This summer in New York, temperatures got to 103 degrees. Warning signs were pasted on drinking fountains, homeless people were given quick shelter, and kids and adults alike dove into public fountains and opened city-sanctioned spray caps on fire hydrants. Bedford-Stuyvesant probably got hotter than it did in Spike Lee's 1989 movie "Do the Right Thing," and that was hot enough to inspire a "Jheri curl alert," a murder and a riot.
Trying to do their part, The Times and various other news sources recommended everything from eating spicy foods to going swimming, from wearing wet T-shirts to carrying umbrellas. Some suggested staying indoors and sleeping during the day, in the vein of some citizens of Bon Temps, La., in "True Blood", rather than the five boroughs. Some advised avoiding beer, wine, and liquor, as these deregulate your body temperature or some such.
This summer in Austin, on the other hand, has been relatively mellow, though we saw a spike in temperatures this week. When that happens, don't panic and attempt to upend your lifestyle, like our friends in far away northern climes are wont to do when the mercury rises. Here we have hundreds of places to drink and stay cool - from the misters at Opal Divine's to the ice-encrusted mugs at Deep Eddy Cabaret to the following three cooling-down hot spots.
Shoal Creek Saloon
909 N. Lamar Blvd. 474-0805, www.shoalcreeksaloon.com . Hours: 11a.m. to midnight Mondays-Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays.
Shoal Creek's sign is apparently left over from some ancient Hatfield-McCoy rivalry it had back in the day with the nearby Tavern: The Tavern's sign brags of its Air Conditioning, and Shoal Creek's boasts of its Color TV. Though customers are no longer lured by such simple promises (now we want Cold Beer), Shoal Creek's quaint claim reminds us that the place has been around a while and aims to please. It does so with the TVs both inside and out, sure, but it also offers shuffleboard, decent drink deals and daily specials on Cajun fare and comfort food such as garlic soup, etouffée, seafood baskets and pork chops.
The patio, perched on the banks of guess where, is a classic place to have lunch on a hot Texas afternoon; you can watch turtles paddling, live oaks stretching and businessmen eating. The fans and shade keep the sun off your shoulders, and the food, depending on how much you slather it with Tabasco, can help you sweat the heat away. Though the wine list is pretty much what you'd expect (white, red and `pink' wines ranging from $16-$36 a bottle), the bottled beer selection is substantial ($2.00-$4.25), and Lone Stars and Lone Star Lights are a mere $2.50.
2015 Manor Road. 482-0300, www.vivo-austin.com . Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursdays; Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Manor Road's Vivo is a throwback to late '80s/early '90s decadence and vice, but its major sin in the eyes of bargoers is the lack of a proper Happy Hour (the bartender claimed to have `drink specials,' but what she meant was `specialty drinks'). This omission is possibly so devastating because Vivo seems like the obvious place for such an easy unwinding: The crowd comes right after work and the whole restaurant is set up for lounging. Swanky leather couches and eternally flickering candles manage a swinging, Prince-like mood in one corner, and from where they hang on the red and lavender walls, prints of post-Nagel women gaze through their hair, imploring you to buy them a drink. Vivo's slogan - `Better than sex … TexMex!' - is as defining and debatable as its lack of Happy Hour, permeating the place with suggestion (as does their website, which implies that they actually do have Happy Hour).
What Vivo does have, though, is one of the most tropical, well-manicured shady patios in Austin, and if the money the place makes on its admittedly strong and flower-garnished drinks (the house margarita is $9.95, other specialty drinks range from $7.95-$12.95 and bottled beers start at $3.50) goes to palm-frond upkeep and fountain maintenance, it almost seems worth it. If you're a tequila lover, Vivo has a shot menu ranging from $6.95 (Herradura Silver) to $15.95 (Casa Noble Anejo), and food (including appetizers) starts around the $10 range. Each night they fill the women's bathroom sinks with flower petals and ice cubes, which, though unnecessary, is another cool and seductive move.
Gibson Bar and Trailer
1109 S. Lamar Blvd. 386-1345. Hours: 4 to 10:30 p.m. Sundays-Wednesdays; 2 p.m to 2 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays.
Gibson Bar (or Gibson's, or the Gibson, no one seems to agree) is dark and gothic, as if Halloween got lost and wound up waiting all summer long on the 1100 block of South Lamar Boulevard, trying to catch a ride back to fall. The outside is a dark gray coffin-shaped cinderblock and the inside is similarly corpse-like - save for the lively and diverse crowd of hipsters, jocks, older bleached-blond women, younger bleached-blond boys and waitresses who look like they sauntered in from Hazzard County.
Though Gibson has a full bar (including, presumably, the ingredients required for its namesake drink, even though it's actually named for its cross-street), most people I saw were enjoying cheap cans of Pearl ($1!) and bottles of vinho verde or prosecco (at a decent price for a bar - $15 a bottle). Seated in a cold black booth (or at one of their mausoleum-marble-topped wrought-iron tables), beneath powerful AC ducts, exposed beams and a spidery chandelier composed of black desk lamps, you can order food from the outside trailer. The food has baby names - sammies, tater sticks, trailer sauce - but such cuteness belies its substance. Serious hot dogs, the Trailer Burger (on a doughnut, $7.50), and buttermilk-coated fries ($5) are available, along with a cheese plate ($10) and edamame ($5).
Lest you get suckered in by the summery fare and forget that you're in a haunted old revamped automotive repair building, you can top your dog with some `ghost chili' or `ghost mayo' and give yourself the chills.