|Posted by Deborah Orazi on July 20, 2011 at 8:13 AM|
It's 7 p.m. and the temperature is still hovering near the century mark when I pull into the
parking lot at C. Hunt's Ice House in North Austin.
Lured by the prospect of hearing some honky-tonk tunes from Roy Heinrich and the Pick-Ups, I willingly risked heat stroke driving in my un-air-conditioned Miata while the sun was still out.
Heinrich and Co. don't disappoint and I survived, cooled by a $2 can of Diet Coke - the same price as the beer, but a bargain when you consider the music, and the history lesson I was about to get from one of Austin's beloved elder statesmen.
Watching a dominos game from a stool inside the bar is the tall, thin figure of Chester Hunt, the proprietor and namesake of the establishment.
"I've owned this building for 51 years," said the congenial Hunt, who was born and raised in Georgetown. "It was a meat processing plant. We processed between 3,000 and 4,000 deer a year. In 1995 I opened it as a bar. It made me an awful good living as a meat processing plant, but this is a whole lot easier."
The bar's setting is surprisingly pastoral considering bustling Burnet Road lies no more
than 500 feet from the front door.
"Nobody in town has a grape arbor like we do," Hunt said proudly. The mustang grape vines provide shade for the two rows of picnic tables outside the main entrance.
A flatbed trailer under a lush green tree opposite the tables serves as the stage. There
are no fancy, colored stage lights. Just a street light that flickers on when the sun starts to set.
The dance floor is a paved driveway.
"We can seat about 500," Hunt said. But on June 2, around 2,000 people showed-up to pay respects to him on his 85th birthday.
"He's the best boss in the world," said bartender Shelby Blaydes, who also books the music.
Go to the Photo Gallery for a glimpse of my visit to the inimitable C. Hunt's Ice House.