A Drinker's Guide to Literary Austin

Local authors dish on their favorite bars for reading and writing

This Saturday, October 27 is the annual Lit Crawl Austin, a literary pub crawl co-hosted by Texas Book Festival and the Litquake Foundation, which features some of the country’s best writers on stage at various East Cesar Chavez and Eastside venues.

Infinite Monkey Theorem (Photo by John Anderson)

The 2018 Lit Crawl Austin promises an evening of offbeat readings, irreverent literary games, trivia matches, storytelling sessions, and performances in some of our favorite spots. Inspired by San Francisco's long-running Lit Crawl and produced with assistance from Litquake – the organization that started it all – this year’s crawl will take place at The North Door ($10 suggested donation at the first destination of the night), Prohibition Creamery, Gelateria Gemelli, Brew & Brew, Lewis Carnegie, and Stay Gold.

Highlights include an epic round of Literary Death Match, featuring authors Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Alexander Chee, Tarfia Faizullah, and Aja Gabel; Black Poets Speak Out, led by Amanda Johnston and featuring Shayla Lawson and Anastacia-Renée; poetry and readings structured by chance in Gulf Coast’s Reading Roulette; noir readings with crime fiction authors at Noir at the Bar; and Lit Crawl Against Humanity with Awst Press.

Inspired by the advent of indoor reading season, we decided to ask some our favorite literary Austinites to share their favorite bars to read at, write in, or just gather background information for stories.

Danielle Firestone, one of the Lit Crawl organizers, says there are a few bars that remain perennial favorites around the Texas Book Fest office. “Lazarus has a lounge area where people read, and a few books on their shelves that people can borrow,” she says. They also like local winery Infinite Monkey Theorem, which periodically hosts a Shakespeare reading night and is named after the axiom that an infinite number of monkeys banging away at an infinite number of typewriters would eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare.

Austin-based poet and writing teacher Molly Moltzen likes Stay Gold, one of the stops this year. “They’ve got a good atmosphere, comfortable patio outside to work on if it’s nice, and [they’re] always supporting local literary events!” she says. Louisa Hall, who taught at UT Austin’s English PhD program and recently released her third novel, Trinity, a fascinating look at the fractured public life of Robert Oppenheimer, likes old-school spot Donn’s Depot. “There were always happy older couples dancing together there,” she says.

Marilyse V. Figueroa – a poet, prose writer, and zine maker who is currently the writer-in-residence at The Writing Barn – likes Butterfly Bar. “It’s such a whimsical place to read and write. Once I was reading poetry there and sipping a French 75 when a seance reading was started in the shed. I jumped in on the opportunity and I feel like my tía reached out through the veil!”

“I’m mostly drawn to watering holes with absolutely zero pretense. In my drinking days, particularly in the springtime, I loved going to Crown & Anchor after work and sitting at a picnic table on the patio with a cold beer and a book flopped open in front of me,” says Cecily Sailer. The founder of Typewriter Tarot, which gives patrons narrative tarot card readings including a written account of the messages the readers find in your cards, adds, “Since I’ve switched to tea and Topo Chico, I love reading at Opa! The wood floors and windows, the porch overlooking a giant oak tree, the relative quiet – it’s the perfect spot for a book. And if I’m reading tarot, it’s Kitty Cohen’s. l love the laid-back vibe, people dipping their toes in the pool, hints of the Seventies. And Wednesday nights come with soul sets on vinyl by Breakaway Records. It’s the perfect midweek escape.”

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