1998 Readers Poll
1998 Critics Picks
Best "Electronica" Club

Owner/bookers Ramen and Joseph have transformed this much-maligned Seventh Street location into a bastion of mad beats and ecstatic cyalume camraderie, creating a haven not only for Austin's swarms of candy ravers, but also for local deejays (Trevor, Rollers Redefined) and even some of the old skool guard. Not content with simply catering to the locals, the RR is attracting the likes of mega-acts such as Grooverider and DJ Icey as frosting on a very luvved-up cake. Proteus is long gone - get up, get out, get over it.

611 E. Seventh, 457-8899

Best Ambassador Of Good Will (music)

Someone with this many opinions isn't usually this endearing, but it's hard to ignore Mark Rubin. Whether behind stand-up bass for the Bad Livers, tooting on tuba for his klezmer group, Rubinchik's Orkestyr, or sitting in for John Aielli on KUT-FM as he did recently, Rubin is disarmingly frank, charmingly opinionated, and enormously talented. Could it be we're just saying this because we like him? Yew betcha.

Davis McLarty Agency, 444-8750

photograph by Kenny Braun   Kenny Braun

Best Avant Garde Margarita

As if Curra's hadn't given enough to the eating community already, with their cochinita pibil, tamale plates, and generous happy hour (all afternoon). Now, they're coaxing avocado into the world of sweet drinks by taking a frozen lime margarita and adding a quarter of an avocado and some cilantro. Mmm, cool and frosty, and, well, fatty, but who cares? We're not drinking margs for our health anyway, are we?

Curra's Grill
614 E. Oltorf

Best Celebrity Eyebrows

We love a big bushy brow, and Derailers' frontman Villanueva looks like a couple of ditch caterpillars crawled up on his face and died. Bold, brave, and undeniably immense, these brows are two for the books. Check 'em out.

Bill Thies, Equus Entertainment, 615/320-3141

photograph by John Carrico   John Carrico

Best Celebrity Giggle

Who else? So spontaneous, so robust, so sincere. When Big Don lets go one of his infectious, high-pitched giggles, purt-near everyone at the hoedown giggles along with him. Luckily, Don's not stingy with his snickers, and it's a rare night indeed when you don't get a least a dozen from the stage. Keep 'em comin', Don, just so long as you keep singing in between.

Best Celebrity Hairdo

With apologies to Neal Spelce, this award can only go to Clifford Antone, who has perfected the Albert Einstein meets Lou Costello look with a set of silver locks that defy the laws of physics. So what if he doesn't have much to work with? As they say in a few of our favorite blues tunes, it ain't what you got, it's how you use it.

Clifford Antone
Antone's CLOSED
2015 E. Riverside

Best Cheap Kegs In A Bind

We all know the tragedy of a floated keg, especially when you're the one throwing the party. What's even worse is when the sand is running out on time to buy. Instead of cussing the thirsty strangers that suddenly showed up, head down to Junior's. For $42.95 these guys can keep the party going - even if it is with Pearl. But at that time, how dare anyone complain?

Junior's Beer & Wine
705 W. 29th

Best Counterculture Conclaves

Not only is FringeWare the only bookstore in town where you can find vast quantities of books with an anarchic-technocratic-cult-drug-psycho-criminal bent, but now they're having parties! In league with Mojo's coffeehouse next door, FringeWare has recently started hosting free Friday night events. Star attractions range from SubGenius Devivals to comic book artists to Manson family members, plus there's often free food and drink. Drop by and pick up their events schedule.

Best Drink Named For Its Restaurant

Seems a simple enough concoction: The first syllable of both restaurant and cocktail were the same, voila, the Marstini was born. Basically, it's an Absolut Citron martini with Grand Marnier replacing the vermouth. Sounds easy, right? Well, replacing vermouth with Grand Marnier is trickier than it sounds. Try making them at home, and you'll end up with a syrupy golden beverage that looks like watered-down barenjaeger (the honey-flavored cousin to jaegermeister). Having ordered it in other places (always by the proper trademark Marstini), we note that most bartenders are a little heavy handed with the old orange brandy. In its home environment at Mars, however, the cocktail is a bracing, refreshing, strong apertif which washes down an order of potstickers like a cool mouthful of velvet gold.

Best Excuse For Lone Star Flag-Waving

Texas has a unique cultural identity that is threatened by the commercial homogenization of our world - but not if TFR can help it. With fascinating presentations and performances by master Lone Star artists (such as Don Walser and Santiago Jimenez, Jr.) in traditional music, literature, food, and more, they can satisfy both academic and entertainment needs - especially if you love accordions.

Texas Folklife Resources Office
1708 Houston St.

Best In-store Wine Tasting

These casual Thursday gatherings have gained in popularity and attendance all year long. Savvy wine buyer April Lowe chooses her programs well, offering excellent domestic selections from California, Washington, Texas, and Oregon, plus interesting vintages from the best wine regions of Italy, France, Germany, and Australia. She wowed us recently with a tasting of several 1995 vintage Chateauneuf de Pape reserve wines from the southern Rhone region of France for a mere $20. Plenty of well-researched info and tasty tidbits of food always complement the wines.

Whole Foods Market Gateway
9607 Research #300

Best Local Use Of The Potato

Made proudly at the only distillery in the state, Tito's Vodka is so smooth that we're sure it would give even Dostoyevsky something to write home about. Tito's tastes great in a peppery Texas Bloody Mary or in an shimmering vodka martini, but we'd be willing to line up a straight shot against any of those foreign brands any day. Move over, Absolut and Stoli, Tito's Texas Vodka deserves some room on the top shelf.

Tito's Handmade Vodka

courtesy of Tito's

Best New Saloon

The back room at Eddie Wilson's southern Threadgill's location is as geographically close to the site of the former Armadillo World Headquarters as he's likely to get in this lifetime, so maybe that's the reason the music in the new saloon is so appealing. We can't get enough of great bands like Hot Club of Cowtown in the intimate room, and the late-night menu they serve until midnight on the weekends appeals to us, too.

Best Odd New Happy Hour

The Electric Lounge, in recent months, has undergone a revamping leaving it shinier, more efficient, and more audience-friendly, and their Friday Happy Hour is part of the plan. But leave it to the Lounge to present a Happy Hour with the charming, artful quirkiness that attracts the most giftedly off-kilter bands in town. Mariachi Estrella, a spiffy sextet with all the traditional arrangements and a decidedly Austin presentation, make the Lounge as good a place as any to start the weekend.

302 Bowie, 476-FUSE

Best Oh, Who Cares, They Have 75¢ Pitchers

We think we remember a huge, crowded room, exuberant bartenders, a hardcore jukebox, a sea of pool tables including two extraspecial blacklit ones, an arcade populated solely by adults (all new-school games, unfortunately, except the lone Pac-Man/Dig-Dug combo machine), two policeman who stood at the door in a manner we thought menacing until we saw the beer in their hands, and Ultimate Fighting Championships on big screen Pay-Per-View. But, boy howdy, do we remember those 75¢ pitchers. Our bodies made sure we remembered thoughout the next day.

Best Place For A Romantic Late-night Snack & Drink

On nights that the hotel on Town Lake isn't full of drunken conventioneers, the bar on the first floor is often nearly empty and seductively dark. Slip in for a drink or a snack until midnight on weekends (kitchen closes at 11pm on weekdays). Even though there is no service after 9pm on the outdoor patio overlooking the lake and downtown, it is a great place to sip the last drops of your drink and gaze into your sweetie's eyes.

Hyatt Regency Austin
208 Barton Springs Rd.

Best Place To Avert Your Eyes

During a sultry autumn happy hour at the Crown & Anchor, we needed to make a phone call - to a friend, a cab, mom - whomever, it doesn't matter. We plunked in our quarter (ahh, the good ol' days) and began the shouting match necessitated by the din of drunken graduate students. Suddenly, as the men's bathroom door swung open, we realized that this pay phone affords a direct view inside. This wouldn't be so notable were it not for the trough-style urinals, so the innocent caller is front-row-center to a veritable chorus line of spunky monkeys. So, friends, use this phone if you must, just don't reach out and touch someone.

Crown & Anchor Pub
2911 San Jacinto

Best Place To Pretend You're An Asian Pop Star

Everything about this place is cheeseball - from the neon-encased "Fear This" plaque to the selection of English songs comprised almost exclusively of sappy Seventies and Eighties ballads. But it's good cheeseball. Settle back into the plush acrylic chairs and the waitress will drop a bowl of chips onto your table. If you're nice or if they know you, you might even score a handful of dried cuttlefish. Then chill, toss back a couple of beers or shots of Crown, and be entertained by the steady stream of patrons crooning along to popular Korean and Chinese tunes while soft-focus videos of roller-blading chicks in bikinis or shows from the Polynesian Cultural Center blare in the background. See? Cheesy, but good.

115 San Jacinto, 474-8873

Best Place To Tie One On For $10

It's a little past midnight and you'd rather swallow a mouthful of broken glass than spend another hour at Emo's. You reach into your pocket: 10 lousy bucks and no buzz. Well, get your ass to G&S Lounge and fast! The G&S has over 45 different selections of domestic and import bottles - always for $2 a pop. Pool tables and cool AC. So give the Lone Star a rest and get yourself some class, son.

G&S Lounge
2420 S. First

Best Place To Two-step And Get A Funky Grind Down Going On

Dallas Night Club on Burnet Road is the home of the modern urban cowboy. Go check out Dallas, where they play all the hot or young country you could want and the DJs mix it up with Nine Inch Nails, C&C Music Factory (Everybody Dance Now), Sir Mix-A-Lot, and even Prince's "Pussy Control". Forget the Continental Club and (as much as I hate to say it) the Broken Spoke, the best country dancers in town are here. P.S. Dallas is buffet-fortified.

Dallas Nightclub
7113 Burnet Rd.

Best Place To Write A Book

One of the best ways to avoid the Scylla and Charybdis of working at home - i.e., household chores and telecommunications devices - is to take your project and hole up at a coffeehouse. You need one that's comfortable and aesthetically pleasing, with perfect coffee, quiet patrons, kind employees, and conducive music. After playing the field extensively, we found our groove on the green velvet couch at Mojo's Daily Grind, and have since written one book and scores of journal entries, magazine articles, and essays in its sunny, high-ceilinged environs. Maybe it's the name of the joint or the times of day, but it seems like more people come here to work or at least read than to slack 'n' chat. Recommended for up to 1,000 words per day.

Best Reason To Take French

We would be lying if we didn't own up to the fact that Catherine Deneuve is often a hot topic of conversation in our music department. Still, les amis at Alliance Francais d'Austin make sure that we know it's not all berets and skinny mustaches. Aside from giving support to French expatriates and aficianados with monthly meetings, AF offers French language lessons, special community events, and a regular showing of French films, subtitled. Ms. Deneuve probably does not have them on her agenda, but you can add them to yours.

photograph by John Carrico   John Carrico

Best Restroom Pornography

The collage of Carter-era Playboy and Penthouse centerfolds that brightens up the men's room of this punk rock dive makes us feel like we've just walked onto the set of Boogie Nights. Curiosity and prurience aside, this smorgasbord of airbrushed fantasy is the perfect diversion for the terminally pee-shy.

Best Silly Drink

You know the kind. Drinks that are adorned with little paper umbrellas and fruit impaled on tiny plastic swords.Tien Hong is best known for its outstanding dim sum, but this wonderful concoction of bananas, strawberries, coconut, rum, peach brandy, and fruit juices is yet another reason to drop by. Dr. Skull even arrives in a cool Tiki God glass. The Doctor is "in."

Best Street For A Bar Crawl

A recent bachelor party saw us hopping from LaLa's Little Nugget (on Justin, just two blocks off of Burnet) to celebrate Christmas in June, to the Poodle Dog Lounge for a game of pool, and finally to Ginny's Little Longhorn to hear the country genius of Dale Watson (he's there every Thursday). They're all classic dives in the best sense of the word. Now if we could just have our beloved Henry's Bar & Grill back-

Best Way To Keep The Cops Busy On A Full Moon

Local DJs Coy West and Chris Specht of the 626/Soul collective return to the glory daze of the global party community with this monthly series of unsanctioned, "renegade" parties that are as likely to make you scream with unabashed joy as they are likely to draw the eye (and ear) of Johnny Law. A secret phone number leads to a secret map point, then it's drive, park, walk, and dance. The crowds are intimate, the beats kickin', and the vibe is rich with housey goodness. And yeah, it's a Secret Squirrel kinda thang, but if you seek the truth, you shall find it, grasshopper.

Most Delectably Seedy Club

Although there are no hot dogs and only a few bikes now linger outside, the Black Cat is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. A new crowd mingles with the old in the Cat's decrepit open courtyard, uses the overflowing toilets, and rallies around the Flametrick Subs (psychobilly featuring Satan's Cheerleaders) during their Saturday night gig. As the new and old sweat together and raise their Lone Stars and Shiners in salute, hoist your own in memory of late owner Paul Sessums. Now, that's a tribute!

Black Cat Tattoo
315 East Sixth

Next Best Thing To St. Patrick's Day

Although both organizations promote Celtic culture, they are not one and the same. The Gaelic League accepts its charter out of Dublin, and takes its mission of promoting Irish culture seriously. While it takes a dim view of green beer and plastic bowler hats on St. Paddy's day, the League does offer friendship, Irish-Gaelic language lessons, and monthly meetings to anyone interested in all things Irish (and sometimes Scottish) as well as knowledgable discussion on what makes a good pint. The Austin Celtic Association expands its horizons to include all the Celtic nations with less academic inclination and more musical affinity. The ACA also sponsors the annual Celtic Festival in Austin. They'll both bring out the Irish in you.

Austin Celtic Association
PO Box 684163

Next Best Thing To The Chieftains In Your Living Room

Yeah, yeah, yeah ... sometimes they'll riff on the theme from The Addams Family but it's not all Riverdance revisited here. Musicians begin to gather about 7pm at Fadó on Sunday evenings, and by about 8pm, quite a little céilî develops. The shifting personnel of the group guarantees no two sessions are ever the same and the musicians don't always start and stop at the same time but after a half-pint of Guinness, that hardly matters. Harp, fiddles, bodhran, uillean pipes, bagpipes, guitars, tin whistles dance about as the liveliest of jigs, ballads, airs, and strathspeys fill the restaurant, which takes on the patina of a Kilkenny pub by the time that pint is emptied. Dare you to join the stepdancers!

Critics: Arts & Culture
Critics: Food

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