Don't be swayed by the occasional cover charge, the experience inside is worth the outlay.
As Austin’s explosive growth continues, once fringe areas of the city will increasingly contend with the fight between established businesses and fresh development. Sam’s Town Point benefits from insulation provided by its residential, well-off-the-road location, preserving one of Austin’s best dive bar and honkytonk experiences. Nightly live music, two-step lessons and all manner of entertainment continue to draw crowds to the outpost still comfortably south of the city core.
Founder Penny Grossman brought her desire to open a dance hall from Chicago in 1979, ultimately discovering and opening Sam’s Town Point in 1981. The Austin dive bar’s name originates from what was once the meeting of the city of Austin and Travis County borders within the Sam’s Town Point property (hence, the two districts coming to a ‘point’), the parking lot in Austin and the bar itself in Travis County. The City of Austin has since annexed additional land, moving its border off of Sam’s Town Point property. The namesake Sam in the title of the bar comes from a Grossman business associate during that time period.
The Sam’s Town Point calling card has always been live music, accommodating a number of genres ranging from country to Western swing to blues. Weekly schedules are provided via the Sam’s Town Point Facebook page, a lineup densely populated with multiple acts each evening. Ramsay Midwood is a Saturday night staple on those schedules, now the owner of the bar that he stumbled upon in 2002 after taking a wrong turn. Penny Grossman operated Sam’s Town Point with the help of her son Wally and when Wally tragically passed in 2011 due to a motorcycle accident, she turned to Midwood for support.
Ultimately, Penny added Midwood to the bar’s lease, effectively gifting him co-ownership in the bar that he now operates on a day to day basis with the support of the broad Sam’s Town Point community. Penny still lives on the property and can frequently be seen in a reserved seat kept her for her perpetuity at the end of the bar. Because of Midwood’s deep appreciation and love for the bar that housed a large portion of his music career, changes were made only to accentuate the already thriving, divey atmosphere within Sam’s Town Point.
In addition to a fire pit and some general cleanup of the four acre property, Grossman converted one of the property’s structures into an AirBNB that can be rented on a nightly basis, offering walking distance access to the Austin dive bar. Multiple houses, including Grossman’s, are still in operation across the sprawling plot and a number of abandoned vehicles have been sighted over the years.
Approaching Sam’s Town Point feels like visiting a friend in a rural part of the country hosting a backyard party. The main bar structure is a long ranch-style building built around the small stage in the corner of the room that has served as launching point for many an Austin music career. The iconic, faded, glowing Sam’s Town Point sign has long been the backdrop to music sets here, the sign’s style similar to a number of affirmative sayings sprinkled throughout the space including “Someday these days will be worth remembering” and “Friends are the best part of life.”
The furniture within Sam’s Town Point can be best described as eclectic, a mishmash of plush couches, padded rocking chairs and the wooden, spindled chairs best associated with a grandmother’s kitchen table. A lone pool table anchors the rear of the space under a faded Lone Star light, wood paneling found here and throughout Sam’s Town Point. But everything here really revolves around the live music experience, down to the tabletop candles brought out for more intimate sets.
Outside provides another opportunity for live music, a full stage part of renovations overseen by Grossman that have expanded the utility of the sprawling plot. Bench seating, picnic tables, secluded drinking areas and string lights cover a classic Texas backyard music and drinking area punctuated by an illuminated chandelier hanging from one of the many Sam’s Town Point trees.
The phrase “Old Austin” comes up frequently when talking about or researching Sam’s Town Point for good reason, the south Austin outpost holding on to a rustic live music dive bar that was once more commonly found throughout the city. Alongside the nearby Giddy Ups and a few other holdouts, Sam’s Town Point brings that same Old Austin spirit to life nightly, revolving around a hallowed, lively stage.