2014 Readers Poll
2014 Critics Picks
Best Beer-Fueled Bike Ride

Yes, we sure did walk the bike home on the last leg of the 2013 Austin Beer Guide Bloggers Suck Bike Pub Crawl. Was it completely necessary? Hell, yes. The Sunday adventure capping off Austin Beer Week made boozy stops at Workhorse Bar, Billy’s on Burnet, Pinthouse Pizza, and Draught House Pub & Brewery. Well-organized with an emphasis on safety, the crawl delivered special brews and discounts, the company of like-minded craft beer enthusiasts, and a most-deserved hangover. It's slated again for 2014; get your butt in a seat and your bike in gear – just be prepared to push your pony home.

Austin Beer Guide

Best Boot-Scuffed Dance Floor

"Anything that gets a room full of people dancing and having a good time is what we do best," White Horse co-owner Denis O'Donnell told the Chronicle last year. Indeed the Comal Street honky-tonk gets the boots sliding across the hardwood like no other bar on the Eastside, but their get-downs aren't limited to pearl-snapped patrons two-steppin' to country. Second Sunday Sock Hoppers bop to vintage rock, soul, and R&B; the Tejano crowd moves to Conjunto Los Pinkys; and Cajun music fans stomp to Gumbo Ce Soir – all falling under the umbrella of roots music you can dance to.

The White Horse
500 Comal

John Anderson

Best Collaborative Brew

The perfect summer beer brewed by the perfect partnership of finesse and creativity, Peach of a Pale truly delights as a hop-forward ale made with 500 pounds of organic peaches – or as the Purple One would say, “She was pure, every ounce.” Locals Pinthouse Pizza and Hops & Grain are both known for their imaginative approaches to making great beer, and as the collaborative team behind Peach of a Pale, the duo does not disappoint. Dry-hopped, fruity, but none too sweet, the beer is youthful and sprightly. It’s the girl-next-door who crawls down from her window to skinny dip and light up a joint.

Pinthouse Pizza
4729 Burnet Rd.

Hops & Grain Brewery
507 Calles

Best Don't Call It a Comeback; They've Been Here for Years

Look, y'all: We knew this was going to happen. We just didn't know it would happen all at once. When we saw Richard Linklater's Slacker (1991) – Band Playing at Club played by real band Ed Hall – and Dazed and Confused (1993), wherein our man Matthew McConaughey immortalized one David Wooderson, we knew these people were going somewhere. And they did, with varying degrees of artistic and commercial success, for a good long while. But this year? This year? With the fever-pitch McConaissance and the Oscar and Boyhood roundly proclaimed a masterpiece, just, by the way, on the heels of Before Midnight? And on top of that, the reemergent brilliance of Ed Hall live? Oh, late bloomers of Austin's Nineties, we do indeed salute you.

Richard Linklater

Matthew McConaughey

Ed Hall

Best Friday Afternoon Tour and Tasting

On Friday afternoons at quitting time, the cast and crew of Blanco’s most popular microbrewery gather around the tasting room with a pint in hand to talk shop. Usually it’s one of the brewmasters leading the behind-the-scenes tours, and they have a special way of imparting the fun and passion of producing award-winning brews. The tasting room is open on Fridays, 2-5pm, with tours starting at 3 and 4pm.

Real Ale Brewing
231 San Saba Ct.

Best Garage Conversion

A quick glance at the Empire Control Room calendar finds shows from Ruby Jane, the Terpsichorean Nutt Generators, Pharoahe Monch, and William Beckett. That’s folk, funk, hip-hop, and rock – all packed into a 350-capacity space that until two years ago looked like it could slip into Waller Creek. The Seventh Street venue’s immersion over the past year has been steady and swift, and full of any type of tunes you’d want. Plus those tripped-out visuals.

Empire Control Room & Garage
606 E. Seventh

Todd V. Wolfson

Cash Mason

Best Lez Get This Party Started DJ

Just like that special someone, DJ GirlFriend leaves a lasting impression on her audience. Unlike a first crush or a last kiss, these parties won’t leave you chasing waterfalls. Built on good music and good vibes, GirlFriend curates the kind of party people want to be a part of – and in a town filled with the “too-cool-to-dance” types, that’s no small feat. Be it the queerest middle school dance party or a ladies arm-wrestling match of epic proportions, GirlFriend has this town believing they saw the sign.

DJ GirlFriend

Best Local Brewery

A state-of-the art expansion, a foray into cans, and a Good Food Award – Independence Brewing’s 10th year in operation has been marked by innovation and growth. One of Austin’s oldest craft breweries, Independence Brewing continues to up its game, year after year. Its signature brews are pure Austin as is its approach to brewing: Do what you love, and make what tastes good.

Best Lounge Side

Since its founding in 2010, Strange Brew was known to the far-south side as a bustling coffeehouse with a cozy lounge – Manchaca's answer to the Saxon Pub. It's a honky-tonk where the owner might donate a round to the band, with flexible seating, and where the healthy mix of veteran and fresh-faced newbies exit the stage and mingle with the crowd.

Best Riesling to the Challenge

If it wasn't for June Rodil, we might not know the difference between a Barbera and a Braquet. For years, she has been sharing her encyclopedic knowledge at some of Austin's finest dining rooms – now delighting our senses as the beverage director for McGuire Moorman. With charm and grace, she breaks down the often snobbish world of wine. If she recommends a bottle, we suggest you listen.

McGuire Moorman Hospitality Group
1204-A West Lynn

Best Rock & Roll Residence

Jason McNeely's vision of what makes an amazing rock & roll bar extends beyond the bands. The booker/owner has proven conscientious of poster art, the look of the bandstand, and between-act playlists. He and partner Brian Tweedy's Hot Burrito organization, formerly entrenched in Spider House's 29th Street Ballroom, revolutionized the underachieving East Sixth room when they partnered with owners Christian Moses and Charles Ferraro in late 2012. Now the scene-nurturing venue, predominantly serving Austin's garage, punk, and psych milieus, stands as a clear cornerstone of the underground music community. A "hotel" it's not, but at least one local rock star lives upstairs.

Hotel Vegas
1502 E. Sixth

Best Room With a Brew

Two months ago, ABGB partner Mark Jensen confided to the Chronicle that his West Oltorf space’s beer brews are infused with the music they steadily book. Some may think it’s actually the other way around. The multifunctional biergarten and concert space does the dance between pizza joint and dancehall with ease, often blending the two together in sequence. Plus, we hear they treat their bands like royalty.

The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co.
1305 W. Oltorf

Best Secret Ingredient

Onetime teenage blues prodigy Jonas Wilson grew up to wear many hats: music teacher, studio owner/producer/engineer, soundtrack composer, and instrumentalist. The guitarist/keyboardist/songwriter's considerable talents have been showcased in local projects Lomita and the White White Lights, but more so, he's been influential behind the scenes, tutoring Austin's top teenage talent like Residual Kid and Grace London and serving as an ace-in-the-hole for established artists like Ghostland Observatory frontman Aaron Behrens, whose new record Wilson produced and played lead guitar on. From kids to connoisseurs, he's been the final touch that takes the music to the next level.


Best Siren Song

We always thought it was a Florida thing, or maybe an Odysseus thing or a Cher thing or a Daryl Hannah fixation or a fondness for Coney Island's mermaid parade, or even a StarKist thing. We could go on about the influences, but clearly many of us dream of either being or hanging out with the sexy, mythological(?) half-women, half-sea creatures. Austin's Sirenalia makes sure such pleasures exist in all their incarnations: The tiny local start-up makes gorgeous mermaid tails – ones you can actually swim in – along with mer-makeup, accessories, and mermaid performers for any kind of party or show. Founders Maria and Jason will make you feel comfortable, ready to unplug your ears and at last hear that sweet siren song.


Jana Birchum

Best Texas Tap Troupe

Southern belles and beauty queens possess certain qualities that tend to emerge in sharp relief as they mature – namely, a sense of propriety that belies their bone-dry wit, grit, and laserlike insights into human behavior, especially that of their native cultures. We're being kind of silly here, but if the ladies of Class Act, a local senior tap dance troupe par excellence, remind you a little of your East Texas grandma or perhaps of characters in Richard Linklater's Bernie, it's not just because several of them were featured in the latter. It's because the women of Class Act, which performs at fundraisers, club events, and churches, are largely that: talented beauties who take their craft seriously and know that presentation – from practicing in full makeup and matching workout gear to performing in feathered headdress – along with a smart, sassy take on life, is all.

Shirley McPhail Dance Studio
8018 Mesa

Best Way to Take the Bitter With the Sweet

It's not your fault that your homemade cocktails are boring. You probably didn't have Bad Dog Bar Craft. Bad Dog's small-batch bitters add kick to everything from Mai Tais to rye Manhattans. We like a few dashes of the Bloody Mary variety in our beer. Who says a michelada can't be sophisticated?

Bad Dog Bar Craft

Jana Birchum

Best Yeehaw!

So, yeah, a lot of people are moving here. And, yeah, a lot of them are from other Texas places. But the ones who aren't sometimes need reminding that it's not all Meetups and moon towers around here – a sign (the good kind – step back, please, Mr. Perry) that they are still very much in Texas. The Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo fits the bill beautifully, beckoning all with corn dogs, bull riding, livestock, and an unbelievable variety of performers, from Merle Haggard to Joan Jett to Destiny's Child. Fun, far-flung, and surprisingly diverse. If that ain't Texas ….

Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo
Travis County Expo Center, 7311 Decker

Critics: Arts & Culture
Critics: Food

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