At these Austin dives, you can get a blast from the past — or pass out

Morgan O'Hanlon

With a reputation as one of the drunkest cities in America, it’s no wonder Austin’s as full as a pint glass as far as boozy beverages are concerned. In addition to having a lot of venues, Austin’s bars have a lot of history from different eras — so if you forget what happened during a night out, you’re in good company. In order of oldest to youngest, a night at these dive bars will take you on a ride through our city’s storied past (with a few stops at boozetown along the way).

Dry Creek Cafe and Boat Dock (1953)

Don’t take the name literally — Dry Creek Cafe is anything but. UT students once ventured off the 40 acres for a scenic ride down Mt. Bonnell Blvd. and the tasty brews that awaited them at the end. Besides the devil’s nectar, what really kept them going back was one crotchety bartender. Sarah worked at the cafe for decades, during which she built her reputation as Austin’s meanest bartender — an affectionate term, of course. She died in 2009, but her son still owns the bar. Angel Altenhofel is the one behind the counter these days, taking over after another bartender served a short stint after Sarah.

Sahara Lounge (1962)

Drive east down Springdale and you’ll encounter an out-of-place oasis on a tree-filled road. The venue is like a mirage in more ways than one. Featuring jazz bands, African drums, blues music and Caribbean sounds, patrons at Sahara Lounge need only close their eyes to be transported to another country, or continent. If you open your eyes again to chat with one of the pleasant bartenders, you’ll be greeted with a hospitality that channels a time when Austin was a smaller and slower place than it is today. The Sahara Lounge’s schtick may have changed over the years, but its personality certainly hasn’t.

Donn’s Depot (1972)

Like most people who pass out drunk after a night out, Donn’s Depot rests between 5th and 6th Street. Half a mile west of Lamar, this repurposed train depot hosts a delightful mix of old fogies and 30-somethings. A good portion of the patrons may have been alive to see Waylon Jennings back in his day, but don’t be surprised when these baby boomers bust some moves on the dance floor. Live bands play throughout, so bring your boots! Don’t have dance partner? On weekend nights, one octogenarian is always looking to two step. He wears a neon green shirt that reads ‘Chick Magnet’ and high socks, so you can’t miss him!

The Common Interest (1974)

At this Karaoke bar in North Austin, patrons come to drunkenly holler the words to everything from “Cut to the Feeling” to “Be Prepared” from the Lion King. This inconspicuous venue in a strip mall off North Burnet Rd. looks like a place football fans would gather for wings on a Thursday night, but the sports-bar dressings shouldn’t deter any musical theater geeks or aspiring divas — the atmosphere inside is not only lively, but accepting. Singers of all skill levels and musical tastes will make even the worst singers feel at home. Best of all, the more you drink, the better the both you and the other performers sound.

Hole in the Wall (1974)

If you’re looking for a true Austin venue, but don’t have a ride, hop right on over to Hole in the Wall. This Austin dive may be among the younger on the list, but you can walk there. Take a trip over after a long day of classes or exams to get hammered — and maybe spot a professor while you’re at it.