With a city motto of “Keep Austin Weird,” it should come as no surprise that many of Austin’s bars and lounges are wonderfully wacky and unique. Whether it’s a chicken pooping on a bingo board at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon or the 365 days a year Christmas lights at Lala’s Little Nugget, visitors or locals will never have a dull evening in the Capital City. In continuation of our spotlight on Austin, the Hipstercrite compiled a list of the city’s nighttime hangout spots with an eccentric streak:
Lala’s Little Nugget: Many stories have circulated surrounding the Christmas lights and decor that hang 365 days a year in North Austin’s favorite dive bar, Lala’s (short for Lala’s Little Nugget). As legend has it, many holiday seasons ago, Lala received word that her son was killed which prompted her to never take down her festive furnishings in honor of his memory. In truth, no such story exists, but Lala has done little to dispel those rumors. A favorite with old timers and young’ens in the growing Allandale district, Lala’s is where country-western Americana meets horn-rimmed hipstercana in the perfect time capsule of yesteryear. The full bar features cheap drinks, bar food, a pool table and jukebox; ladies, don’t be surprised if you’re swept off your feet by one of Lala’s regulars to the sounds of Patsy Cline. As evident by the Christmas decor, Lala’s is not fond of change.
Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon: A tiny Austin institution in the shape of church, this North Burnet dive bar established in 1970 is enjoyed for its cheap beer and country music, but beloved for its Chicken Shit Bingo- which is exactly what it sounds like. Every Sunday afternoon, spectators can watch as a chicken, completely ignorant to the monetary power it possesses, is fed and let loose in a caged bingo board to let nature and luck intersect. The winner can walk away with a decent payout. The event is popular, so make sure to bring lawn chairs in case the party spills over into the parking lot. Even when farm animals aren’t defecating on the premises, Ginny and her daughters make sure that old-school Austin fun is the #1 priority at this crusty, rough-around the edges honky tonk.
The Carousel: There is something David Lynchian about the circus-themed wallpaper and decor at Northeast Austin’s cherished beer and wine-only bar. Similar in size and antiquated decor to its fellow North Austin dive bars Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon and Lala’s Little Nugget, The Carousel features a no-fills attitude in paint-peeling, sticky-floored setting for diehards and newbies looking for a trip down memory lane (or a nightmare- if big tops freak you out.) For those seeking a divetastic time, this is the place to go: cheap beer, circus wallpaper, old-school pinball, a phone booth and country-western music played to the backdrop of a colossal pink circus elephant. But be forewarned- The Carousel doesn’t have a liquor license, so make sure to BYOL (they sell mixers though).
Handlebar: While many of Austin’s most unique bars have been on the scene for decades, a newcomer to the bunch is Downtown’s Handlebar, a mustache-themed bar filled caterpillar-lipped bartenders (men and women), drinks named after your favorite men of mustache lore such as “The Sam Elliot” (Bitters, orange peel and sugar muddled with gin) and “Magnum P.I” (Black Rum, house infused pineapple simple syrup served on the rocks and topped with ginger beer) and a giant mural of Gallagher holding a gun to his head while smoking a doobie. Located at 5th and Brazos, the bar is the perfect marriage of downtown sheen (a beautiful view of the skyline, TV screens and craft cocktails) with divey, hipster cred (a photo of Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug hangs in the bar). And if hipsters and the mustache craze offend you, don’t fret. Pretentiousness isn’t the MO here; Handlebar is simply a place to enjoy good libations while relishing the beauty of facial hair.
The Mean-Eyed Cat: This Johnny Cash-themed bar located in Downtown’s West 5th District, was opened by a fervent fan of the Man Dressed in Black. Filled head to toe with Johnny Cash photos, memorabilia and original artwork, this hideaway, tucked into a rustic early-20th century home, has managed to stay strong amongst the new condos and storefronts growing like weeds around it. An Austin favorite since 2004, this is the place to go to sip on cheap beer or Boone’s Farm or check out Austin’s fine array of country-western and bluegrass musical acts. No liquor is served at this establishment. But let’s face it, you’re really here for the Cash atmosphere. Just this week, it was reported that the original owner sold Mean Eyed Cat. Let’s hope the uniqueness doesn’t fade away.