It’s not every day that an entire bar gets dressed up for Halloween, but it’ll be happening for the second year running at Nickel City. The East Austin bar transformed into Moe’s Tavern of "The Simpsons" fame last year, a move that went viral — and it’s adding a whole lot more to the experience this time around.
Shortly after the bar’s facade received Moe’s-appropriate accents of purple and "Simpsons"-related drinks like Squishees were added to the menu, Nickel City was featured in major publications and websites like the Los Angeles Times and CNN. All that attention came as a shock to co-owner Travis Tober, who said he "had no idea that we would become that big."
"I think by Saturday (last year) we were the number 1 trending thing on Reddit. I actually had no idea how big and difficult that was to do," he said. "By Monday I had back-to-back phone calls from Fox and CNN news. Which is crazy because I didn’t think they agreed on anything!"
Having drummed up so much fanfare, Nickel City is, of course, going all out this year and has even involved the business next door. The neighboring J & J Spirits is dressing up as the Android's Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop, which "Simpsons" fans might recognize as the Springfield store run by Comic Book Guy. Plus, the on-site food truck Delray Cafe has turned into fast-food joint Krusty Burger, and Nickel City’s back bar, Cash Only, is the Springfield DMV.
Nickel City even had a Love Tester built — a love machine at Moe’s Tavern that appeared in a few episodes of the longtime show. It "really brings everything together," Tober said.
He said there are a lot of little touches this year that weren’t present for the inaugural activation last year, such as Moe’s Tavern coasters with the Flaming Moe recipe on the back. That’s just one of the returning drinks, such as the Squishees. But even the beverage menu has been taken up a notch, with new "Simpsons"-themed options, because "we had time to think out the cocktails a little better," he said.
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Additions include the sweet-sounding Malk Punch with Bulleit Bourbon, Grand Marnier, Cocoa Puff-infused cream, chocolate bitters and a Holy Roller doughnut. And if you want to lay off the hard stuff, Duff beer is again an option.
The Moe’s Tavern activation runs through Nov. 3. Each night at Nickel City, at 1133 E. Eleventh St., will also have a charity component. On Tuesday night, 100% of the cocktail proceeds at Cash Only (a.k.a. the Springfield DMV) will go toward a GoFundMe for a bartender in San Antonio who died suddenly.
In a month, Nickel City will transform again — into a Christmas-themed pop-up bar serving tiki cocktails. Sippin’ Santa returns on Nov. 25.