Like a vintage love seat museum with beer.
There are traits and descriptions that only come across as compliments when applied to a dive bar, where a certain level of grime and its associated authenticity is welcome. Keeping that in mind, you would be forgiven for assuming you’ve arrived at one of San Antonio’s strip clubs and when pulling up to Bang Bang Bar for the first time. Naturally, the windowless, neon-laden, semi-remote location of the Bang Bang Bar building only aids its appeal as a dive bar whether those traits are typically associated with a gentleman’s club or not.
Opened in 2016, the name of the bar is a nod to the iconic Twin Peaks “Roadhouse” of the same name where all manner of David Lynch insanity takes place. The ownership group includes two members of indie band Girl In A Coma and a past owner of San Antonio’s Martini Ranch, a background that makes total sense given the vinyl-lined, eclectic interior. And while Bang Bang Bar’s history dates to 2016, the building it inhabits has served as watering hole since 1938, its non-central location lending itself well to non-traditional bar concepts over the years.
And from that long lineage comes Bang Bang Bar, a cross between the mentioned strip club exterior and a furniture-focused antique store specializing in pieces that once graced the living rooms of great aunts. Entry to the San Antonio dive bar comes through a nondescript black door jutting out of a red and black painted exterior. The promise of an extensive patio can be seen through a tall wooden fence just off the parking lot, long strings of lights playing off of the wall that separates the building from semi-busy San Pedro Avenue, playing into the dive bar’s reclusive feel.
The space unfolds into a warehouse-like space, high ceilings and black painted walls absorbing even the memory of sunlight. Plush couches, ornate arm chairs and coffee table centerpieces are perched on a series of uniquely positioned pedestals, a network of open-air drinking alcoves that provide seclusion within a space largely devoid of walls. Each hub of seating activity comes with a signature visual element or two, ranging from disco balls to vintage bar glasses to entire vinyl record collections mounted to the wall within ancient suitcases.
A long bar runs the length of this open first room, a largely minimalist contraption backed by a simple selection of liquors far from the classic cluttered dive bar look. Though the Bang Bang Bar neon is impressive and a mounted phonograph certainly holds some appeal, the stars here are the twin, hollowed out, vintage television consoles repurposed into diorama-like alcohol shrines. On this reviewer’s visit, one diorama featured red draping as a backdrop to a Bulleit Rye bottle flanked by two stub-glass High Life bottles.
Bang Bang Bar is the kind of place to grab a beer and take a lap around the space, stopping to absorb each of the uniquely selected pieces that dot the walls, furniture and tables throughout. A secondary space, marked by one of Bang Bang Bar’s only interior walls, serves as a dive bar game room, a secluded selection of dart boards, pinball machines and arcade games made available. The dive bar’s pool table can be found here, as well as a Skee-Ball machine, which likely makes for some intriguing entertainment as nights progress.
Of course, what would a dive bar with a full complement of elevated platforms be without a weekly karaoke night, a feature that fits in perfectly with the décor. Live music can be found on weekends in addition to DJ sets that make use of the space as well. Altogether, Bang Bang Bar carries the drinking tradition of its location perfectly, offering a drinking environment unlike anything else in San Antonio fittingly just outside of the core drinking areas within the city. That it looks like a vintage, hip, reimagined Pier One only accentuates Bang Bang Bar’s appeal.