Nickel City Opens
Legendary East Austin dive reborn as the city's new anytime bar
Fans of the shuttered Longbranch Inn will be pleased as punch to visit Nickel City, an “anytime bar” from former Vox Table beverage director Travis Tober, Via 313 owners Brandon and Zane Hunt, and Javelina co-owner Craig Primozich.
The new concept has the atmosphere of an old-timey neighborhood watering hole from the '60s and '70s and continues the theme with an affordable list of beverage and food. Yes, the stunning wooden bar is still there, as is the dark, divey vibe and funky decor that includes vintage beer and liquor signs and a cigarette machine. We especially love the bathroom doors, identified by a simply stenciled "Whatever" sign.
Tober, a native of Cheektowaga, about nine miles outside of Buffalo, New York, shares a Rust Belt upbringing with the Hunt brothers, who hail from Detroit. The team wanted to recreate the blue-collar bars they frequented and that Tober’s family owned. The unpretentious menu includes contemporary versions of famous mixed drinks (not cocktails), frozen takes on New Orleans classics, and originals from Tober and Bar Manager JR Mocanu.
We enjoyed the Lovejoy, a blend of El Silencio Mezcal, Altos Plata tequila, watermelon shrub, and lime, served over crushed ice in an empty tin can. “It is named after the rough Buffalo neighborhood where one went to fight,” says Tober. The sophisticated Fraise Sauvage, inspired by famed barman Jason Kosmas, features Fords Gin, prosecco, lemon, and fresh strawberry and is served up in a coupe, yet it only costs $9.
Drinks on draft like Aperol Spritz and Pimm’s Cup are always available, as are frozen concoctions like the Irish coffee. To help us deal with the Austin summer, drinks will be $1 off when the temperature outside exceeds 99 degrees.
The bar showcases almost 300 whiskey labels, including special barrels from some of the biggest names in American spirits. They will also host Whiskey Wednesdays, a regular series featuring visits from some of the biggest names in the industry and 25 percent off all whiskey stock. Draft beer selection includes local favorites from Live Oak, Hops & Grain, and Friends & Allies, but also Northeastern fave Bell’s Brewery from Michigan.
The bar boasts a marquee that keeps track of how much Coors Banquet beer they have sold to date. Tober, a certified sommelier, chose a nice list of inexpensive wines by the glass categorized by descriptions like “pink and delicious” and “clean and crisp.” Continuing the playful theme, they added the Date Night package, consisting of a bottle of Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut Champagne paired with two Coney dogs and a small french fry. “I just had to have my PJ,” says Tober.
Food comes courtesy of an onsite truck from the Hunts. The Delray Café, named after “the worst neighborhood in Detroit” according to Brandon, serves what they jokingly call “Detroit-style tapas,” simple, inexpensive favorites from their childhood like steamed-bun sliders, chili-topped Coney dogs, onion rings, fries, and great mozarella sticks. As expected, they serve killer wings by the pound, made from Tober’s family recipe and available in hot, mild, and Franklin Barbecue, served appropriately with blue cheese and veggie sticks.
“We want to serve the okay-est bar food in town,” says Brandon, smiling. Delray is open seven days a week and serves into the wee hours. Delray Cafe is also launching a soon-to-be infamous fried bologna sandwich.
Happy hour at Nickel City runs Monday through Friday, 2-6 pm. The bar is open 2 pm to 2 am daily.