Not too long ago, I started hearing about a place called Zombies out on Nacogdoches Road, of all places. When I typed the address into Google Maps, it revealed that Zombies is in the same shopping center as what I consider to be SA’s most reliable thrift store – Thrift Town. Now, I could go on for pages about Thrift Town, but I’ll try not to. I’ll try not to tell you too much about my lunatic friend who worked there in the ‘80s and had a habit of stuffing items into my man purse, saying, “These are mine, but I don’t feel like wearing them right now. You can give them to me later.” And I’ll try not to divulge too much about the time I got up the courage to flirt with a certain Thrift Town employee, only to set off my car alarm on the way out (the entire staff watched me turn beet-red as I fumbled with my keys. Somehow, it worked in my favor). So, yes, please visit Thrift Town, where you can unknowingly help your friends steal pantyhose and get laid while behaving like a huge dork. Now let’s go next door, to SA’s newest horror-themed bar and live-music venue.
On a recent Friday night, I took my ultimate BFF Tracy along in an attempt to crack the Zombie code. We instantly dug the red-and-black color scheme, which fit the crowd perfectly. We spotted porcupine-spiked Mohawks, goggles, trench coats, tattoos, face jewelry, and a general absence of color in clothing (or the combination of all colors, depending on how you prefer to define “black”).
An avid horror fan, Tracy was the Bar Tab’s perfect companion, pointing out gory design elements — frantic-looking bloody handprints all over the emergency exit, glossy red paint drizzled and dripping from tip jars, a severed head casually resting on a shelf, a rubber human heart nestled in a beer mug, and the floor, which looks like it was decorated with the help of a blood-spurting body dragged around in circles (allegedly one of the owners’ kids was used as a human paintbrush).
Looking at the offerings, we realized that Zombies is technically a beer bar (specializing in cans over bottles, a thoughtful recycling effort). They do offer setups, however, if you wish to arrive with something more poisonous than beer. We settled for Dos XX drafts ($2.75 each) and wandered into the cavernous back area, where Satantonio were taking the stage. There was a decent-sized crowd, the acoustics sounded clean, and the entire room had that newly finished smell reminiscent of a wood shop (the music-venue portion of the bar was vacant for 17 years until Zombies took over). Although the place would blend in well on North St. Mary’s, it reminded us of Austin more than anything else.
When there’s not a band playing, Zombies screens horror movies in the front bar. Curious if the vibe would be any different on one of these nights, I decided to check out the place during the week. I’m glad I did. It felt totally different — like a friendly neighborhood dive with a few body parts scattered around. This time, I ordered a can of Tecate ($1.50 during Happy Hour) and took a seat at the bar with a handful of folks who all seemed to know one another. As Surrogates played behind the bar, small talk around me included tattoos, death metal (one guy seemed to be rehearsing a song by shrieking the lyrics at a surprisingly hushed volume to his drinking buddy), and technology, with frequent appearances by the “f” word and loud, proud belches from women and men alike. Suddenly, with television being the main focus, all that was missing was a loaded bong and dirty wall-to-wall carpeting and the place could’ve passed for the “thrasher dorm” at any given college. While these elements might bother some people, I felt totally welcome, and to my surprise, when Surrogates ended, the guy next to me picked up the tiny remote to the Apple TV he had brought with him to share from his horror collection. Scrolling through a seemingly endless list of movies, with 10 eager viewers now lined up at the bar, he announced, “OK, someone better buy me a drink,” and fired up a bootleg copy of Zombieland.
— Bryan Rindfuss