photo credit: Nicolai McCrary
Uptown Sports Club
Uptown Sports Club—the all-day New Orleans-inspired bar and restaurant from lauded pitmaster Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue fame—only opened in April, but it feels like it’s been here forever. It’s by design. In what likely was an eye-bleedingly expensive project, the historic and longtime-abandoned 19th-century building on East 6th Street was totally restored and transformed. This place is now a classic in the making, especially when you combine expertly-made cocktails, a raw bar with oysters, impeccably executed po’boys, and a dining room that’s sunny-by-day and boisterous-by-night.
The place looks and feels like an old-school New Orleans spot, with mosaic tile floors, lazy ceiling fans, vintage lighting, and a gorgeous marble and chrome-accented wraparound bar staffed with bartenders sporting bowties. The building is so old and ruggedly constructed that even cell phones can’t get a signal inside (yes, there’s wifi, and the password is “Be a sport”). Old-timey neon signs on an exposed brick wall proclaim “SANDWICHES” and “COCKTAILS,” so you sort of know what you’re getting into.
photo credit: Raphael Brion
The place hits all the quintessential New Orleans food notes you’d expect—Zapp’s potato chips, bottles of Crystal Hot Sauce on every table, Duke’s mayonnaise, and Leidenheimer’s French bread imported from New Orleans. After some early inconsistencies, the kitchen has started hitting its stride, and it’s been pumping out strong renditions of the classics. The launch menu keeps it simple: there’s a dark, roasty gumbo made with smokey Franklin Barbecue sausage, a classic wedge salad loaded with bacon and blue cheese, and then seafood like smoked trout dip, a shrimp cocktail, and larger, pricey platters. There are also four different po’boys you’ll want to get to know, like the standout and gloriously messy roast-beef version with sliced meat drenched in a debris gravy made with Franklin Barbecue’s legendary chopped brisket. Since it opened, the place has been slowly introducing new menu items, including a burger only available after 3pm, and more recently, a steak-frites in the evening.
The drink menu has your standard beer and wine, as well as classic cocktails like French 75s. Not to be confused with more classic Austin frozen cocktails like margaritas, you can also get Freezes, thick and creamy milkshakes inspired by the Camellia Grill in New Orleans (they’re made using a vintage blender from the now-shuttered Clarksville institution Nau’s Pharmacy). Unlike the Camellia Grill, however, you can also add hard liquor to a Freeze, which pushes it into a more Midwest supper club ice cream cocktail territory (it’s Wisconsin by way of Austin by way of New Orleans, and we’re into it). That said, we’re not sure a Freeze would pair well with a dozen oysters, but they go really great with the bread pudding. It’s the boozy milkshake you never knew you needed, until now.
photo credit: Raphael Brion