The Basics Drinking Out

5 Icehouses That Show the Right Way to Drink in Texas

These open-air saloons are a long-held Lone Star tradition.

The Friendly Spot Ice House façade
The aptly named The Friendly Spot is family-friendly. Image:

 The Friendly Spot Ice House

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. But if a laid-back beer crawl is what you’re after, a (slow, well-hydrated) tour of icehouses is sure to quench your thirst.

What is an icehouse? Glad you asked! A Lone Star icehouse is 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 throwback, saloon-style ambiance.

1. Albert Icehouse and Dance Hall (Albert-Stonewall)

Albert Icehouse and Dance Hall façade
Albert Icehouse and Dance Hall

Located in the not-so-bustling city of Albert (population: 4), in the heart of Hill Country, this one is a popular weekend getaway for those looking to sip beer under the shade of massive live oaks, then cut a rug at the dance hall next door. The town is 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.

2. D&T Drive Inn (Houston)

D&T Drive Inn façade
 D&T Drive Inn

An unassuming spot nestled in a residential area of Houston Heights, D&T Drive Inn is a neighborhood gem boasting more than 50 beers on tap. Straddling the line between traditional Texas icehouse and modern beer garden, D&T features an ever-rotating number of flavored shandies, from blueberry to coconut, and a jukebox full of tunes that balances old standbys with new favorites.

3. The Friendly Spot (San Antonio)

The Friendly Spot Ice House façade
 The Friendly Spot Ice House

A yard full of retro rainbow lawn chairs and more than 250 beers on tap make this San Antonio favorite the perfect spot to spend a Sunday afternoon with the whole family. Hyperlocal beers from breweries like Alamo Beer and the house Michelada are fan favorites, and pair nicely with an impressive spread of Tex-Mex snacks.

4. C. Hunt’s Ice House (Austin)

C. Hunt’s Ice House façade
C. Hunt’s Ice House 

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 enjoy the steamy Texas night.

5. West Alabama Ice House (Houston)

West Alabama Ice House façade
West Alabama Ice House

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 than a bar. Free hot dogs are grilled on Friday nights in the summer, and dogs (of the pet variety) are more than welcome.