After conducting a series of experiments inside some of SA’s worst (and simultaneously best) dive bars, my fellow Scientists and I decided to play high rollers for a change, moving our lab uptown to Vegas Bar (formerly Babcock Bar).
So how does Vegas (the bar) stack up against Vegas (the city)? First things first: No, there’s no gambling at Vegas Bar. We guess you could make bets on whatever game is playing on one of the many large flat-screens dotting the walls, but we in no way condone that kind of behavior (unless you’re betting against the Lakers). I’m pretty sure pool hustling is also frowned upon — though pulling some “Fast” Eddie Felson action on Vegas Bar’s snazzy red-felted pool tables is tempting.
Despite the presence of some comfy, lap dance-ready faux-suede couches, there aren’t any strippers, either. In general, the vibe at Vegas Bar is more “strip mall” than “strip club.” The lighting is dark but not dank, and the decor wisely ignores Vegas’ seedier elements in favor of casino-themed wall murals and giant poker card light fixtures that elicited at least one “Oooooh” from a fellow Scientist.
At the bar, several of us ordered beers (the selection was decent) and $3 “mystery” shots of the bartender’s choice. I gambled and lost on this one: I’m not a big fan of fruity drinks and my mystery shot tasted like vodka splashed with Hi-C fruit punch. But several fellow Scientists gave their mystery shots thumbs up, so I shrugged it off. Despite being pretty consistently swamped (especially toward the end of the night), Vegas’s bartenders were mostly prompt with drink orders and even looked like they were having fun themselves. At one point, a female bartender “made it rain,” throwing fistfuls of cocktail napkins in the air, to the delight of patrons (and, I assume, the annoyance of the barbacks who’d have to clean it up).
The bar started to really fill out after 11 p.m., with the jukebox thankfully switching from outdated nü-metal (I can go my whole life without hearing “Something in Your Mouth” by Nickelback again) to music more fitting for a party: deadmau5, Daft Punk, and — in undoubtedly a Hangover-inspired moment, Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight.” By 1 a.m. Vegas Bar was officially packed, but the vibe didn’t suffer. Although, as things wound down, we noticed that there were considerably more men than women, some of whom stood around awkwardly leering at the female clientele. “All the guys look like they haven’t seen a girl’s butthole in ten years to life,” Dr. Ellington said. Maybe, but that’s not totally out of place in a Sin City-themed nightspot. Vegas Bar ultimately succeeded in providing a small, satisfying taste of the real Las Vegas, minus the dangers of getting addicted to the slot machines, eloping while blackout-drunk, or getting mauled by a tiger (or Mike Tyson).
8826 Huebner Rd
Vibe: Like Las Vegas without the bright lights, gambling, showgirls, and — well, almost everything but the alcohol.
Best use: Trying your luck with mystery shots, sharpening your pool cue.
Prices: $3 mystery shots
The Scientists is a semi-anonymous drinking club on a mission to test San Antonio’s best/worst/weirdest bars and clubs. We take our mission very, very seriously.