Barton Springs Saloon, Austin, TX
Located at the 3rd busiest section in Travis County, Barton Springs Saloon is a converted gas station located in what is called the “Watershed Overlay District”. Opening its doors in 2006, Barton Springs Saloon was the child of the famous Cedar Door bartender and inventor of the Mexican Martini, Jim LeMond. Jim and his then wife, Rebecca, took two years to convert and permit the bar. Rebecca calls the area the “last remaining area of Old Austin”. With neighbors like the Shady Grove, Green Mesquite, Chuys and events like Austin City Limits and the Kite Festival, it really feels like 1985 there still.
Jim and Rebecca bought the gas station because the area had an open permit for a cocktail lounge, which was a surprise to everyone, and sealed the deal for Jim and Rebecca to buy it. Funny enough, the city didn’t believe them, and Jim and Rebecca actually had to show them the documentation from the city records. The city really didn’t want a bar there and fought them on every angle. It was a match of David and Goliath. Rebecca ended up fondly calling them cityiots! (city + idiot). Case in point, the city wanted them to put in chains around the parking lot, so that when the mythical “big flood” came the parked cars wouldn’t float away. Rebecca thought this was so ridiculous she joked about putting a lifeguard stand outside the bar.
When Jim and Rebecca were retrofitting the gas station into a bar they didn’t have much money. To get the bar where it needed to be they literally had paint and build parties. Locals would come by for free cold beer in exchange for some manual labor. In fact one of the locals actually built the bar for them for free! Rumor has it that you can find some hilarious carvings in the tables - go look for it, hint it’s a poem. I guess whoever left it there got a little too drunk at the build party.
The mantra of Barton Springs Saloon is to keep the old Austin spirit alive! For Rebecca and Jim the bar is the last vestigate of true Austin identity, a hippy lifestyle. You don’t have to dress up to go there, you are who you are. Barton Springs Saloon is absolutely an eclectic blend of artists, cowboys and students. They don’t want to import culture. The expeience of the Saloon makes you feel like life is traveling at a different speed there. It’s a big heart just floating along, checking out the oddities of life serving you ice cold beer and heavy handed shots.
Jim LeMond, native born Austinite, had a huge following at the Cedar Door. When he opened Barton Springs Saloon, people flocked to follow him. In fact Cedar Door used to issue bumper stickers to people that said “Follow That Bar”, but when Jim left and started Barton Springs Saloon, people started putting bumper stickers on their car saying “Follow That Bartender”. Jim also would regularly attribute his success to his face saying, “I have a face that makes people want to drink”.
It definitely feels like a dive bar. It’s an old gas station for god’s sake. Outside is a beaten down outdoor deck, which is overlooked by huge mirrored windows, giving it an extra shady look. Inside there are a handful of taxidermied animals, a pool table and a huge mirror above the bar. Naturally, the bathrooms are covered in stickers and graffiti. They even have a pool table. They’re known for their jukebox, and back in the day had an old school jukebox, where at the end of the night you’d press button C59 to play “Sweet Caroline”. As it jammed on, people would dance on the bar till the song’s end.
Supposedly they sell or sold the most Lone Star Beer in Austin. Either way, who cares, go get a drink there. The place is all about neighborhood and family, nobody’s a stranger, and everyone is welcome. A place where you’ll find the same person sit on the same bar stool every Thursday night. Bartenders know you by name and know what you want to drink.
Go get a cold Lone Star at Barton Springs Saloon now!