THE DRISKILL HOTEL
604 Brazos St.
Austin, TX 78701
800.252.9367 | 512.474.5911
GOD BLESS THE HOTEL BAR. Here's the skinny on the Driskill Hotel: It was built by Jesse Lincoln Driskill in 1886, on what was then Pecan St. and is now 6th St., which is pretty much where everything goes down for SxSW. Another helpful factoid? While the Capitol building was being built, the state legislature used the Driskill for meetings and official business.
This giant bull's head adorns the fireplace in the bar, which has all the woody ambiance you'd expect from a quality hotel bar. The ceilings are ornately decorated, a large bar sits in the middle of the room and various couches and tables are arrayed around it, and there's even a high piano which has stools encircling it. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever seen it, but I already know I love it. Sitting around a piano? That's great.
They have an extensive selection of liquors and beers, including some of the earmarks of a quality place; Red Breast Irish whiskey in particular, but they've got all the top shelf stuff. Plus, there's a good spread of specialty cocktails.
My choice? The Colonel Driskill, which is listed under martinis, but isn't really a martini. It's Corzo Reposado tequila, Cointreau, a splash of sweet & sour, and jalapeno stuffed olives. You read right: It's basically a margarita with olives in it, but man it kicks ass. They rim the glass with salt, so the salty sweet balance is nigh perfect. This bad boy will set you back $14, though. Our prompt and awesome waitress also brings mixed nuts and a dish with more jalapeno stuffed olives.
Matt Perkins (of radio promoters Vitriol and the Nomad Pub) has a Sidecar, which is up to snuff, but also $14. He switches to a local beer called Live Oak, which shares its name with a street here in Austin. Lindsay Kimball, she of 89.3 the Current, sticks with Amstel Light, which is a solid choice to go with food, which arrives shortly.
This is not your average pub fare. Kimball gets the grilled cheese, which she says is the best grilled cheese she's ever had. It has truffle oil, which is never a mistake. I get the steak sandwich, which has a great horseradish sauce on it, and Perkins goes with the burger, which is a little more well-done than he generally likes it, but the presentation was good and his general satisfaction was high. "Four out of five stars," he says. He also introduces me to a condiment combination of ketchup and mayo. I've seen it in the movies, but never tried it. Perkins is right. It's great.
I switch to an Old Fashioned, which is good. There's not as much muddled fruit in there as I generally like to see, but the balance is right and it's a drink I'd recommend, especially at half the price tag of the Colonel Driskill. However, if you go, you owe it to yourself to try at least one of those bad boys. (McPHERSON)