All Grown Up

Austin is booming with jobs, condos, festivals, traffic, hipsters, joggers, and high-concept dive bars (anyone for Lone Star and seared foie gras?). Does that mean it’s no longer Austin?

One Saturday night three years or so ago, I celebrated the impending nuptials of two friends at a dinner party in East Austin. Much wine was drunk, and, I’m relatively certain, at least one joint was passed in the backyard. Not bad, I thought, for a bunch of thirty- and forty-somethings. After dessert, the more resilient of us opted to take the party public. We grabbed beers for the four-block walk to a string of refashioned dive bars that had recently opened on East Sixth Street, an area we knew, not without affection, as Little Williamsburg.

Ten minutes later we arrived at the Liberty, which was the watering hole du jour for bewhiskered hipsters. Our bottles empty, we were looking for a trash can when suddenly a great, woolly bear of a doorman stepped from the shadows, snatched them from our hands, and gruffly informed us we were not coming in. That was fine. Street drinking is illegal in parts of Central Austin, particularly in front of bars. We acknowledged our transgression and readied to move on. But then a furious kid in a hoodie popped up and informed us we’d committed a far greater crime. “Hey, yuppies, why don’t you get in your BMW and drive back to Pflugerville!”

“Excuse me?” I said. (Full disclosure: I may have been wearing a blazer.)

“We rode our bikes here!” he spat. “We’re from the neighborhood.”

“From the neighborhood?” I asked. “As in, you came up on the hard streets of East Austin? You used to hang here when this was a string of Tejano bars? Because I don’t remember seeing you twenty years ago when I used to come hear conjunto bands at La India Bonita.” Actually I didn’t say any of that. I was too busy keeping a buddy from dropping the kid in a dumpster.

Once order was restored, we repaired to the Brixton, another new place with a friendlier beard-to-blazer ratio, meaning it was a quarter the size of the Liberty and I knew a bartender. Nursing a Lone Star, I wondered if this was my Lost

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...