Meghan: I'm moving back to ATX in a few months, so this crawl was an exciting preview of what to expect in the bar scene when I return.
Jessi: It's a tour I've definitely taken before, and the stops on this crawl maintained our smiles and full bellies the whole ride. Shangri-La kicked it off right with a packed patio at 8:45 on a Friday night. The bartender's self-described "mean Vodka soda" was exactly that, and a perfect pairing with the Green Curry Ebi Ebi Tacos ($8 for two) from East Side King. The kickass patio here could have held us happily captive all evening.
MS: The food from East Side King was a first for both of us and it was amazing. The Buta Meshi or pork belly ($7) comes with a refreshing herb salad and simple jasmine rice. It's like an Asian-fusion party bowl with colorful piles of avocado, corn salsa, pico de gallo, and kimchi. We were convulsing with pleasure – moaning was involved.
JC: Next up, the Violet Crown Social Club is the newer, cleaner baby from Barfly's owners. The long, L-shaped bar had plenty of seats for patrons wishing to hang out and veg in front of TV screens with a draft beer or cocktail. With dark lighting, cool air, and the Beach Boys on the jukebox, this is a perfect after-work stop that holds up nicely into the night. The patio seemed a comfortable gathering spot for co-workers and friends in the mood to chill, and the Detroit-style pizza from the nearby trailer smelled incredible.
MS: I'm on record as a big fan of Rio Rita's marvelous Bloody Marys. The Stocktons were trailblazers in this neighborhood's most recent renaissance, opening Rio Rita as their first outpost in 2008. It's a mild-mannered, daytime coffee shop that evolves into a comfortable bar after dark, offering fabulous drinks in a room filled with furniture worthy of any good thrift store score.
JC: A few blocks down the street, we landed at the Brixton, a neighborhood bar that everyone seems to adore. Tiny, with a jukebox ranging from Hot Snakes to Otis Redding, the Brixton is a straight-up bar that highlights the beauty of tattoos, good folks, and bar talk. The foosball table is the only other accessory, but their Ruby Red Paloma ($5) is my new summer drink of choice: Z Tequila Blanco and ruby red grapefruit juice.
MS: I liked the Paloma, the Firefly Bourbon Texas Tea, and the sweet bartender's smile.
JC: A short trek down to Liberty revealed an especially awesome and diverse crowd. The heavy-hitting jukebox and bartender's spot-on suggestion of Austin Beerworks' Black Thunder ($5) made it apparent why Liberty is such a big favorite. East Side King's second trailer, outside, on the enormous patio, is where I fell in love with the Peanut Butter Curry Buns (two for $8) in all their spicy, delicious glory.
MS: We ended the night in true Texas fashion at a genuine honky-tonk saloon, the White Horse. We ran into friends and enjoyed the live music while waiting in line for Bomb Tacos. An IV of that trailer's habanero onion sauce would make me a very happy girl. It reminded me of the homemade originals at the Hot Sauce Festival.
JC: We arrived at the White Horse about 12:30am, and both the inside and outside areas were jam-packed. We saw a melting pot of beautiful people and a bar staff with nerves of steel and skills to envy, while a lively dance floor full of spinning boots worshiped the band. Beer and whiskey seemed the drinks of choice. Bomb Tacos' hot sauce on the pulled pork taco ($4) had my mouth on fire the entire ride home. I loved it.
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