2015 Readers Poll
2015 Critics Picks

Celesta Danger

Best Bar

Cheer Ups continues to top "Best of Austin" each year. Maybe it's something to do with no cover for live music. Or the resident vegan food trailer and its cult following. Or the myriad film screenings, dance parties, and wet beard contests. Under attack again by Big Development, the partial demolition of their definitive limestone amphitheatre illustrates in irony how this beloved club is a cornerstone of the music/culture/queer community.

Cheer Up Charlies
900 Red River

Best Burlesque/Cabaret Show

In true Austin style, the Jigglewatts began on the set of a low-budget zombie movie – a zombie movie with singing and dancing, natch. The world may have forgotten 2007's Z: A Zombie Musical, but we can forever thank it for bringing together the flashy and fun ladies of the Jigglewatts burlesque review. Their performances are bawdy with a sly, empowered wink.

photo by Sandy Carson

Best Club Night/Theme Night

Honoring Tuezgayz's Best Club Night five years and counting, we can't stay away from this packed, sweaty Red River riot. Barbarella slings the liquid courage, and the Glitoris soundtracks our midweek make-out sesh. Heteros, homos, and everyone in between get their groove and grope on in the middle of our favorite drrrty dance floor.

611 Red River

Best Cocktails

It’s no wonder readers selected this Eastside haunt. The dimly lit and artfully decorated bar offers up expertly crafted, pre-Prohibition inspired cocktails infused with fruit and floral flavors from a selection of almost 200 bottles of liquor. With a movie projector, quaint patio seating, and live music, it’s the perfect spot for a romantic date or a classy night on the town with your best pals.

photo by John Anderson

Best Drag Show

Oilcan Harry's proves the squeaky diva always gets the greasepaint. The weekday draw of this Austin mainstay? It's the Wednesday night Drag Show Roulette, which takes a different spin on the act with a monthly pageant. On the weekend? Two snaps go to the Super Sunday Divas Show, OCH's weekly "platform" for high-heeled hilarity featuring a different Ru queen from RuPaul's Drag Race. We pause, along with the entire staff and the usually ebullient hostess Kelly Kline for a solemn moment of reflection in the great big beautiful mirror in the sky for the passing of co-hostess Jenny McCall. Soar to the stars, dear queen.

211 W. Fourth

Best Happy Hour

It's not just because the shared plates average about $5 a pop, or that there's a full array of margaritas. It's because every time we step into Salty Sow, we just have the best time. Oh, and those duck fat fries are now our new religion.

Salty Sow
1917 Manor Rd.

photo by John Anderson

Best Hotel Bar/Lounge

If Wes Anderson shot a movie in Austin, it would look just like Hotel San José. The quaint decor and minimalist aesthetic of this 40-room South Congress location has been a favorite among locals and visitors since Liz Lambert renovated and transformed it from an old motor court. And the wine-and-beer bar, open to all, has the best damn micheladas in town. Come for an unmistakably Texan feel, a Southern hospitality, and a European cultivation.

Best Jukebox

After a tie last year, Deep Eddy Cabaret has finally dethroned Casino el Camino with its jukebox jams (a first since 1995). Craft your perfect musical recipe at this dive bar with ingredients from locals Black Joe Lewis, Dale Watson, and Gary Clark Jr. Throw in some simmering vocals from Billie Holiday or Otis Redding. Spice it up with some Ramones, Bowie, or the Clash. Now we’re cookin’! Bonus points for including tracks from the late, great Nick Curran.

Deep Eddy Cabaret
2315 Lake Austin Blvd.

Todd V. Wolfson

Best Karaoke

What's karaoke without a themed room? The HighBall feels ya; they have seven karaoke rooms conceived by Zack Carlson and Laura Fleischauer that vary in funkiness and feature voice synthesizers, so we can all sound like our favorite pop-princess divas. And let's face it, who doesn't wanna have a karaoke party in the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks?

The Highball
1120 S. Lamar

Best LGBTQ Hangout

Cheer Ups continues to top "Best of Austin" each year. Maybe it's something to do with no cover for live music. Or the resident vegan food trailer and its cult following. Or the myriad film screenings, dance parties, and wet beard contests. Under attack again by Big Development, the partial demolition of their definitive limestone amphitheatre illustrates in irony how this beloved club is a cornerstone of the music/culture/queer community.

Cheer Up Charlies
900 Red River

Celesta Danger

Best Live DJ

Spinning records for the Democratic National Convention and President Obama's re-election party may be the milestones in the career of this Austin Music Hall of Famer. But here at home, he is well-known for genre-defining DJ sets spanning a massive music catalog. From his Eighties-centered series Rock the Casbah to sweaty dance parties at Nasty's, DJ Mel sure knows how to make you get your back up off that wall.

DJ Mel

Best Live Music Venue

This pillar of the cultural district knows how to keep it cool in the Texas heat. They're always tuned in to the best new alt rawk from around the country and around the street corner. Three stories of patios for the outdoor stage mean that everyone has a view, and for those wanting, the pit offers the kind of close-quarters action that any punk worth the name deserves. Aren't you glad you shelled out for that condo when you did? You've got the best seat in the house.

912 Red River

Best Local Filmmaker

There are no explosions, no chase scenes, or gun shoot-outs in a Richard Linklater film. Instead of all that Michael Bay nonsense, we get human connections and experiences. Boyhood was one of the most lauded films of 2014, and Linklater was finally given the recognition he so deserved by the rest of the world, including two Oscar nominations this year for Boyhood. But to us, he will always be good ol' Rick.


Best Movie Theatre

Long gone are the days when only Austinites had some of that sweet Alamo Drafthouse religion. Last year, the gospel spread globally when the Drafthouse stood up to North Korea to be one of the first movie theatres to book The Interview. That kind of feistiness is par for the course at the Alamo, which has built its stellar reputation on a superior watching experience (including a firm no-texting/no-talking rule – preach) and the founding principle that every movie tastes better with a cold beer and a burger. Yeah, America.

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

Celesta Danger

Best New Club

New clubs are popping up in Austin like so many poppers. Two new venues remind us that saturation doesn’t have to mean lack of innovation. With delicious drinks, an ample patio, and nightly music, Stay Gold is a haven for those looking for some substance on a night out. The vinyl-covered booths and red-velvet stage curtains set the ambience of a Seventies soul lounge, and the music doesn’t disappoint on that front either. If you’re looking for something a little more rambunctious, there's Highland Lounge. Everyone loves a good drag show, and you’ll find the most fabulous of them here. Folks who prefer to be the center of attention can show up for an amateur strip night, or let their inner club kid shine on the dance floor.

Highland Lounge
404 Colorado

Best Non-Theatre Film Venue

What is better than a warm summer night spent outside with some of the best independent films of the year? Add a delicious picnic and your furriest canine companions. You really can’t beat it. Get there early to talk and drink with friends on the beautiful grounds of the French Legation Museum. The screen is huge and located perfectly at the bottom of the hill which means that you don't have to struggle to see over someone's head. Cinema East screens the latest works from rising indie stars such as Lawrence Michael Levine, Sophia Takal, Onur Tukel, and Amy Seimetz. The film starts when the sun goes down, and oh boy, is there nothing better than a movie under the big Texas sky?

Cinema East

French Legation Museum
802 San Marcos St.

Todd V. Wolfson

photo by Sandy Carson

Best Outdoor Venue

Sometimes we take Stubb’s for granted; so many places and events compete for our music-loving attention. But it takes just one show, even just one sight – say, Carrie Brownstein shredding atop Janet Weiss’ bass drum – to remember the transcendent times Stubb’s delivers on the regular. Readers brought the love this year to crown the magical spot that keeps Red River rockin’ steady.

801 Red River

Best Party of the Year

Every year for nine days, Austin is taken over by a party as big as Texas. Every venue possible is filled with drinks and music, drinks and movies, or drinks and technology … sometimes all in the same place. There are designated “parties” at the festival, but there's pretty much one wherever and whenever you go. You can rub elbows with rock stars and movie stars all over town, and maybe get your demo heard or your script read. Just don’t get too wild and embarrass yourself in front of all the important people.

South by Southwest
1400 Lavaca

Sandy Carson

photo by Sandy Carson

Best Place to Dance

Shake your bits and get groovy at Thursday’s Grits N Gravy. Dance yourself into a haze at Tuezgayz. Rock your Amadeus at Footloose Fridays. Perfect for dancing with friends or strangers any night of the week. Oh, Barbs! Thank you for all of those memorable nights (and the ones we can’t quite recall).

611 Red River

Best Scenester/Mover and Shaker

Summertime in Austin (or any season, really) wouldn’t be the same without Maggie Lea. From producing the Cinema East movie series to throwing the best parties (typically featuring the coolest bands) at Cheer Up Charlies, Lea is a massive force about town. Austin’s social scene may be rapidly expanding, but Lea stays ahead of it all, setting the standard by raising the bar, with her surefire mix of art, cinema, and music. Just don't call her a scenester. Or a mover-and-shaker. At least, not to her lovely face.

Cheer Up Charlies
900 Red River

Cinema East

Best Underground Event

It's often dark. Almost always dank. We are honor-bound to not say what it is, only to tell you that once you go, you'll be forever changed – for better or worse. Hotly tuned olfactories know when it's in the air, and with a discreet email query, learn where it will pop up. Intimating what you'll uncover there (a sea of smells and sweaty bods, gyrating for green and glory) is already giving too much away. Even an award can't take away its cred (nor blow its cover).

Best Video Game Studio/Developer

As the first to beat "BOA" front-runner BioWare in this category, Rooster Teeth deserves all the chatter. This tech-savvy company, started by Burnie Burns, Matt Hullum, Geoff Ramsey (né Fink), Gustavo Sorola, and Joel Heyman, has blossomed from the egg that hatched videos and game-related conversations into the full-grown cock of the walk it is today. From nostalgic nights watching Red vs. Blue to the annual RTX convention, this fanged fowl holds a place in Austinites' hearts, taking this prize two years in a row.

Rooster Teeth

Readers: Arts & Culture
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