There’s always a pretty good excuse for a culinary road trip across Texas, whether you’re hot on the trail of brisket or fiendishly searching for the freshest masa tortillas around. But if a boozy quest is what you seek, a (slow, well-hydrated) crawl of icehouses across the Lone Star State is sure to quench your thirst. Texas icehouses are a centuries-old style of open-air, beer-hocking drinking establishment: part low-key convenience store, part bar, part respite from the blistering Southwestern sun. Below are five key places to sip suds and bask in a decidedly throwback, saloon-style ambiance.
One of the oldest still-standing operations of its kind in Texas, the West Alabama Ice House has been around since the outpost actually sold, well, ice. Live music continues to be a popular draw for regulars and out-of-town blues lovers alike, with regulars so welcoming it often feels more like a block party and less like a bar. Free hot dogs are grilled up on Friday nights in the summer, and dogs (of the pet variety) are an integral part of the scene, with pooches sprawled out on the long outdoor porches.
A yard full of rainbow-hued retro lawn chairs and more than 250 beers on tap make this family-friendly San Antonio favorite the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon with the whole family. Hyperlocal beers from breweries like Alamo Beer and the house-made Michelada are fan favorites and pair nicely with an impressive spread of Tex-Mex snacks, like IPA hummus.
After 34 years as a meat processing plant, C. Hunt’s Ice House owner Chester Hunt decided it was high time he breathed some new life into the old building and turned it into—what else?—a bar. A giant trough full of ice (and beer) runs the length of the establishment, ensuring your brew is always frosty. Outside, grapevines provide shade for more than 40 picnic tables, where drinkers can play a game of washers or simply soak in the steamy Texas night.
An unassuming spot nestled into a residential area of Houston Heights, D&T Drive Inn is a neighborhood gem boasting over 50 beers on tap. Straddling the line between traditional Texas ice house and beer garden, D&T features an ever-rotating number of flavored shandies, from blueberry to coconut, and a jukebox full of tunes that do their best to mix old standbys with new favorites.
Located in the bustling city of Albert (population: 4) in the heart of Hill Country, this destination has proven to be a popular weekend getaway for people looking to not only to sip beers under the shade of massive live oaks but cut a rug at the dance hall next door. The town is completely dedicated to the holy trinity of a Texas good time—music, food and cold beer—making it an oasis for anyone with a hankering for icy Bud Light and a basket of fiery wings from the local restaurant The Pig Pen.