2004 Readers Poll
2004 Critics Picks
Best Annual Festival

People come to Austin from all over the world every year for these festivals, and yet for us, they're just a hometown affair. It’s tens of thousands of people who suddenly become friends, united by the chords of genius musicians or the artistry of edgy filmmakers, holding conversations lubricated by beer and nighttime confessions. Lives change, stars are hatched, and if you live in Austin and you’ve never been to either of these festivals, you need to ask yourself some serious questions and then quickly buy a ticket for next year.

South by Southwest
1400 Lavaca

Austin City Limits Music Festival

Best Local Music Label

Our readers choose two number ones for one common thread: a fierce dedication to Austin artists. Perverted Son gets the nod by supporting such bands as Tia Carrera, Brown Whörnet, Gorch Fock, and Oh, Beast! Veterans of the Red River district know these names. No question, Perverted Son is one of the backbone record labels here in town, featuring an energetic and intense roster. Whether it originated from the mosh pit or an altered evening under the headphones, the music from this label leaves listeners lingering for more. Manifesting an entirely different type of taste, Chalant is Austin’s ace electronic label. Merrick Brown, Spettro, Maetrik, and Tim Shumaker are a few of the names that make up Chalant's very deliberate and intentional combination of local, national, and international artists. This label is poised for some serious worldwide attention.

Perverted Son
PO Box 49290

Chalant Music
8500 Winterstein Dr.

Best Gay/Lesbian Hangout

Oh Toto, this must be election season, coz we're not in our regular club anymore! Since Sidekicks/Xtreme – with its two clubs, two stories, five bars (including the new patio bar), hot staff, and 11,000 square feet of elbow room to get yr mack on – stole this election from our incumbent Oilcan, we've been curious just where ol' Chad has been hanging. And his sister, too. Four more beers! Four more BEERS!

Best Bar With Arcade/Video Games

This tie is an interesting one, covering both ends of the bar-game spectrum. On the one hand, you've got the Ritz, a big-league, two-story megadome offering an unparalleled assortment of air hockey tables, pinball machines, foosball, video games, pool, and more. It's a shoo-in, really ... a ringer. Then comes the slightly mystifying Beerland, the hole-in-the-wall underdog that has one pool table with some rickety-ass, busted-up cues, a Ms. Pac-Man or two, and a couple of MegaTouches. Go figure. All we can guess is that the atmosphere of the latter is so pleasing, their booking so good, and their staff so friendly that their small offering of games goes a long way, like a beggar's last penny in a donation pot.

Best Jukebox

Cut it out, Casino. You're making everybody else look bad. Year after year, readers vote this darkened dive's box the best in town, and who the hell are we to argue? Hipster hometown heroes, rawk, indie, punk, new and no wave favorites, and the odd funk or trad-country disc round out the winning selection.

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth

Best Karaoke

You think you're bad, huh? Flossed a few times on some Jimmy Buffett, really killed at the company party with "Baby Got Back." Yeah, you're big time. Right? Wrong. Let the pros at Common Interest show you how to really rock a mic. This is all they do. Karaoke every night, with thousands of songs at your fingertips, so no excuses; get on up and show your stuff. Hey, no worries: There's a bar for you shyer types.

Common Interest
8440 Burnet

Best Place to Find a Lover

Darkened fumbling, furtive hand grabs, and of course – shhh! – the popcorn trick. Yes, post-pubescence cineplex trips are fraught with darkened, unseen excitement. Nowhere more than Austin's Dobie Theatre. Whether you're feeling an art deco ache, library lust, gothic gargoyled gush, or you just wanna ***k like an Egyptian, the Dobie's four screens and theme rooms make for an unforgettable make-out sesh, making it not only the best place to find a lover but also the best place to be one.

Best Live Music Venue

Shows at Stubb’s are a breath of fresh air – literally and figuratively. The sloping outside arena allows almost everyone a good view of the stage, and ample room, cheap drinks, great bands, and fantastic barbecue keep patrons lining up to come back. They even offer a Sunday Gospel Brunch, allowing customers the opportunity to atone for other less wholesome activities they might have participated in at Stubb’s (no, seriously, the Gospel Brunch is incredible, even for any nonbelievers). Plus, Stubb’s always hosts the best afterparties.

801 Red River

photo by Sandy Carson

Best Dance Club

For those afflicted with 4ADD, Elysium takes Best Dance Club for good reason. The staff is sexy; the owner, John Wickham, is one of the friendliest mofos in town; and the music ... the music is key. From tribal electronica and progressive beats, to the smooth, murky blade of goth, the music is what defines this Red River haunt. Their dearly devoted clientele knows that it is not only a fabulous place to see and be seen, but a club with an irresistible beat. According to the faithful, there's nowhere else to dance. And Elysium's dedicated retro Eighties underground nights (an alternative to that painfully ubiquitous Eighties, Top 40) and newly revamped Sappho's Isle lesbian night will only earn them more devotees. See, the dead can dance!

705 Red River

Best Movie Theatre

The real secret to the Alamo Drafthouse isn’t the booze or the food, it’s the love. Any schmo can sneak a ham sammich and a 40 oz. into Tinseltown, but Tinseltown’s never going to show a whole night of weird Asian cinema, jerky amateur video clips, or Harry Knowles’ Butt-Numb-a-Thon. Gutsy moves like that take love ... or a least a bunch of film geeks. Fortunately for Austin, the Drafthouse has plenty of both.

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
Alamo Drafthouse Mueller, 1911 Aldrich #120, 512/572-1425

Best Video/DVDs

Renting from Vulcan is like borrowing a video from a friend. Except this friend has an insanely vast collection of movies on video and DVD. With an awesome cult collection and movies to awe even the most pretentious film fan, the Vulcan staff and their weekly specials aim to please their "friends."

Best Porn Rental/Purchase

Oh, Dreamers. How can we count the ways? As any true fan of dirty movies will attest, you are the one and only. Who else has the smarts to park within stumbling distance of the Crazy Lady, so that after a couple of cheap lap dances and expensive drinks we can take our merriment home in the form of Snoop's latest backyard romp and a bottle of Early Times? And, by the by, your impeccable policy of discretion is greatly appreciated. So cheers, my friend, and booty claps all around.

3401 N. I-35

Best Place to Drink Alone

"Scotch. Double. Cheapest shit you got." Warm and fuzzy as they feel on their own, sometimes it's reassuring to mutter those words (let's call them "precious daggers"!) to an actual human, as opposed to slurring them into your cracked bathroom mirror. So when nursing that broken heart/psyche/liver, remember Casino. Cheap drinks and ample distractions, like their renowned burgers, jukebox, DVDs on the TVs, pinball, and pool ... oops, damn. Pool. Yeah, it takes two. Oh, that was y'all's thing. How would we know? No, no we haven't seen her ... well jeez, we ... no, we never did. We thought y'all were talkin' about raising a family ... no, no you better put that down ... OK, in some cases, maybe it is better to just stay at home.

Casino el Camino
517 E. Sixth

Best Bartender

Be it a quiet weeknight or a floor-sweating concert, the man to know behind the bar is Kevin "Kumbala" Crutchfield. While serving as the haunt's chief sudsman, Kevin is also the storied bar's co-owner and responsible for the revitalization that occurred when the Longbranch reopened approximately a year ago. Cheers!

Best Lounge

Pushed up against a limestone cliff, hearts race as liquid descends. The music and the warm breeze envelop all who come to be rapt. Club de Ville offers all that, and more, so you don't even need a bag of chips. The vibe here is sexy yet unpretentious, at this, our readers' pick for the best lounge in town.

Best Beer on Tap

With 82 draught choices, the Ginger Man is undoubtedly the place in Austin for beer variety. They also boast more than 100 bottled beers from all over the world, in addition to wi-fi, pool, darts, cozy couches, an eclectic jukebox, and two large porch areas. Mondays are logo pint night, where customers can keep the glass of the pint they buy. The Ginger Man’s staff is also knowledgeable and opinionated about the beers they serve, which makes it easier to choose wisely.

Best Cocktails/Cocktail Menu

Many choices face someone wanting to go have a drink downtown. But in terms of cocktails, Saba and Brown Bar rise above the rest, both in terms of menu diversity and drink quality. For cocktails with a Latin, tropical flair, look to Saba, especially during happy hour, when all their specialty drinks are half-off. For a more traditional menu but still an extensive drink selection, head to Brown Bar, home of one of Austin’s most popular mojitos and half-priced wine.

The Brown Bar
201 W. Eighth

Best Gas Station Beer and Wine Selection

If nothing else, the Whip Inventory is Whip Incredible. Whip Instead of the usual convenience store cache of watered-down big-three bubba beer and box wines, the Topiwala family stocks nearly every sort of suds imaginable as well as a vast volume of vino. So, if you’re a wino looking to get your grape on or even a serious hops head Whip In need of a quick six, take note: They’re right off the Whip-Interstate Whip In South Austin.

Whip In
1950 S. I-35

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