Consulting is something I do religiously before going anywhere (and something I found extremely useful as a recent voyeur of the Hollywood lands). So, when zero results turned up for Cowabunga, I grew a little concerned, especially when I turned to Yelp and found nothing but past event fliers on Myspace pages and, to my horror, an online rave community. Still, this place couldn’t be too bad. I’d read promising tweets about it just the week before by cool kids, DJ Wyld Stallyns (@_WildStallyns) and DJ Daecos (@Daecos).
My boyfriend and I decided to go around 10:30. We circled the block twice looking for a place to park that wasn’t going to cost much dinero and decided to park along Travis Park. As we approached the bar, I began to realize that it looked oddly familiar. Where the drooping banner now hung, the name of a former hole-in-the-wall, Logan’s, used to be. Memories resurfaced of girls with Betty Page bangs, big-ass beers, and red lipstick they inevitably smeared all over their punk boyfriends’ faces while I tried to order a beer last winter.
Tonight, there was no door guy, which was great for me because I had forgotten my ID. The pool table was in the same place I had last seen it, right by the entrance. But the place was empty, gray, dark, and silent. Were we too early?
As I was later informed by the bartender, Atomix owner Mike Patton bought this bar recently and turned it into a dance club. I could’ve guessed he owned it from the décor of mixed-media art and randomly placed funny mirrors, but not that it was a dance club — at least not this night.
I made my way over to the bar, now located in the center of the room, and asked former Lava Lounge bartender, Karah Carmack, if there was going to be any music tonight. She told me the DJ who usually spins on Wednesdays was probably not going to show up today as her petite and enthusiastic co-worker pointed towards the jukebox.
After ordering margaritas, we found a cozy place to sit on faux-leather booth seats. Carmack broke the silence from time to time by punching in Lily Allen on the jukebox. We then ordered martinis but they were out of olives, so we ordered lemon drops, which to our disappointment tasted much like the margaritas.
An hour or so later the bartender made her way over with a drink in hand and whispered to my boyfriend, “Someone bought you this, but I’m not supposed to say who.” It wasn’t hard to guess. The only people at the bar were a laughing table of five who appeared to have just gotten off of work nearby, a quiet couple, and a lonely man sitting at the bar staring right at him. We couldn’t tell what the drink was though, but after tasting it we joked that it had to include Cowabunga’s universal citrus mix.
Before calling it an early night, we decided to play some hip-hop favorites on the jukebox — “Let Me Ride” by Dr. Dre and “This DJ” by Warren G — to an empty room. It happened to be the best two dollars spent that night.
On my second visit (a Sunday night), I ran into an old friend who was celebrating her birthday at Cowabunga. Adrian Trujillo yelled over the music, “This is actually my first time here and so far I’m enjoying it.” At that point, DJ Chacho was playing Justin Timberlake’s “Carry Out (featuring Timbaland).”
Despite the idle dance floor, people genuinely appeared to be having a good time. And word has it that DJs Daecos and Spaceman populate the floor with dancing feet on Friday nights, while Saturdays belong to DJ Pac Man. I left feeling convinced that Cowabunga is a new place for friends and definitely a low-key alternative dance club for those who don’t want to share the floor with the Jersey Shore. •
402 E Travis St
Search “Cowabunga San Antonio” on Facebook
Prices: $2 wells and domestics, daily drink specials
Vibe: Boring hole in the wall with a chance of DJs
Best use: Weekend dancing to indie music; weekday dates you don’t want anyone to see
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 2pm-2am