A slice of Austin's 6th Street without bachelorette parties or police barricades.
Part of Casino South Side’s reputation as a dive bar no doubt stems from its hamburger-fueled downtown sister location along Austin’s 6th Street, Casino El Camino. In reality, this extension of the city’s 6th Street energy to Austin’s south side is more an upscale lounge with affordable pricing, albeit without the signature hamburgers that made the original Casino El Camino location famous.
Casino South Side’s location is certainly dive bar-friendly, the Austin bar sitting alongside an access road serving Highway 290. Approaching Casino South Side can feel a little confusing on first visit, a stretch of industrial-looking businesses eventually giving way to the dive bar’s building. Parking may look a bit challenging, but a lit lot behind the building allows for ample space anywhere outside of the peak drinking hours that might require more creative solutions.
Opened in 2013, Casino South Side occupies a short, white, plaster building flanked by a pair of very casino-like lights. Motorcycle parking is made available at the front of the building next to a small patio dotted with a handful of picnic tables sectioned off by decorative blocks. But this is a dimly-lit cocktail lounge, meaning the action is just inside the red, padded front doors, the space a fairly hollow collection of hard surfaces broken up by a warm, wavy wooden bar.
For lack of a better word, despite its black cinder block walls and scuffed, faded concrete floor, Casino South Side feels classy. The décor here is minimal, consisting mostly of what the bar calls “exploitation” movie posters that might otherwise be mistaken for vintage, B-movie posters. These framed pieces run along the wall opposite the bar, attached to deep wood paneling that sits above an upscale-looking padded bench that stretches almost the full length of Casino South Side. The short, square tables here are covered in vintage magazine clippings very much in line with the B-movie aesthetic nearby.
The bar itself winds through the Austin dive bar’s footprint, dark brown wood undulating in unison with the liquor bottles perched along curved shelving behind the bar. A pair of televisions can be seen here, but the emphasis within Casino South Side is very much on conversation and cocktails rather than anything resembling a sports bar atmosphere. A yellow pennant inscribed with the name of the bar earns a spotlight, providing one of the few visual anchors to what is otherwise a soft, dim environment.
As amenities go, the selection here is simple, a bright, red pool table in the center of the space flanked by a vintage jukebox that offers a very affordable rate of three songs per $1. Shuffleboard, darts and Ms. Pac-Man surround a space in the rear of the building populated by high-top tables begging to be moved aside in favor of a weekend dance floor of some kind. A sizable back patio extends off the rear of Casino South Side, a sunshade and picnic tables providing an opportunity for a change of scenery. Dogs and smokers are welcomed both here and inside Casino South Side.
Characterizing Casino South Side as a dive bar is probably not fair, the vibe inside much more in line with an upscale lounge that happens to offer drinks at decent prices in a highway-adjacent location. This slice of 6th Street is welcome for those looking for a hint of the downtown Austin experience without the full immersion of what that means.