Occupying a long, narrow building, the Continental Club feels intimate but not too cramped. When it gets too crowded up front, there's a pool room in the back that offers a little more breathing room. The musical acts are often some variation of rockabilly, blues or straight-up rock 'n' roll.
Country-blues diva Toni Price performs every Tuesday night at "hippie hour" to an adoring, highly participatory crowd. They know all the words and have been known to bark along to the song "Cats and Dogs." Truly an Austin treasure, Toni should be a mega-star, but she has chosen a low-key path, playing only a few other gigs around town other than her Continental Club residency.
Other frequent performers include the gravel-voiced Jon Dee Graham, deadpan storyteller James McMurtry and country crooner Dale Watson. Annual tributes to Elvis Presley and Buck Owens bring out some of Austin's best musicians.
There's a dance floor in front of the stage that's either tiny or medium-sized depending on where they decide to place the chairs for a given show.
Since most of the bands that play here aren't fire-breathing lunatics, the club attracts an amazingly diverse crowd. I remember fondly an evening spent talking to a real estate agent with ADD and a man who called himself The Enigma. He was tattooed from head to toe in tiny green puzzle pieces, and he had two nubby horns implanted in his head. The three of us sat at the end of the bar, enjoyed some great music, and walked away with the feeling that we could solve most of the world's problems if only more people would listen to us. Every possible type of Austinite shows up here, from software geeks to football stars. Yet, I've never seen a fight or even a cross word exchanged at the bar.
Bartenders from Heaven
One of the most impressive things about the Continental Club is the lack of turnover among bartenders. They're genuine music lovers and no-nonsense hard workers. A few of them have been working there for 20 years.
In the 1980s, this part of South Congress (SoCo) was overrun with hookers and drug dealers. The Continental Club helped lead the area's renaissance. Now, SoCo is chock full of antique stores, hip restaurants and upscale boutiques. Right next door is one of the best take-out pizza places in town, Home Slice.
Owner Steve Wertheimer is a fan of hot rods from the 1950s, and you'll frequently find cars from his fellow aficionados lined up outside. When major car shows come to town, all of SoCo fills up with these classic beauties.
Location and Contact Information
1315 South Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78704
Website: The Continental Club