St. Joe’s is a perfect place to go for a quiet, cheap cup of beer (I’m talking $1.25 for Shiner on tap). The huge round tables and blocks of square-tops with beer shelves underneath make them ideal for playing a game of dominoes. The only sound comes from the corner of the bar, where a television is tuned to the weather channel. While not as bright as I remember it, the oddly modern, purple-tinted lighting is more on par with a German beer hall. It is nice, after being in dark bars, to be able to see your beer. The place is a society hall — more a place to meet friends and laugh than a place to drown your sorrows (in fact, a sign over the bar warns, in that typical bar fashion, “$5.00 charge for whining”).
The place is utilitarian. Conversation Bar, as it’s aptly called, is located in a building that also houses a hall that can be rented out for weddings, anniversaries, or any other kind of party (short of a demonic ritual: this is a Roman Catholic Benevolent Association). Two feet of beige paint creates faux wainscotting on the cinderblock interior; the remainder is white. It looks newly painted.
The bar itself, part of the same room, is where everybody but myself and my companions were seated. The ceiling above it is painted black, and strings of christmas lights run neatly across, again slightly and pleasantly clashing with the rest of the “sensible” interior decor. There is a mirror on the wall where you can see the television reflected at just the right angle, and the bar also boasts a big mirror and a modicum of tap handles. Most days they offer Bud Light and Shiner draught and Coors Light in a bottle. Like I said, utilitarian. They have beer and places to sit. I love it.
We have three rounds (for an amazing $11.25, plus tips) and get ready to go, even though it’s still pretty early (the bar is open from about four to about eight, depending on how many people show up). The friendly bartender waves and smiles back when we leave. All the old guys at the bar keep up their banter. This is small-town San Antonio at its best (the sole 21st-century anachronism being free WiFi). If I come back a few more times, I’m sure that they’ll learn my name. I think I’ll try that out.