Follow the occult-feeling neon and the smell of pizza to the front door.
Spotting the new, hot, quickly developing neighborhood in a major city is sometimes a predictable affair, the fingerprints of gentrification, new money and probably more than one high-end (expensive) taco restaurant all telltale signs. San Antonio’s North St. Mary’s Street north of downtown and referred to as “The Strip” bears these marks and more, a winding street now home to a handful of trendy restaurants and bars. Faust Tavern sits just off The Strip, importantly removed from the slow creep of progress less than a block away by a large metal gate and semi-secluded location, retaining the San Antonio dive bar’s authentic vibe.
A large, vaguely Satanic neon sign isn’t always a good omen, but in the case of Faust Tavern, that sign is the saving grace to find the dive bar’s front door(s). Passing by, especially at night, the space looks like a large green house with a permanent garage sale out front, the cool house on the block with the yard the neighbors talk about. In reality, that green house with the unique front yard is Robot Monster Guitars, the music shop that sits in front of Faust Tavern found through a wrought iron gate to the right and rear of the building. Thankfully, a blue and red neon sign sits atop an archway leading drinkers past the music shop and into the courtyard that serves as one of Faust’s two drinking spaces.
And those two drinking spaces couldn’t feel more different, the rocker vibe alive and well inside, where dark walls and low lighting fit the somewhat ‘metal’ aesthetic. Outside, crisscrossed lights hang over a slim but surprisingly spacious front patio, the music here not necessarily quiet, but maybe less loud. Walking through the patio feels much like arriving at a friend’s front porch, even if this particular San Antonio dive bar front porch features a handful of small- and medium-sized picnic tables. Bordered on three sides by the building and its neighbor, the feeling is one of seclusion back here, a spot to take in the Texas weather when it cooperates (probably at night).
Inside, the dial creeps up to 11 on the rocker vibe, patterned wallpaper, black ceiling and limited selection of let’s say ‘dark’ artwork making for a very different feeling than a handful of picnic tables under twinkling lights. Vintage posters of old magic acts serve as one example of the décor found here, exposed beams over head providing space for a few strands of colored Christmas lights. This is a small room, mostly devoid of seating outside of the limited selection of stools at the bar which runs along the short wall at the end of the space. Signature shot and cocktail menus can be found here, the margaritas recommended highly by locals (cucumber seemed to be the most popular choice).
Dark wallpaper behind deeply colored wood shelves provide the backdrop to the liquor options provided behind the bar. The selection provides coverage across all drinking categories without feeling overwhelming or sitting two and three layers deep. The beer selection in particular is robust, the line of available cans running the length of the display behind the bar, just above a pair of Native American art pieces bookending the alcohol.
That this interior space features so little seating would seem confusing at first but it should come as no surprise that Faust Tavern doubles as a live music venue. As the décor would suggest, metal and punk bands frequent the space, the live music posters routinely impressive and an excellent reason to follow Faust Tavern’s Instagram account.
The word pizza can also be found in neon attached to the gateway leading to Faust Tavern’s front door, a nod to Ghost Town Pizza, a by-the-slice pizza restaurant that operates out of a window that opens to the patio out front. Slice options can be found on a sign next to the pizza window in question, a ghost pepper sauce variety available for those trying to really double up on questionable decision making during a night out. Ghost Town Pizza typically operates 4 PM to close, Wednesday through Sunday.
Especially at night and maybe doubly so inside, Faust Tavern can give off an intimidating vibe to first-time visitors, the metal gate, neon Devil and dark colors very much living up to Faust Tavern’s metal rock reputation. But this is a corner neighborhood dive bar a few feet removed from the rapidly developing St. Mary’s Strip, using that small sliver of seclusion to preserve a pizza-fueled dive bar experience (with a slight affinity for the occult).