For the past year, my curiosity and desire to experience Austin, Texas has steadily grown as pictures and stories of Jared’s San Jac Saloon and Stereotype nightclub, and Jensen’s Family Business Beer brewery circulated on social media. Austin had never before been on my travel bucket list, but the boys’ new business ventures and their beaming pride in their new hometown suddenly made it the SPNFamily’s latest fandom destination. My envy at other fans’ pilgrimages to Austin piqued when Jared, Jensen, Genevieve and Danneel joined the Mayor of Austin at San Jac’s on June 23, 2018 to inaugurate “Supernatural Day” in Austin. The corresponding charity event had been organized and attended by a handful of lucky Supernatural fans. Unfortunately, the date coincided closely with my wedding anniversary so, wholly wishing to continue extending the number of years of my marital union, I had begrudgingly declined to attend, and resigned myself to the reality that I might not ever be able to substitute a Supernatural Day gathering for my anniversary dinner (something about spouses deserving to be a priority at least one day a year!). When the show’s final season was announced, however, my husband took pity on me and suggested we take a long weekend anniversary trip to Austin this year. A flurry of reservations, emails and texts later, the arrangements were made and I was on my way to Austin!
Storms delayed our flight for several hours (never a good start to a vacation), so we didn’t land in Austin until about 1am on June 20 (perhaps a harbinger that everything on this trip would happen in the wee hours of the morning?). Arriving 5 days before this year’s Supernatural Day gathering allowed us plenty of time to explore all of Austin’s tourism sites at our leisure (including the boys’ drinking establishments). Since it was our anniversary weekend, we splurged and stayed at The Driskill Hotel, a historic Texas landmark in downtown Austin. I don’t recommend these accommodations for fans on a budget but Jensen had stayed there (per a story told to use by the hotel’s concierge) so we counted it as our first Jensen-related location visit! Besides, Jared’s saloon, San Jac’s, was literally one block away! Needless to say, I was bursting with excitement to stop in and see the place!
San Jac’s didn’t open until 2pm so we had time to kill our first morning in Austin. We had a big breakfast at the hotel and started our day by taking a Duck tour of Lake Austin and surrounding area (the amphibious bus tour, not a tour of lake fowl). It was 100 degrees in the shade so we were as wilted as ducks by the time the tour was over! We then scurried over to the Capitol building for their last (indoor, air conditioned) walking tour of the day.
Inside the Capitol, we saw the Senate chambers, where Jared and Genevieve were honored in May of 2017 for their support of an anti-bullying law*. Chalk up a Jared-related location done!
Having successfully delayed our arrival at San Jac until the dinner hour (so we didn’t appear to be lushes standing outside the door of a bar waiting for it to open in the middle of the afternoon!), we cleaned up for the evening and headed to San Jac’s. I have never in my life been so excited to go into a saloon!
There were a few people already sitting at the bar, so at least we weren’t conspicuously overzealous! I introduced myself to Brian, the bartender, and asked if they served any food. He chuckled and said he served up a mean bag of popcorn! That was my first introduction to Austin's culture, i.e. Austin Lesson #1 – the breweries and bars we visited do not have licenses to serve food. That was very odd for us, but part of the fun of traveling is seeing how other places do things. Brian recommended Coopers Barbeque, which was about a mile’s walk away. Having broken the ice with Brian, I said I was from a Supernatural website and was in town for the fan event that was scheduled in the bar next Tuesday. Oh, yeah, and was there any chance Jared might stop by tonight? (How embarrassing. Brian probably gets that question way too many times). Brian said Jared was already in Dallas. Not giving up hope, I said I knew he was going to Dallas for the Dallas Supernatural convention, but he didn’t have to be there until Sunday. Of course, I knew that he and Jensen have family in Dallas so I expected they’d spend the weekend there, but it was only Thursday! Maybe he was still in town? Brian just smiled (how patient and understanding he was, probably thinking, “Might as well play along and not dash this lady’s hopes, even though I know that Jared is in Dallas, like I already told her!”). Since I had been touring all day, I hadn’t been on social media. If I had, I might have seen that Jared was judging the National Debate Championships that day (you can see a video of his speech in our Supernatural Weekly World News coverage of the event). UGH! Brian said the best chance of seeing Jared was at charity fundraisers, and that I should check their Facebook page for details. Yes, I was already signed up for Tuesday’s charity event. Maybe I’d see Jared there? Hopefully? Maybe?
Having announced my arrival to all interested persons in San Jac’s (i.e. Brian, whose job it is to be nice to customers), hunger prevailed. I wasn’t anxious to leave the place I had waited so long to see, but off we went. Coopers was excellent, albeit an experience in and of itself. The place ended up being unexpectedly close to the Congress Street Bridge, which is a tourist attraction at dusk, when hundreds of people gather each night to see bats. Can you imagine wanting to see bats? But it was a thing so we sauntered that-a-way and stood under the bridge for 90 minutes waiting to see bats.
They were a no-show. I was “batting” a thousand so far in seeing the people/animals I hoped to see. We learned 2 days later that the female bats were waiting to give birth to their young so this was not the right season to see the bat spectacle. Who knew? Anyways, it was a check mark in the tourism “things to do in Austin” list, so the time wasn’t entirely wasted. Was it finally time to go back to San Jac’s??? Honestly!
San Jac Saloon
By now the place was bustling! The country/western band was playing for the first floor patrons, and we were ready for cold refreshments!
Now I really took in the décor. There were things to see in every direction. A dart board with no darts (some kind of magnetic, swinging rope thing gets aimed at a target), steer heads, the popcorn machine (that had been promised earlier), chalk boards and children's drawings,
merchandise (mental note: buy some of that later),
and neon signs.
Everyone was truly having a great time! We stayed on its balcony for a bit and took it all in, but I wanted to make sure I saw every inch of Jared’s business, so we made our way upstairs to Jack's.
(Picture is from earlier in the day when all I could do was admire the building from the outside!)
Jack’s also had live entertainment - a solitary fellow stringing his guitar. There were couches and fireplaces (not lit, given the lingering 95 degrees) and far fewer people. We helped ourselves to a cushy sofa, put our feet up on the table in front of us and immediately felt at home. No kidding. Both my husband and I felt secure, relaxed and comfortable – like this was the front room of a best friend who had been waiting to welcome us to town. Was it because we’re SPNFamily and this was as close as I ever expect to get to Jared’s living room? Was it the excellent atmosphere and entertainment? We didn’t care. We loved it up here! We stayed until some hour of the morning that I don’t remember. We truly didn’t want to leave but tomorrow was another day and we wanted to get a fresh start!
Friday was even hotter than Thursday. After consulting several tourism and online maps, the hotel’s recommendations and some superb guidance given to me by #WFBFamily member Whitebat, we decided to try the Holy Roller Café for breakfast. I highly recommend the Crumbled Apple Pie French Toast. It was SO good! Having seen San Jac’s, I was now on a mission to see Jared’s other bar, Stereotype. It just so happens that Holy Roller is right across the street from Stereotype (sense a theme here?).
Stereotype wasn’t open, of course, but I may or may not have snuck onto their outdoor patio to get a daytime picture for you (please don’t tell Jared... or the Austin police!)
Again, I couldn’t wait to visit during business hours. I think they opened at noon on a Friday, but I didn’t expect that would be their peak entertainment time, so we headed to the local watering hole – no, not another bar, an actual watering hole – for the day. Austin's Barton Springs Pool was very refreshing (72 degree water). We stayed there all afternoon, alternating between people watching from our grassy spot in the shade to getting wet in the icy water. It wasn’t until dusk that we relented and decided we needed to eat.
Like the day before, dinner time was again an adventure. A local pizza place had been rated highly by both Trip Advisor and the hotel front desk clerk. It was within walking distance so we headed there. Austin Lesson #2: Don’t expect Chicago pizzerias in Texas. EVERY place we visited, called or researched was nothing more than a store front that sold pre-made pizza at a counter. When I asked one owner on the phone if he had a dining area, he said “well, we’re only a trailer, so no, nowhere to sit.” Really? Walking up and down 6th street, our second, third and fourth dinner options didn’t work out either. The “Best hamburgers in town” according to the Duck Tour guide was a bar that I swear was run and frequented by vampire bikers. No lie. It scared both me and my husband! We were like, ‘Nope, no way, leaving now” when the waiter asked us if we wanted to be seated at the bar. We wandered around starving until, desperate, we tried Iron Cactus, advertised as a “Margarita bar”. Luckily, the food was outrageously good! We sat on the second floor open patio, overlooking 6th Street – the nightlife, bar center of Austin.
To get an idea of 6th Street, the roadway is closed to vehicles on Fridays and Saturdays because so many people go there for fun (San Jac is right in the middle of it, on the corner of 6th and San Jacinto). If you look closely, you'll see that the bar across the street from us had a Supernatural theme (unintentionally, I'm sure)!
We knew then that we had stopped at the right place for dinner! We had a delightful time there but I had Stereotype on the brain, so we hiked the 6-8 blocks to my next must-see destination!
We had a great time at Stereotype! We arrived late (for us) – around 11pm. It was busy… and loud… so, like the night before, we strolled to the second seating option within the nightclub - a wonderful outdoor patio. There were several people there so nowhere left to sit, but the bartenders graciously agreed to carry chairs outside for us. There were open windows so we could still hear the music and see the disc jockey, but we could also enjoy the evening air.
Interestingly, the crowd waned and surged 3 different times while we were there. At 11:30, most of the people left, but at midnight, a new crowd arrived. That happened again at about 1am. Austin Lesson #3: all the really good stuff to do is WAY after my usual bedtime. Sleep in the morning; stay out late at night. The crowd at Stereotype was mostly women, or to be more precise, large groups of young ladies. They were dancing and partying and having a great time. Truth be told, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone dance atop a bar… suggestively… for hours at a time, but you know, go for it!
At first, the music wasn’t really very familiar to us (some rap, some other). I expected it to be more retro rock or pop given the LP vinyl,
and décor of the nightclub.
Later, though, the music went more 70s (80s? 90s?), which was more fun for us. We went inside then to listen and watch the crowd. There was dancing, of course, but also two basketball games (which couples kept busy competing for best score), and several other things to do. I laughed thinking about Jared's need to always fidget and do more than one thing at a time! I wonder how much input he had to the entertainment inside?
I think we left at 2am, after I bought a Stereotype tee shirt, of course! The drinks were great and everyone (bartenders and bar hoppers) was so very nice to us that we (read: “I”) didn’t want to leave! Tomorrow was another day though and we had plans!
Saturday was Family Business Beer day!! It also happened to be our anniversary (priorities, people!!). We rented a car to traverse the 40 minutes or so that it takes to get to Jensen’s out-of-the-way brewery. Having the car also allowed us to try Phoebe's Café for breakfast (another place recommended by Whitebat and multiple other sources). Carrot Cake French Toast this time. Holy sweet tooth, Batman! It was outstanding! Their “thick cut” bacon was to die for too!
The Family Business Beer Company
Now off to the brewery! It was only the middle of the day but we didn’t want to waste any time! All I can say is, thank goodness for Danneel’s signs!
We would have totally blown right past the place! It’s tucked away down a hidden driveway, down a country road (two lane maybe?). For the third day in a row, I was bouncing up the walkway to enter a bar! Supernatural is definitely not a good influence on me.
First impression? It is much smaller than I expected. The inside is simple; the ordering counter is about the size of my kitchen counter.
There was a fantastic soloist playing when we arrived, but he soon finished his set.
I peeked through the window into the back room where the brewing magic takes place.
Alas, no Jensen. Yeah, I know. He was in Dallas too.
We ordered our first flight and sat under the trees outside at a picnic bench.
You guessed it – another 100+ degree day! Even the natives were complaining about the heat wave! Another band started playing after a while. Inside the building, you could hear their full mixing board of musicians – soloist, drummer and several guitar players. Outdoors, we could only hear the soloist and the drummer. It was an interesting contrast of sound.
With music in the background, and small glasses of beer in front of us in the shade, I had time to look around and take in the scene in front of me in the FBB grove. A young girl practiced foot moves with a soccer ball, with her younger brother tossing each kick back to her. Their parents sat close by. A middle-aged college reunion group milled about on the veranda, proudly displaying their alma mater’s banners. An older couple arrived with a tethered birthday balloon bouncing high above their head as they scoped out a place to sit. They were soon joined by a large group of senior citizens who chose FBB as the venue for their birthday party. A trio of young Supernatural fans (the Supernatural themed clothing gave them away) played Jenga on the picnic table adjacent to us. More Supernatural fans arrived later, but honestly they were not the majority of the patrons, as I had erroneously expected. Another family tossed bean bags into Corn Holes (aka "Bags").
There were people relaxing all around us – tourists, locals, couples, parents with children – everyone was quietly enjoying the afternoon outdoors. This was a picnic destination for them. A place to bring family or friends and hang out.
There was plenty of shade, provided by both a grove of trees and large, red umbrellas, but the day was still hot. There is also a very large veranda that winds around two sides of the building. Its ceiling fans swirled refreshing air. We had to take refuge on the veranda when dark clouds started sprinkling rain on us but that was fine.
FBB has a supply of family games for their guests, so we asked if we could bring a Yahtzee game outside (despite the big sign taped onto it that it was an “indoor game only”). I was granted permission, no problem, but I was confused when the worker asked for my identification. I wasn’t ordering beer, and even if I had been, I haven’t been mistaken for being under legal drinking age in, well, decades. When I hesitated (obviously trying to work out what was happening), he explained it was to make sure I returned the game. OH! Honest, I had only had one small beer at that point!
I love Yahtzee but my and my husband’s busy schedules don’t allow us any time at all for game night. So we sat, on our anniversary, on the FBB veranda, for three hours, playing Yahtzee. It was heaven.
We ordered another flight of beer so we could say we tried all (almost all?) their selections for the day and I talked with the absolutely delightful manager, Laura.
She was a charming hostess. I told her about my fansite, but again, to my surprise, the locals (at both Jensen’s and Jared’s bars) were fairly unaffected by the show. They know it exists, of course, but they weren’t excited by our affiliation with Supernatural. They didn’t bring up its most obvious news (ending after 15 years), nor ask what fans think of the Js. They are Austinites, as are Jared and Jensen. That’s how they perceive the boys. In fact, “the boys” aren’t “the boys” to them. Jared is the boss at San Jac and Stereotype; Jensen and Danneel are the bosses at FBB. They are individuals, not an inseparable pair. Supernatural is something that happens far, far away in never, never land. It was an interesting adjustment. In fact, almost no one in Austin (with two exceptions I’ll mention later), was impressed that we were there because of Supernatural. I had expected it was a BIG deal to the city.
FBB shrewdly has a merchandise room, maybe expecting Supernatural fans to want “collectibles”? That was the only hint that the place was at all tied to (or had been made possible by) Supernatural. I had lugged extra-large suitcases around on this trip, fully expecting to buy my fair share of FBB (and San Jac and Stereotype) trinkets, but honestly, I don’t care for new FBB logo. As hard as I tried, I was disappointed that there was nothing there I wanted to buy. The original logo seems to me to be a lot more distinctive. Perhaps more like Jensen and my image of what his brewery would be? I ended up with just a pin and sticker as souvenirs to add to my Stereotype and San Jac tees (I had bought a San Jac saloon tee shirt during one of my visits with Brian).
Again, our time at FBB had to end far before we were ready to leave. I took a look back at this wonderful oasis and got lucky enough to snap this picture that shows the brewing room, the dining area and the outside picnic grove nicely framed all in one shot.
We had a bit of a trip back to the hotel, and a marvelous anniversary dinner planned for us by the hotel concierge (who finally went on duty on our third day in Austin!). After a long, romantic dinner, we returned the rental car and walked ourselves back to San Jac’s for a night cap. We just didn’t want the night to end, and San Jac’s (well, Jack’s actually) had become our home away from home. We started our anniversary at Stereotype, spent the day at Family Business Beer and ended the evening at San Jac’s. It was everything I had hoped for.
The next day was Sunday, and if you can believe it, it was still getting hotter! 108 degrees real feel temperature. We took a Lyft to the South Congress shopping district and walked among the shops. We accidentally stumbled upon the “I love you so much” mural (I had no idea it was on South Congress Ave) so, of course, we took an anniversary picture. We then foolishly decided to walk back to our hotel – about a 2 mile trek. I’m pretty sure I got heat stroke from that venture. I needed serious time in the air conditioned hotel room, with a ceiling fan on high, and lots and lots of ice to cool off. But I recovered, because we had one more night of Austin’s night life together!
Still on the hunt for pizza, we took another Lyft to a well-rated place that had seating (supposedly) in the Rainey District of Austin. When we arrived, we found a small storefront restaurant with those metal table and chairs you see in fast food sandwich shops. Ugh. On the way, though, I happened to spot a sign for the Via 313 pizza that had been recommended to us (thanks Whitebat!) so we walked back to the sign. It turned out it was at Craft Pride, a Texas-only beer bar, rated as the #2 Night Spot in Austin! Someone was looking out for us and guiding us to all the places we needed to find in Austin! The surprise was that the pizza was baked and served out of trailer in back of their patio. Again, no food license (see Austin Lesson #1). The pizza was still outstanding, as was the atmosphere. The live music, which we were now accustomed to enjoying everywhere we went, (Austin Lesson #4: Live music is the norm not the exception) wasn’t to our liking, but with two out of three criteria for a great evening met, we stayed. It was hotter than Hades still, but what can you do? Bonus: they served Family Business Beer Co's Hamilton!
Rainey Street is like 6th Street, but the bars are more outdoor than indoor, and have unique architectures. We were too hot and too tired, so we didn’t stop in anywhere else. Still, it was an intriguing jaunt and another check mark on the touring list, so I’m really happy we ventured over there. Having learned a lesson earlier in the day, we called for a ride (rather than walked) to take us back to the hotel.
Monday was the day my husband had to leave to embark on a business trip, and I had to transfer accommodations and meet up with friends who had been at the Dallas Supernatural convention (with Jared and Jensen!) all weekend. My anniversary weekend was over, but my Supernatural fandom get-together was about to begin! Enjoy more fun in Part 2, "Shops, Selfies and Supernatural Day 2019", where I share the Supernatural Day Celebration, fangirl touring, and more lessons I learned about Austin!
Header Collage was created by WFB's Bettina Bier, using pictures taken by Nightsky.
Read more about Jensen's Family Business Beer brewery in Alice's report "A Hunting of Impalas 2019: A Memorable Gathering in Austin Texas"!
Read many more of Nightsky's adventures by going to her Writer's Page!
Have you been to Austin yet? Please share your experiences, recommendations and pictures in the comments! Have any questions about Austin? I'll do my best to answer them!