Plein-air party

Release Date: 2009-06-24

Ten years from now, in a potentially dystopic future when River Walk North is overrun with hotels and chain restaurants, we’ll look back and laugh at those crazy early days when anything seemed possible. Some might even recall a surreal little club that set up shop along the river in the parking lot behind Unity Bar (formerly the Voodoo Lounge and SWC Club on Elmira Street). But for now the River Walk Museum Reach is still in its “Wild West” frontier era, and across the river from Pearl Brewery is an awesome little gazebo called the Outdoor Bar.

The bar itself looks like it was borrowed from either an apartment-swimming-pool recreation area or a run-down Port Aransas tennis club, but it works well enough. Such ridiculously low overhead keeps drink prices at depths we haven’t seen for a while. We rode up on our bikes and only had to pay $1 for a Lone Star. Like other places in town, the Outdoor Bar is wisely appealing to the lucrative cyclist/problem-drinker demographic with eco/wallet-friendly specials.

A DJ was spinning the Smiths while projecting flashing lights across the river onto the huge wall of the main Pearl Brewery building, which made the bar feel limitless. One can sit on the plastic chairs or the over-sized wooden benches under the trees and enjoy the late-night calm of the river as pedestrians and boats go by. Don’t expect anything fancy here. This is the taco truck of bars, if that makes any sense, but the location and view are unique to the river right now.

The neighborhood at times seems like a training ground for the vice squad, with all the pimps, johns, mules, and narcs roaming around, but at the Outdoor Bar everything is quiet and relaxed. Approach it from the river — this is the best way to appreciate it. Though the city surely wants high-dollar ventures on the River Walk North, the Outdoor Bar, with its simple, inconspicuous charms, celebrates the river better than any other bankside joint. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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