The Austin Chronicle

Crawl No. 1

Yellow Jacket, Weather Up, and the Scoot

By Claudia Alarcón and Wes Marshall, August 10, 2012, Food

Wes: Our group of husbands and wives had a great time visiting these places. None of them felt aggressively hipster to me; we never had anyone with arm-covering tats and a handlebar moustache give us a glare for violating their turf. In fact, the Yellow Jacket Social Club has a comfortable, lived-in feel that aims to attract a neighborhood bar crowd as much as the Urban Outfitted. The furniture is funky, but comfortable, and the interior is quiet enough to allow for conversation. Outdoors, it's more picnic-y and, as at more places these days, friendly, well-behaved dogs are welcome.

Claudia: All of the establishments on our list have completely different decors, vibes, and purposes, but they're all within walking distance of each other. The Yellow Jacket starts serving food and drinks at 11am. The menu is simple, but kind of chef-y, featuring pressed paninis, soups, salads, bar snack items such as the roasted sweet potato wedges with curry mayo that we all loved, seasonal specials, and a weekend brunch with above average Bloody Marys.

WM: Every type of drinker can find something here to make them happy. The bartenders all make classic cocktails and the Yellow Jacket also has a short but uncommonly adventurous wine list. The best white for folks on a budget is the refreshing French Picpoul ($20). They also have a Spanish Txakoli Rosé ($38) that matches perfectly with the meats on the charcuterie plate ($14). The best sandwich we tried was the pork belly bánh mì ($8), oozing with yummy vegetables and rich meat, warm from the panini press; the Cuban beef ($7), with pulled beef piled on a bolillo with wine-braised onions was a winner as well.

CA: Yellow Jacket doesn't have live music, but fun, zany events such as their Easter petting zoo extravaganza are a regular occurrence, so keep an eye out for those.

WM: Kathryn Weatherup owns two successful bars in Brooklyn, and The New York Times has swooned over her abilities, saying "she lavishes attention on her cocktails, which she approaches with the punctiliousness of a lab technician and the purity of a nun. In her hands, a classic manhattan is a four-minute rite." After a visit to Austin, Weath­er­up saw the light and decamped to our town, where she and partner Gabe Harrel­son have created Weather Up. She's so serious about her craft, she even obsesses about ice. The property boasts a $6,000 Clinebell CB300X2 commercial ice machine that spits out 300-pound blocks of clear, crystal ice – the type ice sculptors use.

CA: They've transformed the former Shuck Shack space into a replica of the Brooklyn Weather Up original, complete with white subway tiles, copper light fixtures, and brass accents. The patio is still a beautiful place to hang out when the tiny indoor space is full; alas, service was lacking even on a Wednesday night.

WM: The 15-page drink menu is a masterpiece of design. Each major spirit group gets two pages, broken down into six preparation methods, and all drinks are $10. My favorite was the Pepino Fizz, with tequila, lemon juice, cucumber, egg white, and soda. The only sour note was the bored, obstinate, and generally unavailable server who seemed to be suffering terminal ennui.

CA: I returned another afternoon and had a much better service experience, finding former Fino barman Josh Loving running the bar, just back from chain-saw harvesting perfect ice from the adjacent factory. Although the bar was every bit as busy as on our previous visit, the staff was cheerier, and the drinks came quicker. I also found out that their plan to have chef Kristine Kittrell preparing food is on hold while they navigate the city permit process. I definitely preferred sitting at the bar, despite the stylish but slightly uncomfortable stools.

WM: The Scoot Inn can hardly be described as a hipster joint. It's been in business off and on for over 140 years, making it one of the oldest beer-slinging honky-tonks in Texas. For most of its life, the Scoot served railroad workers, warehousemen, and travelers – if these old walls could talk! These days, its home to an eclectic music scene where, on any given night, you'll run into acts as diverse as Mayer Hawthorne, Brownout, EL-P, or Spoon. Folks who can balance a beer while scoring at Skee-ball will love Scoot Inn.

CA: I have to admit that hanging at the funky Scoot is not always my style. The inside is downright divey and the bathrooms are strictly to be avoided. However, their ample beer garden boasts one of the best outdoor venues for live music and kooky, fun events, and the owners are very generous when it comes to hosting benefits for a variety of purposes. Partygoers can choose from bottled or draft beers, a full bar, and an above-average wine selection. The service can be quick and friendly, or surly and curt, depending on who is working.

CA: Although it didn't quite fit our bar crawl agenda due to limited hours, the tasting room at Hops & Grain Brewery is well worth a mention. It's only open for tours and tastings a few hours on Friday and Saturday afternoons, but is happy to welcome visitors eager to try the fresh, seasonal craft brews.

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