photo credit: Nicolai McCrary
There’s a rich history to The Tavern that you can read all about on the internet or probably in a book somewhere, but it’s best represented by the “Air Conditioning” sign proudly displayed in front of the old German-style bar at 12th and Lamar. And while it’s still a welcome amenity on warm Austin afternoons, it’s significantly less of a novelty than it probably was back in the early 1930s, when they were one of the only places in town spitting out cold air. The Tavern has been around for over a century, and in that time they’ve served as a grocery store, a casino, a brothel, and, of course, a pub.
We like to think they’ve spent the better part of the last 100+ years fine-tuning their menu, because they’ve got some of our favorite classic bar food in town. The wings are exactly what you want out of a pub snack: juicy on the inside with a crispy, almost charred exterior, and tossed in everything from lemon pepper to ghost pepper. But it’s their signature white wings—boneless chicken bites stuffed with jalapeno and wrapped in bacon—that you’ll want to get for the ultimate Tavern experience.
Order a cheeseburger, and you’ll be perfectly satisfied. The beef patty is thick, flavorful, and well seasoned; the sourdough bun is sweet and toasted. But order the Cheddar Blanket—a burger served with a massive plate-sized circle of crispy cheese—and you’ll swear someone just played a prank on you. It’s a burger that’s maybe more fun to look at than it is to eat, but it’s just absurd enough that we can’t help but order it on repeat visits.
The menu is far bigger than it needs to be, but that just makes it easier to please the large group you can show up with to watch just about any sports match on one of their 30+ TVs (though Chiefs, Cowboys, and Texans fans in particular will probably see lots of fellow devotees in the crowd).
We’re not sure what lives The Tavern will go on to live in the next 100 years. But as long as they keep the TVs blaring, the great food coming out, and the AC running, we have no doubt they’ll be around for a while.