Sanchez Ice House is a different place on a cool, breezy winter day than it is in the heat of a late summer afternoon when there’s loud Tejano music from a jukebox connected to outside speakers, dancers, and lots of steel buckets filled with ice and beer. I’ve been there in all seasons (that’s two down here) and even the other day as I sat under a gray sky at just a little after noon, people started trickling in (the usual array of bar flies — those illustrious drinkers come to talk and sip longnecks).
Though they won’t make you a michelada, they do provide lime and a basket of condiments next to the order window: salt in Gerber baby-food jars, holes jabbed in the tops with a knife, and a couple of bottles of Louisiana hot sauce, both of which I shook liberally into my Tecate. A sign above the window lists the price of one beer at $1.50. Then it lists the price of two beers: $3. The list continues to 17: $25.50.
Seventeen seems an odd number to go to. Or stop at for that matter (especially considering the consistent $1.50 increment increase). Such insignificant oddness adds up wonderfully. Beyond the order window (and around a short wall), the bar occupies the tiny original interior (the window is under a plastic and metal extension of the building that shelters a few tables in the narrow space). The main area is outside, almost under IH-35. Once you come out and sit down the bartender comes by with a small blue basket with an upturned ashtray in it. This is where the empties go. He also came out to say that he overcharged me (this was before I saw the sign) and gave me back $.50.
Outside the clouds roiled over the highway, complementing the traffic rumbling along the massive concrete structure. Tinsel-like banners of silver and blue fluttered above the dance floor and the 20 plus metal and wood picnic tables. Every once and a while a Tejano song would tear into the more consistent sounds and then die down. The wind was strong enough to knock over a beer. Undeterred, I ordered another one, eager to get down to the thick, spicy bottom of the can. As I left, I noticed that the sign for Sanchez Ice House, on top of the roof, more prominently displayed “Go, Spurs, Go” than the name of the place. This identification with our only professional team typifies the local love of the city: people come here because it is part of them, part of us.
The Bar Tab
Sanchez Ice House
819 S. San Saba
It’s an ice house, a real one
Regrets, relaxation, procrastination, letting go
Prices Beer: $1.50