On a recent visit to my hometown of Austin, I joined a “HeyRiders Mini Dive Bar Crawl”. HeyRiders is a cottage industry of guided bike tours through the little-known dive bars of Austin, Texas. The night I joined, the group visited 3 neighborhood bars. My brother is the proprietor of HeyRiders, so he hooked us up with Humu Humu cruisers and safety lights and off we went.
I grew up in Central/North Austin so the first stop was a bar that my father and his brothers just may have frequented a few times. I guess that makes me a legacy. Ginny’s Little Longhorn on Burnet Road was our first stop. The Longhorn was run by “Ginny” and her daughter for decades, it’s was the kind of place where they sold pickled eggs from a giant glass jar on the bar, you could bring your own whisky, and could hear some great country bands.
I used to be afraid to go in the bathrooms, but now that Dale Watson is one of the owners, the place has been prettied up a bit. Still plenty of character from decades of drinking, dancing, and “chicken shit Sundays”. The night I was there with my beau, brother, and son we heard a great band and had quite a few $2 Lone Star beers before biking to the next stop on Burnet Road.
Oh, by the way, Chicken Shit Sundays was bingo night at Ginny’s. There was a large birdcage on a table in the corner of the bar with an equally large “bingo-board” lining the bird cage floor. After feeding the chickens wet meal and grapes, the patrons would lay their wages down on a number on the bingo board. After letting the chicken feast for a little while, it was let loose in the cage. The numbered bingo board square that took the first dropping was the winning number. That’s all I am going to say about that.
The Aristocrat was the next stop and was known for years as the “Poodle Dog Lounge”. It used to be a bit of a seedy pool hall, and for sure my uncles went there too. Good ole dad doesn’t much admit to hanging around bars back in the day, but you should see the dive bar he goes to every week (that one gets its own story)! There are still 2 or 3 pool tables at the Aristocrat, and new paint has ameliorated the smell of 50 smoky years. The place is spacious and the bar is spiffy, almost trendy, but sometimes you can’t take the dive out of a dive bar!
A very short ride to the next one, Lala’s. It was Christmastime when we went, and the place was decked out with Santa and his reindeer on the roof, stockings for all the helpers, and every sort of xmas decoration, just as it is every other day of the year. The woman who owns the bar decorated it for her son’s return from the Vietnam war, he never did come back, and she never took the decorations down. A sad story, but believe me the place is JOLLY. A tiny place, they have foosball and a pool table and some interesting characters, just ask my son who was being hit on by someone way too close to his mother’s age.
Our tour guide, Michael, has a facebook page for HeyRiders, so hit him up if you are in the ATX for a visit. DISCLAIMER: I am not promoting Austin at all. There is a population problem, the traffic is atrocious, it is overrun with hipsters, and sometimes the weather sucks. I only go there because of my family, otherwise I’d never leave the boring, tiny and outrageously expensive suburban town I live in on Long Island that isn’t near any major shopping areas, entertainment, or good BBQ.
Born and raised in Austin, TX she loves outdoor activities and has made a livelihood by bringing that attitude to her waterfront recreational business, Shore Thing Rentals. During her winter off-season, Shell adores traveling from her home base of Long Island to warmer climates, and sampling all the things the locals love. She is an avid yoga practitioner and sometimes teacher (on and off the water) who balances out the party vices with daily spiritual exercise.