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 San Antonio newcomer Lonesome Rose.
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 is 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.
Although it does offer the Slab Sides barbecue truck, the St. Mary Strip bar Lonesome Rose certainly fits that bill. Wallace says it immediately felt like a classic when it arrived in November 2018. What really sets it apart, however, it its San Antonio vibe.
"On a Saturday night, a handful of dancing couples glided in front of the stage while a mirror ball not much bigger than a grapefruit spun above them, and the lead singer of the 501’s slipped references to the Spurs into a Tim McGraw cover as the ace accordion player added a layer of conjunto to the country sound," Wallace writes.
Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar in nearby Bandera also made the list. Wallace praised its old-school vibe and the music from namesake owner Arkey Juenke.
Elsewhere in Texas, the list was surprisingly diverse. Small-town dives like Devil's Backbone Tavern in Fischer were joined by Austin institution Broken Spoke. Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon, a popular hangout of Houston’s LGBTQ community, also made the list.