Bar Tab is all about making sense of the drunken mess of San Antonio bars; like string theory physicists, we’ve been trying to divine order from chaos. A few months back we initiated an investigation into oddly named dive bars (see “DROWN Vol. II & III,” April 8, at sacurrent.com). So far, we’ve realized not only do SA dive bars have weird names, but within that genre is a sub-genre of dive bars with animal names. Yeah, who knew? We’re calling this edition “Welcome to the Jungle.”
Have you ever seen a stray cat and wondered if you should pet it? Club Calico, a bar located one block inside Loop 410 at Vance Jackson, presented this same uncertainty. We smiled at a calico-cat mural outside and entered to the seemingly innocent sounds of Michael Jackson blaring from the jukebox.
Club Calico honors the cat motif with a few stuffed cat dolls placed along the walls. A working-class crowd seemed pretty pumped to be drinking at 7 p.m. The majority of the patrons were seated along the long rectangular bar, but a few created an impromptu dance floor and worked out some Jackson 5 grooves in honor of the fallen King of Pop.
Like much of SA, Club Calico possesses a random, dark energy in which people could just as easily dance or fight. It looked like we were in for a bit of both when one of the denizens took particular notice of the Bar Tab team. We hardly had time to finish a $2 vodka-tonic special (more high octane than actual flavor) before a fake blond began accusing us of not drinking, even though we were clearly in the act. Let’s just say things somehow grew tense. Glances were exchanged. When we jokingly contemplated using our drinking straw as an impromptu shiv to defend ourselves, we realized it was time to move on. Through no fault of Club Calico, we didn’t have much opportunity to really experience the scene.
To mix things up, a crewmember suggested we next try the Cross Eyed Seagull in Stone Oak. The Cross Eyed Seagull is not a dive bar, but it sports a nautical beach theme (like its sister bar, Coco Beach, which Bar Tab reviewed last week) and for Stone Oak this is about as casual as one can expect.
While soaking in all the exquisitely detailed beach décor, we missed an appetizer buffet. I ordered a bourbon and soda and some bar food. I wasn’t expecting much from the cuisine but the grouper sandwich was a great surprise, with a real fillet of fish rather than a deep-fried mystery at its core. However, there’s nothing wrong with the Seagull’s deep fryer: the hush puppies were unexpectedly good — fresh, crunchy, and spicy. This is some of the better pub grub in town.
The hush puppies absorbed the alcohol while I took note of the Seagull crowd. There were a lot of young, beautiful people: many college students home for the summer, but others well into their 30s. Some guys threw darts; others threw their best game at groups of women. This wasn’t a boring crowd but the nautical setting made me think of Jimmy Buffet. In some way it reminded us of the Broadway 50/50: a conservative crowd letting loose. That’s better than a conservative crowd not getting loose.
In the end, DROWN Vol. IV yielded no profound results. We remember the hush puppies most fondly, and those aren’t even real animals.