I rarely go up Blanco. Just not something I’ve thought a lot about. But now, not only will I think about it, I’ll shoot on up there whenever I can. The reason is the Texas Ice House, not to mention the sort of otherworldly feel of Blanco just north of Hildebrand. It’s a different town up there. San Antonio (the real San Antonio, which exists within 410) always offers up a surprise if you’re willing to look.
The ice house is parked across the street from a La Fiesta grocery store, which is advertising beef fajitas, tomatoes, pork steaks, and whole fryers for 59 cents a pound (I can’t make sense of that last one). It’s an open-air affair: two large glass and wood garage doors let in a cool, beach-like breeze. The bar stands, an island, in the middle of the first small room. A wooden table protrudes from the side of the square bar and another table. Patrons, even on a Sunday just after noon, sit all around the bartender at the bar and talk and laugh. Behind the bar is another, smaller room with a pool table. There are mirrors everywhere. The grainy televisions show the Green Bay and Minnesota game, but I’m really more interested in what a cool bar it is. After ordering a Lone Star Light (in a bottle) for $2 (the rest of the beer, if the sign is still right, are $2.25) and tipping the woman, who calls me “sweetie,” I put my behind on a worn, torn naugahyde stool and enjoy the atmosphere.
Across the street people go in and out of La Fiesta. No one is rushing. This lends the entire joint that coastal feel of R & R. The outdoor bar reminds me of a hitching post, but wider. It’s made from strips of wood like hardwood flooring and is at a perfect height to rest my elbows The cars slide by: the lazy crashing of waves. The overhang that extends beyond the garage doors is painted aqua and lends a crispness to the already perfect day.
Inside (a word that doesn’t really apply here), the barflies erupt in laughter and I swivel to eye the decor. The vending machine (one of those corkscrew machines) has had the contents slightly altered and the middle row is filled with packs of cigarettes. Budweiser paraphernalia (miniature horses and carts) cover the walls and the clock is stuck at five minutes to 12: a perfect symbol for the pace and atmosphere. The moment of peace lingers in the air — if only this were a bar that never closed (it does come pretty close). So get yourself up there pronto, kick back, and make believe that you’re on the beach. This place is just that good.