1998 Readers Poll
1998 Critics Picks
Best Bar Snacks

From nachos to the ever-popular fish & chips, from their multipartite "poo-poo" Platter to the somewhat simpler yet rather elusive Scotch eggs, this English Pub, influenced neighborhood watering hole (which "just happens" to sponsor the Silver Thistle Pipe & Drum band!), has righteous food to vanquish the most whetted of appetites.

Best Bartenders

The postmodern alchemists in this downtown den of eclectic swank (Montgomery Conner, David Dart, Mendy Frohlich, and Sam Sighold), ably assisted by barbacks John Nordstrom and Davis Comeau, will put to rest any worries you may have about the mixological brilliance of the chocolate martini, as well as providing some killer margaritas. Not sure what to order? Let them provide divine inspiration in vessels of glass.

Best Beer Selection (Retail)

What Guinness is to World's Records, Central Market is to beer: a vast, chilled repository of it, with sufficient amounts of enough different kinds to float an international armada of parties. And, yes, they do have Guinness itself.

Central Market North
4001 N. Lamar, 512/206-1000
4477 S. Lamar, 512/899-4300

Best Brew Pub

Is it the brewski itself, or the tasty grub from the kitchen, or the pool table, shuffleboard, foosball, and air hockey upstairs? Or is it the unpretentiousness of the mixed & mingling crowd that makes this place such a favorite in the downtown beertank scene? Stop in to quench your thirst and figure it out yourself over a few cold ones.

Best Cocktails / Martinis

Great bartenders, smooth jazz, and top-notch drinks - Cedar Street's steady hold on this category had been neither shaken nor stirred, even by worthy contenders and runners-up Club Deville and Sullivan's.

Cedar Street Courtyard
208-C W. Fourth

Best Country/Western Club

Year after year, readers tip their 10-gallons to the Broken Spoke. It's two-steppin' with yer Lone Star and yer best gal; none of that fancy stuff here. Just simple folk and simple pleasures -- except those nights ol' Willie shows up.

Broken Spoke
3201 S. Lamar

Best Cover Band Club

Hear somebody play somebody else's music just about any night of the week in the club that has taken this category for the five years that it has existed. Steamboat and Antone's tie for an impressive second, considering how many original bands populate their rosters.

Maggie Mae's
323 E. Sixth

Best Dance Music Club

Apparently a lot of Austinites didn't get enough of the Seventies or Eighties the first time around, and Polly Ester's gives it to them with plenty of day-glo flash and wumpy disco beats. Last year's winner and undergrad fave, Paradox, pulls second place and newcomer and hellectronica HQ, the Red Room, makes a strong first-time showing in third.

Best Downtown Club (East of Congress)

As long as the drinks are stiff and a there's a chandelier hanging in the treecovering the patio, people will forgive the crummy outdoor furniture. Bringnight vision goggles if you plan to sit inside. Next-door neighbor, the swanky Caucus Club, comes in a close second, and the solid rock Steamboat takes third place.

Best Downtown Club (West of Congress)

From the plush velvet tones of Speakeasy to the squeal of a blues guitar at Antone's, this year's results prove one thing for sure: it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. Impressive showings for both the Electric Lounge and Liberty Lunch have them in a tie for second.

412-D Congress

Best Drink Specials

It's the $2.50 frozen margaritas that put this place on top with Austinites, especially the mango margaritas on Sundays, and the sangria-based specialty o' the house, the Sangfrita.

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

Best Gay/Lesbian Club

It's not just yuppie boys -- everyone cuts loose at this popular five-time category winner. With two indoor rooms and a large patio to spread out and flex those pecs, it's a funky, funky scene. Austin's longest continuously running gay bar, Charlie's on Lavaca, shows handsomely in second.

211 W. Fourth

Best Happy Hour

"Happy Hour" is usually a misnomer, since they tend to last at least two hours and sometimes more, right? Well, Trudy's Happy Hour lasts all day on Mondays. Nuff said.

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

Best Happy Hour Entertainment

"Hippie Hour" continues to be our readers' favorite in this category, and with good reason. The queen of soul brings heart and harmony to her set and her loyal fans week after week. It's finger-plucking good, and won almost unanimously!

1315 S. Congress, 441-2444

photo by John Anderson

photograph by John Carrico   John Carrico

Best Jukebox

Given the number of badass jukeboxes in this town, Casino's three-year streak is something to marvel at, and so are its selections - from Dino to the Ramones, the Propellerheads to Louis Jordan. Just don't play "Ring of Fire" too, too often.

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth

Best Movie Theatre Concession Stand

This year, all three movie theatre categories see a shake-up. Regular winner of best Concessions, Dobie Theatre, shows up tops in another category, while moving down a slot here, making room for this popular new face on the Austin movie-viewing scene. With a full menu and kickass waitstaff, it's hard to imagine Alamo Drafthouse not taking top title. But the real success in Alamo's concessions lie in two simple words: beer, beer.

Alamo Drafthouse
Alamo Drafthouse Village, 2700 W. Anderson #701, 512/861-7030
Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 S. Lamar, 512/861-7040
Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, 320 E. Sixth, 512/861-7020
Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane, 5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060
Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, 14028 Hwy. 183 N., 512/861-7070

Best Movie Theatre Facilities

This is the second year that Barton Creek has taken this from longtimer Arbor. A playfully glitzy setting, the luxury of stadium seating, huge screens - but let's face it, the chairs rock! You remembered the Alamo and voted it second. Dobie's renovations certainly didn't hurt it; it pulled in third.

Best Movie Theatre Programming

If you want to see the latest blockbuster go somewhere else. Helmed by Scott Dinger, the Dobie has become Austin's premier (sm)arthouse, ousting longtime category winner the Village. It's Dinger's balance of indie films, cult classics and just plain classics that makes this unexpected mall theatre some kind of wonderful.

photo by John Anderson

Best Non-downtown Club

Texas twang is the thang at this nifty, no-frills honkytonk. A far cry, but a short drive, from slick downtown, the Continental is no-frills blues and brews at its simplest: dancin', drinkin', smokin', sweatin'. Second place Carousel came close to grabbing the golden ring, and Flipnotics outdoor deck and coffeehouse coziness earned enough votes for third.

Continental Club
1315 S. Congress

Best Place To Be Seen

It's no Studio 54 (thank God), but with its hush hush entrance and a velvet rope, it's classic glam. But is this where the readers want to be seen, or is it where they go to stargaze when a celeb stops in town? Sullivan's is another fave. But so is Sixth Street.

412-D Congress

Best Place To Eavesdrop

You could keep the bestseller lists and tabloid racks full for decades by transliterating only half of the dishing you can get an earful of among the tables & booths at any Kerbey Lane Cafe. It's their diverse clientele representing both the high and the low, the tech and the granola, the current media celebrities and the as-yet-undiscovered virtuosi, and all the range and overlappings of that vast spectrum of Austinites & passers-through, that make this Breakfast Best nonpareil when it comes to the word "indiscreet."

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, Round Rock, 512/879-2827
701 Capital of TX Hwy. S., 512/879-2820
2200 Aldrich #100, 512/879-2818

Best Place To Take A First Date

The dim lights, the rich Italian food, the soft flush of the world after a glass (or two or three) of wine makes starcrossed lovers of us all. It's no balcony scene, but you won't encounter any crazy Capulets either, unless of course you blab to the in-laws.

1500 Barton Springs Rd., 476-1090

photograph by Bruce Dye   Bruce Dye

Best Pool Hall

Must've been a lot of interns stuffing the ballot box this year. Just a little topical humor, there, folks, and with a name like "Slick Willie's," we bet that the crew at your favorite pool hall can take it. Clicks and the Ritz tied for second place, and Eric's took third.

8440 Burnet, 451-4575

Best Teen Scene/Hangout

Only in Austin is the term "dragworm" also a geographically accurate description. Quacks, Einstein's, The Hole in the Wall, Le Fun, Texadelphia, and of course, what day spent hanging out would be complete without the personality testing at the Church of Scientology?

Guadalupe between MLK and Dean Keeton

Best Tejano/Conjunto Club

Dancing to quite a different beat from the other shops in the very Asian-flavored strip mall in which it lives, Tejano Ranch has held strong in this category for four years. With live music on the weekends and free buffets on weekdays, there's always a fiesta goin' on.

Tejano Ranch
7601 N. Lamar, Ste. A

Best Video Store

This is what happens when people who really care about movies run video stores. Film-savvy clerks, a newish location, and one of the most extensive independent, cult, and foreign film sections around keep Vulcan on top in this category year after year. Kudos also go to I Luv Video and Waterloo, which tied for second place.

Best Wine Selection (retail)

Looking for basic good wine, or perhaps some vintage beyond the ordinary? Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, some grape-based delight known by a name you've never even seen before but which will soon become your favorite? Our readers know you'll find it among the racks & shelves of the Central Market, along with many other continually scrutinized-and-improved selections from around the world.

Central Market North
4001 N. Lamar, 512/206-1000
4477 S. Lamar, 512/899-4300

Readers: Arts & Culture
Readers: Food

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle