A hot tip from a Bar Tab enthusiast alerted us to a legendary haunt “just like the Regal Beagle,” the much celebrated fern bar from ’70s sitcom Three’s Company. But Regal Beagle comparisons get thrown around a bit too casually when old-man bars are the topic. Bar Tab has been on the trail of the fern bar before, which led us to the Highlander `See “There May Be Only One,” February 25`, a great neighborhood bar that retained only a vestige of its fern-bar beginnings. Would Waldo’s Night Club live up to the hype?
We arrived at the far-Northside Waldo’s and stepped inside. Was this how the archeologist Hiram Bingham felt when he rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911? Waldo’s might be the last of the great ’70s fern bars left in the Southwest. It has everything but the actual ferns: red carpet, fake Tiffany glass, an easy-going atmosphere, and an appreciation for classic music (witness the hilarious cruise-ship-style cover band on Friday and Saturday nights when the old-timers take over).
We took a seat at the bar and exchanged pleasantries with Jenna, the vivacious waitress. One crewmember ordered a Salty Dog with local Dripping Springs vodka in a lowball glass, which is sort of like ordering a short latte. And speaking of holding the milk, I considered a Colorado Bulldog but came to my senses and nixed the Coca-Cola and cream and settled on a simple Black Russian with Dripping Springs vodka and Kahlua. The pour was loose and strong.
There weren’t too many people hanging around Waldo’s when we arrived — a couple of women in their 20s, a small group doing shots in celebration of a birthday. While the bartender commented that one of the Bar Tab crew looked like a young Gene Wilder (more 1970s references … ) I walked around the bar and took note of the photos adorning every inch of the walls. Here’s what I learned: Waldo, aka Scotty Young, was a superstar high-school football player in the 1940s and led his school to a state title; he was friends with Willie Nelson and our own Dan Cook; he dressed like Hugh Hefner; and most importantly, the ladies loved him. Sadly, Waldo passed away last month after owning the bar for 30 years. In one corner you can find a funereal-looking memorial to Waldo, which, oddly, was erected years before he died. For the moment, Waldo’s Night Club is untouched and faithful to Waldo’s vision. Check it out before it changes.