First Look: Stay Gold

Hitting pay dirt on East Cesar Chavez

photo by John Anderson

The Austin bar scene has added names to its roll call at a dizzying pace in recent years. Drinking establishments have spilled into neighborhoods and found their ways into nooks and crannies, from old parking garages like Garage to even rooms within bars, like the hidden Vinyl within The Chicago House.

But even with the growing population and the establishments clamoring to open and accommodate the masses, there’s one thing still charmingly true of Austin for those who have lived here long enough: you’re going to recognize people wherever you go. And at Stay Gold, it’s the people behind the bar that have been familiar for years.

Nathan Hill and Will Tanner both established their names at the Hole in the Wall, the 40-year-old venue that has served as home to the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Doug Sahm, and Spoon before its Billboard days. Hill went on to partially owning the East Sixth darling The White Horse in December 2011. Together, they’ve opened a new bar on East Cesar Chavez, joining the likes of Weather Up and Drinks Lounge.

Lively but not packed to the gills on a weekend, Stay Gold is a respite from the downtown crowd and growing chaos of the Eastside bar scene. Inside, a tall button-tufted booth lines a wall and metal-studded leather chairs invite patrons to hang out in its dark company. The candlelit tables and craft cocktails suggest a sexy speakeasy, but a closer look reveals dive bar touches in the cigarette dispenser by the restrooms and a jukebox that rivals other Austin mainstays like Barfly’s and Shangri-La – even though live bands and DJs take stage in the back nearly every night of the week.

“We like to think of ourselves as an all-inclusive space that allows folks in to relax, drink, get a bite to eat, sip on cocktails and experience jazz, soul, funk, R&B and great groove,” said Samantha Phelps, Stay Gold’s marketing manager.

The bar is more gilded than golden, but the outside truly shines. The patio bar is like a makeshift lounge for a swanky resort hotel; visit during fair weather and you can properly envision your departure from the city to enjoy a more secluded destination with friends.

As for drinks, Stay Gold offers the big name beers and local brews, a selection of wine, and seasonal cocktails. The Old Fashioned is on the sweet side, with simple syrup rather than sugar, and the El Diablo is not for the faint at heart – the habanero-infused Milagro Silver Tequila serves a serious dose of spice. The punchy Black Bee is another winner, a bee’s knees of Hendrick’s gin, lemon juice and simple syrup with a fruity twist of blackberries.

Stay Gold patrons can soon spot another well known face in its resident food truck, Toaster. Hannah Love is a former pastry sous chef for McGuire Moorman Hospitality restaurants, including Perla’s, Clark’s Oyster Bar and Jeffrey’s. The trailer will offer elevated home cooking with a Southern flair.

Hill and Tanner will continue at the helm of their respective bars while their new venture gets off the ground, but that shouldn't be long. The city may grow, but people still want something they can recognize. At Stay Gold, one gets the feeling that some things will never change.

photo by john anderson

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Stay Gold, Nathan Hill, Will Tanner, Toaster, Samantha Phelps, Hannah Love

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