Behind the gas station, under the office, nothing but dive bar perfection.
As someone who has reviewed now hundreds of dive bars across the country, it should come as no light bit of praise in saying that discovering the Ego’s location after a bit of hunting came as a thrill. The Austin dive bar occupies what can only be described as a unique space found buried behind what is technically a South Congress address just south of downtown Austin but in reality should be listed as some kind of apartment within the office building that towers above it.
GPS software is simply unsure of how to make sense of Ego’s, its location behind a gas station, under a commercial office building and hidden in the back of a parking garage. The space almost feels like a janitorial office that once served the building above was expanded and converted into Austin’s without-a-doubt best karaoke spot. Further still, that such a place can exist sandwiched between trendy South Congress brunch spots and the density of Austin’s downtown core is another dive bar miracle, one that could be tenuous given the 2022 sale of the property.
The outcome of that sale is yet to be seen, but for now, Ego’s persists within what looks a bit like an old school tavern painted on the walls of a parking garage, faux stone etched into a white wall punctuated by a very vintage-looking blue door with brown trim. Visual markers do exist if at least the parking garage can be found, a handful of signs on the garage’s exterior and even its interior columns eventually funneling would-be karaoke singers to the right place.
The motto here is “Extraordinary,” a difficult spirit to argue with, particularly after walking inside one of Austin’s best dive bar interiors. The foyer, often skipped over to get to Ego’s karaoke heart, is notable thanks to not only its ornate wallpaper but also the stapled pictures of regulars over the years. A chalkboard here makes clear the nature of the Austin dive bar, proclaiming “Karaoke every night, 8 PM to 2 AM.” Day drinking starts earlier than core karaoke hours of course, but the crowds truly start to form right around the start of the evening’s festivities.
Such has been the case since the Austin dive bar’s opening in 1979, the untraditional location long a destination not just for karaoke but for dimly-lit drinking as only a parking garage-adjacent location can provide. Ego’s is cash only because of course it is, dark, red, cracked walls illuminated only sporadically with illuminated beer signs. The bar itself provides a burst of light, a small outpost outlined by the glasses above the bar and the mirror behind it, reflecting the string lights that hang from the ledge over the L-shaped counter.
Ego’s second burst of light comes from the illuminated stage, a lengthy, elevated platform with a painted mural of the Texas State Capitol serving as backdrop. As one might expect in such a karaoke institution, the setup here is legit, ranging from the dedicated sound system to the deep song catalog that offers no end to the opportunities for personal, beer-fueled embarrassment. Rolling, padded chairs surround short square tables throughout the balance of the space, perches that fill up quickly as the crowd convenes.
Black stucco ceilings occasionally feature a bit of artwork here or the floating head of a regular there, playing off of the dark walls and dark brick paneling that seems to absorb all light within Ego’s. String lights hang in spots throughout the space, some of it ringing the die cut logo of the bar hanging just in front of a digital jukebox that provides music during non-karaoke hours. A pool table can be found in the rear of the space and a pinball machine hides along the path to the restroom, appetizer amenities to the karaoke main course.
Even without the considerable draw of Austin’s best karaoke, just finding the Ego’s building is worth the dive bar investigation, the parking structure location unique even in the diverse world of dive bar structures. Small, blue signs provide waypoints along the path behind the gas station, under the office building, point to Ego’s, a karaoke-fueled oasis in the back of a parking garage.