2001 Readers Poll
2001 Critics Picks
Best Bar Ambience

Located in the historic Brown Building, this elegant Deco watering hole will soothe the senses after a long day at the office. During the week, you'll find business types enjoying happy hour specials and a great appetizer menu. Building residents also love this home away from home downstairs. What a place to live!

The Brown Bar
201 W. Eighth

Best Bar Food

Take cover - it's a giant hamburger coming straight at us! Drinkers and teetotalers alike come here for what some call the best hamburger on Sixth Street. Don't forget an order of fries, or better yet, an order of their mighty tasty chicken wings, and you'll be ready to soar through the night ahead.

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth

Best Bar Staff

Don't call 911 -- just because the martinis are so cold they'll turn your face blue and the margaritas cause temporary memory loss, there's no need for alarm. CDV's attending bartenders and barbacks are standing by to administer EMS (Emergengy Margarita/Martini Services) at the end of a long day. Try a healthy attitude adjustment on Karaoke Night, or take the cure in the form of an enormous pint of Blanco-brewed Full Moon Pale Rye Ale or Brewhouse Brown Ale. These folks can provide all the "medicinal" libations to get you off your feet again.

Best Casual Hangout

Met Dean at Spider House in Austin on my way up from Mexico, still reeling from cheap tequila and the desert sun and burnt-skinned girls who sold oranges on corners. The place was nestled behind a barbeque joint and a blood bank (go figure) yet was thick with that musty, laid-back feeling of old. Serenity, to put it casually, was overpowering. Got the coffee dark and loaded it with vanilla and we sat outside under Christmas lights in rusty lawn furniture, talking over cigarettes and hummus on pita bread about how the town was changing around us and how hard it was to find places like this nowadays, places where life could slow. College kids rolled in and out, lots of black clothes furiously scribbling in notebooks, a little Miles Davis floating lazily through the speakers, and Dean said at that moment it felt like he could stay in that place forever. Thank God some things never change.

2908 Fruth

Best Dance Music Club

Um, duh! Of course Polly Esther's has the best metro retro dance music: Let's do the time warp, again and again, baby, once in the Polly Esther palace with the hottest diva dance hits from that disco vortex known as the Seventies and once in the Culture Club, as you leap frog into the wacky Reagan-flavored Eighties. Ouch! Do you really wanna hurt me, baby? Do you really wanna make me cry? Oooh, then don't even mention Club Expo, where even our recently dearly departed Nineties bust a move into oldiesville.

Best Drink Specials/Happy Hour And Best Waitstaff

Nobody likes Mondays, right? Unless, of course, you leave work early, or never go in, and report to the bar at Trudy's, where the restaurant's regular happy hour lasts all day and you get a dollar off all margaritas and 50 cents off beer and alcohol. Then Mondays are just fine. You've got to admire efficiency, poise, and grace, especially when it's in the form of a waitperson that you know must spend three quarters of their time on the job "in the weeds." We salute the waitstaff of Trudy's Texas Star, who always bring our quesadillas and chips quickly to our table, and we toast them with our Happy Hour margs and Mexican martinis (with extra olives). Cheers!

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 Hangout

Okay, so it's not news that the well-coiffed lads down at Oilcan Harry's come up with the prize again. What is news is that lesbian-owned and operated coffee nook Gaby & Mo's ties with that well-established drinking/dancing establishment. Could it be kooky theme night and parties (50s Butch/Femme, L80s Night, Dragmaster 2000)? Could it be the cozy outdoor deck? Could it be the new jukebox and pool table? Or could it simply be the same delicious formula that works for their elder Oilcan bro: babes, babes, babes?

211 W. Fourth

Best Jukebox

Six years in a row it's been voted best jukebox. Why? No telling, but there's nothing quite as fabulous as playing pool hearing Patsy Cline and the Ramones and Nina Simone all during the same game, or watching Ray Harryhausen movies closed captioned on the television and imagining the Argonauts are lip syching to "King of the Road" or "Sweet Angeline" or "Who Made Who." Pass the chicken wings, baby!

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth

photo by Sandy Carson

Best Live Music Venue

It isn't every Live Music Capital of the World that has a venue like Stubb's. A place whose cup runneth over with music history, Stubb's first opened in Lubbock, where the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Joe Ely cut their teeth. Modern-day Stubb's has been transported to Austin and has hosted performances by the Fugees and Russell Crowe. Stubb's has an intimate indoor stage and a full-on stomp-your-feet, raise-your-lighters outdoor stage. If your favorite band is coming to Travis County, you can bet money they're coming to Stubb's. You can also put your money where your mouth is, because Stubb's serves up some mighty fine grub to boot.

801 Red River

Best Live Music Venue Acoustics

This Austin institution has the perfect atmosphere for seeing your favorite live band. A haven for open mike nights and after-class chill outs, the Cactus Cafe is as much a part of UT as the Tower itself. The sound at the Cactus lends itself equally well to acoustic and plugged-in performances. The club's sound system is always clear and well-balanced, providing very enjoyable performances overall. The intimate nature of the Cactus and its granite walls also allow sonic vibrations to reverberate beautifully for maximum audience pleasure. Performances by Texas luminaries like Lyle Lovett and Nancy Griffith show just how good this place is for a show. The Cactus is the destination for people who deeply care about what's happening onstage.

Cactus Cafe
2247 Guadalupe

Best Local Arts & Entertainment Web Site

Planning your weekend while sitting at your computer? Bet you're visiting Austin360.com, letting it show you around the weekend in its user-friendly way. It provides one-stop shopping for information on local music, movies, galleries, and performances.


Best Movie Theatre

Why is the Alamo Drafthouse the coolest? And why do our readers and critics go so nuts for it? Number One: Because they are a community place, a happening center like no other for Austin film folks, music folks, art folks, and just plain folks to make and experience aesthetic collisions and events they may have thought could only exist in their wildest imaginations, and to do it together. For example, they reach out and incorporate the music side of Austin by getting bands to score silent films live - like that Golden Arm Trio/Battleship Potemkin thing and ST-37/Metropolis thing, and other history-making episodes of which you are only dimly aware. Number Two: Tim and Karrie League are the most creative theatre operators/party throwers who ever have or ever will exist. They create and host multitudinous happenings: the "QT" Tarantino series, SXSW film fest, premieres of locally made movies such as Bob Ray's Rock Opera, not to mention the wildly popular Mr. Sinus Theater and Something Weird Wednesdays, and of course, the supremely original notion of providing the audience the option of a top-notch salad with their movie. Lastly, these Alamo Drafthouse people are discerning students of film who gently guide their patrons toward an appreciation of filmic endeavor the likes of which may seem trivial, profane, or rightfully obscure, and thus enhance and broaden the minds of their clients. Plus, they took the old Village Theatre on Anderson Lane and turned it into the new Alamo North, expanding their bookings to first-run titles. How cool is that? So if you haven't yet got on the bandwagon, climb aboard now. Recapping, the Alamo Drafthouse is the coolest ever because: 1. They have a sublime community consciousness; 2. They show creativity in all their endeavors; and 3. They demonstrate a critical integrity in their movie bookings.

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 Place To Cruise Hotties

Even in a town full of beautiful people, nights can be lonely if one doesn't know where to look. Yet, companionship (nightly or eternally) can be found in the reservoir of bars and clubs along Sixth Street, thick with primped and tan Austinites from all over. Peak times are between Thursday and Saturdays or whenever there is a full moon.

Best Place to Meet Friends After Work

There's nothing sweeter than gathering with your friends around a pile of nachos and some messy Mexican martinis at Trudy's Texas Star after a hard day at the office. Their downstairs bar and groovy deck seating make it a good place for groups both large and small to meet and snack and drink. And there's even parking.

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

Best Pub/Neighborhood Bar

It's a tie. Not surprising, since both of these neighborhood pubs attract folks from all over the city who find them worth the drive. Both are known for their super pub grub and extensive lists of brews. If you're trying to decide between a neat scotch and hot fish and chips at the Dog & Duck or the freebie snacks and aromatic Vanilla Porters (made there) at the Draught Horse, it's a pretty hard decision. You better start early, and visit both.

Draught House Pub & Brewery
4112 Medical Pkwy.

Best Swanky Joint

Every hour is cocktail hour at this joint, with a sophisticated, well-dressed clientele lounging amid gorgeous interiors and lush sounds. As if the interiors weren't enough of a draw, Speakeasy offers a superb rooftop patio with to-die-for views.

412-D Congress

Best Video Rental

Vulcan Video persists as the top choice for films of all types: cult, international, and new releases, as well as a host of other styles. Arranged by genre, director, and employees' picks, these films are sometimes hard to come by any other way than at Vulcan. We think that makes them a pretty good resource for interesting film.

Readers: Arts & Culture
Readers: Food

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