheimer of the Continental Club is our choice for biggest chu... er, all-round cool guy. Of course, he'll have to challenge Steamboat's Danny Crooks for Coolest Pants but maybe that's a category for next year....

1315 S. Congress, 441-2444

photo by John Anderson

Best Trailers/Execution Of A Cool Movie-Viewing Concept

The Alamo outdoes itself. It’s a pleasure to see that this great concept for dining and movie watching been implemented so well. And it’s pure pleasure watching movies there, as well. Before the feature, viewers are seated, offered menus, and treated to some of the coolest trailers in the biz. Where else are you going to see original faded, crackly previews for Jaws or Superfly? Hmm? The midnight and concept movie nights are a hoot, like the night the ‘Mo offered 40 oz. Schlitz Malt Liquors for its showing of The Mack (or was it Superfly?). The waitstaff is impeccable, unobtrusive, and always helpful. And the food is really terrific and reasonably priced. So when you’re looking for an unusual movie night, (please forgive us…) Remember The Alamo.

Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson #701, 512/861-7030
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 S. Lamar, 512/861-7040
Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane, 5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060
Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, 14028 Hwy. 183 N., 512/861-7070

Best Way To Beat The Heat:

Sure, Barton Springs provides some nice relief from the oppressive summer sun, but get out of the water and it's still 100 degrees outside. Catch a double feature at the Paramount and for $5 you can escape the late day heat for over four hours. The movies are classics, the prints are usually of good quality, the concession stand is a bar, and, as a theatre, the Paramount beats the pants off of these modern jobbies.

Paramount Theatre
713 Congress

photo by John Anderson

Best Way To Spend A Rainy Saturday

Bowling, video games and pool; it sounds like the bane of middle class teenager-dom. But if the day is shot by lousy weather, you could do worse than act 15 again. With low volume on the music and good lighting all the way around, the Union basement is far less threatening to your senses than most similar venues. They've also remodeled some and installed a Texadelphia for eats.

24th & Guadalupe, 475-6636

Best Wedding Band

With the swanky swingy and loungey arrangements of rock & roll tunes your grandparents will have no idea that they are dancing to AC/DC and the Beastie Boys. It's the perfect touch of surreality to add to your wedding reception.

Booking: Eric Calistri, 322-0096

Critics: Arts & Culture
Critics: Food

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