Steeped in 147 years of fun-loving history, Austin’s oldest operating business is a far cry from your local sports bar.
By Erin Gray, Photo by Elizabeth Shear
When first-time visitors set foot in Scholz Garten, they might expect to get the experience of a good ol’ fashioned sports bar. Riddled with neon beer signs and regulars chatting up bartenders, it looks like an ordinary bar. But Scholz Garten is far from ordinary. The oldest operating business in Austin, Scholz Garten continues to show Austinites that things only get better with age.
The year was 1866: A man by the name of August Scholz opened his café and bar to the Austin public, and quickly acquired a large following with the local German population. Scholz continued to run the place until his death in 1891, and it crossed several owners’ hands before it was sold to the Austin Saengerrunde Society, who are still the owners today. Scholz Garten has always been a favorite among politicians and political-minded people. From Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s campaign posters to Ben Sargent’s political cartoon of the Killer Bees, politics has made its home at Scholz Garten.
In 1966, the Texas Legislature recognized Scholz Garten as “a gathering place for Texans of discernment, taste, culture and erudition, epitomizing the finest traditions of magnificent German heritage in our state.” It continues to house debates not just among politicians, but from other Austin citizens as well.
It’s not just a place for politicians to hold their campaign dinner; sports fans also love taking in a game with a few beers at the bar. Scholz Garten’s sports history dates back to 1893, when the UT football team had its first undefeated season. Since the bar was so close to the stadium (two blocks to be exact), the team started celebrating its wins at Scholz Garten. Although the football team doesn’t celebrate its victories there anymore, many Longhorn fans will gather at Scholz before or after a game to cheer on their favorite team.
After 147 years of business, Scholz Garten continues to satisfy regular customers and new visitors. But what is it about Scholz Garten that continues to draw people back? There are several reasons, but the first answer is the food. If you’ve never had great German food, put Scholz on your bucket list. Scholz Garten offers four German plates for their customers: Wiener Schnitzel, Jägerschnitzel, Scholz Schnitzel and grilled bratwurst. Add some sauerkraut and German potato salad, and it will seem like you are in Deutschland. If you aren’t really interested in broadening your food horizons, that’s OK; Scholz Garten offers plenty of regular Texas fare on their menu too. If you love barbecue, they have it. If you love home-style cooking, they have it. If you just want a plain American hamburger, they have that too.
Every Wednesday they have live music, and of course, we cannot forget about the beer. Scholz Garten has 26 beers on tap, as well as 26 bottled beers, ranging from Miller Lite to Franziskaner Hefe Wiessen. For the beer lover, it can be difficult to decide what brew to choose and, like a lot of places, the good stuff isn’t always cheap. Fortunately, Scholz Garten offers a stellar happy hour seven days a week, from 4 to 8 p.m., on weekdays and all day long on the weekends. Deals include $4 20-ounce beer flights on Mondays and $2 domestic bottles on Wednesdays.
But above all, the atmosphere at Scholz Garten has continued to bring in customers for one and a half centuries. People are encouraged to come as they are: Nobody is putting on airs or pretending to be somebody they aren’t. The staff and the bar take you in with open arms, and it’s nice to go to a place where no one feels like they are being judged and can instead just sit back, watch a game, eat some good food and sip on a cold one.
Scholz Garten has many of the qualities that make bars successful: food, beer, fun game days, culture and a relaxing ambiance, but ultimately, the driving force behind Scholz’s appeal goes back to its roots. When a patron walks into Scholz, they can feel the energy of 147 years of fun-loving patrons. From TV broadcasts and political fundraisers to music performances and wedding receptions, people choose Scholz for their special moments year after year and will continue to do it for 147 more. One of the managers at Scholz Garten, Jeremy Benton, believes a lot of Scholz’s success has to do with its legacy.
“Being open for more than 140 years, they know we aren’t going anywhere,” he says.
Austin’s Best Sports Bars
Since opening its doors in 2010, Bar 96 has been a favorite place for sports fans to kick back and relax while taking in a good game. Although the Rainey Street bar is relatively new, it feels like home the second you walk in the door, with a wraparound porch, games such as cornhole and Jenga, and a variety of beers and drinks. Hit up the backyard food trailer, Bomb Tacos, and wash it down with a Grapefruit Shandy or Moscow Mule. 96 Rainey St., 512.433.6604.
In its 80-year run, many people have walked through the Tavern’s doors—from politicians to students—and there has never been a dull moment. Built in 1916, it was originally established as the Enfield Grocery store, and in 1933, was turned into what is now known as the Tavern. The current menu includes chicken-fried steak and their signature Kolache bun burgers. Catch a game on one of the many 50- inch LCD TVs while enjoying a beer from their 50-bottle list . 922 W. 12th St., 512.320.8377.
The Park at the Domain
After a full day of shopping with your significant other at the Domain, treating yourself to a much-needed game and a beer is a must. Find yourself a seat at The Park at the Domain. Located on the ground level of the Aloft Hotel, the bar has something for everyone to enjoy with an atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re at the game. They have 35 HDTVs, 12 HD projectors and an awesome 360-degree “Ring Screen” to boot. Guests who want a private party can reserve the Clubhouse Room, which holds up to 40 people and features a big-screen projector, plasma TVs and a private bar with servers. They have daily specials every day, such as the BBQ Mutha Clucker and Sirloin Sliders. 11601 Domain Dr., 512.478.7275.
Sometimes when you get off work, all you want to do is have a cold beer and watch a game. But downtown isn’t always the best option. For those of you who call North Austin home, Cover 3 has your back. As far as sports entertainment goes, they seem to have everything: 20 TVs, audio air and a great sound system— perfect for a viewing party. They offer a wide variety of food, from beef tenderloin sliders to grilled ruby trout, and they have a wine cellar with 100 wines, 10 Ice Cobra beer taps and two chilled liquor taps. Happy hour is every day and all day on Mondays and Tuesdays. 2700 W. Anderson Lane, suite 202, 512.374.1121.
Cain and Abel’s
Since 1991, Cain and Abel’s has been a UT staple. But it’s not just a bar for college kids; the central bar provides an abundance of good fun for everyone. The bar has a very relaxed feeling. Sit on the porch and people-watch, or take in a game on one of their many TVs inside. The food at Cain and Abel’s is worthy of a shout-out, such as The Famous Fumbler or the 512 Burger. As far as drinks go, they are famous for their Texas Tea, as well as dollar beers on Tuesdays. So if you are looking for a place in the heart of Longhorn country, stop by Cain and Abel’s. They will be sure to treat you like an old friend. 2313 Rio Grande St., 512.476.3201.
Lavaca Street Bar
With a number of TVs showing every game, Lavaca Street Bar makes every sports fan feel at home. If you want to keep your energy up during halftime or you just feel like getting up from your seat, the back room at this Warehouse District bar has a ton of games including pool, Skee ball, ping pong and shuffleboard. This bar would not be complete without some great drink specials: On Sundays, they have $3 wells and Tuesdays, they have $1 Tecate. For Houston Texans football fans, Lavaca Street is their official Austin headquarters. 405 Lavaca St., 512.469.0106.