2003 Readers Poll
2003 Critics Picks
Best Bar Staff

As different as they are comfortable, the staffs at Casino el Camino and Charlie's have served Austinites for years. The rowdy punks at Casino and the friendly gay boys at Charlie's do have some things in common: They pour your drinks cheap and sincerely laugh at your jokes no matter your sexual (or libational) preference.

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth

Best Bar Ambience

One step into the Red Fez's Moroccan-themed ambience feels like world travel approximated (with the exception that pretty much everyone speaks English). Beautiful people, good drinks, and an exotic vibe are but a few attributes of the Fez. Well-known DJs spin nightly. Their "Casbah Nights" each Saturday make for an enchanting evening with belly-dancing and sheesha rentals. Club DeVille's electric intimacy invites gazing deeply into a lover's eyes, an experience only enhanced by the bar staff's superlative pouring skills. The patio area is an entirely different scene, with the serene, sheer granite backdrop against the Texas night – a fantastic place to enjoy wild Emily's Tuesday karaoke or the occasional wacky fashion show. Don't fear the long lines at either of these posh digs as the weekend nights roll into dawn: The sensual delights are worth the wait.

John Anderson

Best Place to Meet Friends After Work

Strategically placed throughout the River City, Trudy's could very well take over this town. Instead, it saves us from the doldrums of the adult working world. When you want to take a load off and vent about the new boss to your buddies, chances are there's a Trudy's near you. Enjoy a margarita on the porch in North or Central Austin, bask in the air conditioning in the South, and enjoy their Chronicle "Hot Sauce Contest" award-winning salsa at all three.

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

Best Bar Food

It doesn't matter if you have to wait 20 or 75 minutes for it, the Casino burger is hands-down the best experience you'll have with a slab of meat this side of butchering the derned cow yourself. Pair that with a hot, greasy basket of those skin-on fries, and you've got a damn fine specimen of good ol' pub grub.

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth

Best Place to Cruise Chicks/Dudes

It’s called Sixth Street, though we like to think of it as the Meat-Packing District. It ain’t the subtlest spot in town to cruise, but who needs subtlety with that many bodies and that much booze – the two ingredients most helpful for all genders, great and small, in the mood for a macking? From frat boys and go-go girls to tattooed tarties and indie rockers stumbling out of clubs hungry for a piece of pizza, all are all but guaranteed to find a nice piece of something else, too, if you get our drift. And we can’t imagine how you wouldn’t.

Sixth Street
between I-35 and Congress

Best Drink Specials/Happy Hour

All hail the delicious yet dangerous Mexican Martini! Combine that with dozens of margaritas, beers, liqueurs, and any other beverage you can come up with, and you've got Trudy's. When the dollars start falling off the drink prices for happy hour, the fun really begins. Just remember your designated driver.

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

Oilcan's consistently reigns supreme among our readers as their fave gay/lesbian hangout. Could it be those beautiful boys behind the bar? The well-poured and reasonably priced drinks? The laid-back backyard patio? Or the always upbeat dance-floor antics? Likely all four – and a whole lot more.

211 W. Fourth

Best Pub/Neighborhood Bar

Nestled safely away from the shot-bar haze of Sixth Street, from the beery debauch of West Campus, from the distilled effrontery of the Warehouse District, lies the Draught House. Warm light from the windows reflects merrily on rows of steins hanging above the barkeep. Dark wood tables stretch to walls blanketed with antique memorabilia. Bike messengers rub elbows with nouveau riche, the house beers are superb, and delicious thin-crust pizza is free on Wednesdays. The Draught House is not a secret, but it feels like one.

Draught House Pub & Brewery
4112 Medical Pkwy.

Best Swanky Joint

The cool part being that even when it's packed full of the fraternity set, the Brown Bar is actually swanky and not just an ordinary bar pretending to be swanky. One of the few Austin joints where you can dress to impress without actually shocking people. Not to mention generous pours.

The Brown Bar
201 W. Eighth

Best Friendly Bar

It's not quite Cheers, but it's close enough. There's always a sense of camaraderie at this UT-area watering hole, a perfectly cozy place to see those friends you haven't met yet. Bring Fido – there'll be plenty of fuzzy pals for him, too.

Crown & Anchor Pub
2911 San Jacinto

Bret Brookshire

Best Jukebox

Yeah, sure, the appearance of the clientele may signify the choices at the jukebox, but those punkabillies sure do have musical taste that's good and broad, not to mention l-o-u-d. Where else can you hear Johnny Cash hot on the heels of the Buzzcocks?

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth

Best Live Music Venue

Curl under a blanket of stars at both of these beloved local venues. Chronicle readers agree that it's worth giving up the cold air conditioning for a few hours to see shows on either of these two outdoor stages, simply because both provide the best atmosphere, drinks, and view. The Backyard is a great place to stretch out on some blankets, while Stubb's offers a delicious menu with their bands. The stars are free.

801 Red River

The Backyard at Bee Cave
13801 Bee Cave Pkwy.

photo by Sandy Carson

Best Dance Music Club

Welcome to one of the world's friendliest Goth clubs! The Elysium serves up a tasty menu of dance-themed nights, including Electroclash, retro Eighties, underground, synth-pop, and more – special event nights like Fetish Night, a visit from Santacon, and the Chronicle's own Drag Ball, plus an impressive, if dark roster of touring bands, along with affordable libations and some of the wildest fashion parades in town. What it doesn't serve up is a bunch of useless attitude. Everybody's welcome at this, our readers' favorite dance club.

705 Red River

Best Movie Theatre

You like quirky? It's Downtown. You like more mainstream fare? It's at the Village and Lake Creek. You like to drink beer with your movie? It's at all three, and we haven't even mentioned the Butt-Numb-a-Thon! Tim and Karrie League are making it clear that their idea – great film-viewing concept events, great food and drink, and great service – is here to stay, and the more people who can get to their theatres, the better. Our readers are making it clear, year after year, that they are right on target.

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 Video/DVD Rental

No gauche, garish tenements crown Vulcan Video's campus location; alas, no Villas at Vulcan. There are no friendly phone calls from poor celebrity impersonators, no, "You'd be the man now, dog, if you'd return your late tapes!" Vulcan does have an ever-expanding library of the hard and not-so-hard to find; a friendly, fanatical staff; and smartly organized stores. But nary a Frappuccino cooler in sight. For shame.

Readers: Arts & Culture
Readers: Food

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