On the Texas Monthly cover, it’s not uncommon to see politicians or the latest football phenom, but for the September 2019 issue, the venerable magazine took a detour. After traveling 3,000 miles, writer Christian Wallace named the seven best honky-tonks in the state, including Austin’s beloved Broken Spoke.
Though admitting that the term is “tricky to nail down,” Wallace did set some limits on venues up for consideration by laying down a few rules. Foremost among them was that a honky-tonk is different from the historic dance halls that dot the Lone Star State.
The writer also says that honky-tonks are different from country-themed nightclubs in that they should operate with everyday hours instead of weekend nights. Instead, Wallace says, honky-tonks should also feel more personal than those huge spaces.
Although some honky-tonks do offer food, Wallace wrote that they are not restaurants and the fare should be limited to “the kind you’d find at a Little League concession stand: Frito pie, nachos, nuts, and various fried or pickled items.” The addition of blue cheese to any dish is an automatic disqualifier.
While Broken Spoke’s menu of burgers, steaks, barbecue, and Tex-Mex favorites is as lengthy as any other eatery in town, it nonetheless made the cut. Wallace called the bar eternal, noting that little had changed since James and Annetta White opened the place in 1964.
“The speckled ceiling tiles still hang so low that a tall cowboy has to doff his hat. Chicken-fried steak is still served with steaming white gravy. Twirling couples still waltz, shuffle, and polka on the polished-concrete dance floor,” he writes.
Wallace also gave a shout out to Austin’s booming honky-tonk scene, singling out Ginny’s Little Longhorn, Sam’s Town Point in South Austin, and the White Horse on the east side.
Elsewhere in Texas, the list was surprisingly diverse. Small-town dives like Arkey Blue’s in Bandera were joined by San Antonio’s Lonesome Rose, which has only been open since November of last year. Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon, a popular hangout of Houston’s LGBTQ community, also made the list.