Best Of 2020

Best Local Music Venue

Winner: Paper Tiger

2410 N. St. Mary's St.

papertigersatx.com

Paper Tiger's 2015 opening catapulted it to the forefront of San Antonio's live music venues. It wasn't just a facelift and new sound system the club brought to the former White Rabbit space that got SA music fans buzzing. Many were immediately won over by the club's smart and eclectic booking choices. On any given weekend, patrons take in then-R&B-up-and-comer Lizzo, hyper-technical metal act Dillinger Escape Plan or post-rock godfathers Explosions in the Sky, all while enjoying local acts in support slots. Sure, some old timers fondly remember the White Rabbit and the metal and post-hardcore shows it booked with the help of Twin Productions, but it's never felt like Paper Tiger was trying to erase that history. Instead, the five-year-old venue is building on a legacy while offering a greater array of stylistic choices.

2. The Rustic

17619 La Cantera Parkway, Suite 204

(210) 245-7500

therustic.com/san-Antonio

3. Luna Music Bar & Lounge

6740 San Pedro Ave.

(210) 804-2433

lunalive.com

Nightlife

Nightlife

Winner: Esquire Tavern

155 E. Commerce St.

(210) 222-2521

esquiretavern-sa.com

2. Elsewhere Garden Bar & Kitchen

103 E. Jones Ave.

(210) 446-9303

elsewheregarden.com

3. Sternewirth Tavern (Hotel Emma)

136 E. Grayson St.

(210) 223-7375

thehotelemma.com/culinary/sternewirth

Winner: Little Woodrow's

Multiple locations

littlewoodrows.com

2. Bonham Exchange

411 Bonham

(210) 224-9219

bonhamexchange.com

3. Slackers Sports Bar

Multiple locations

facebook.com/slackers.b.sa

Winner: Liberty Bar

1111 S. Alamo St.

(210) 227-1187

liberty-bar.com

2. The Pigpen Neighborhood Bar

106 Pershing Ave.

(210) 267-9136

thepigpensa.com

3. Southtown 101

101 Pereida St.

(210) 263-9880 

southtown101.net

Winner: Bar 1919

1420 S. Alamo St.

(210) 227-1420

bar1919.com

It's hard not to be impressed with Bar 1919, the speakeasy-style cocktail haven tucked into a basement slot at Blue Star. The dark interior brims with atmosphere, and the bar staff is both knowledgeable and blazingly efficient. What's more, Bar 1919 has won praise from the New York Times and USA Today for an extensive and expertly curated whiskey collection unmatched in the area. The nightspot's Southtown location also makes for eclectic people watching as downtown business execs and techies mingle with arty folks from the neighborhood and tourists drawn by its national rep.

Editor's Pick: The Modernist

516 E. Grayson St.

(210) 901-8646

facebook.com/themodernistsa

With its keen attention to detail and focus on high-quality ingredients, The Modernist is San Antonio's most low-key place to get seriously highfalutin' cocktails. While the atmosphere is chill, the bartenders are insightful, practiced and approachable, which practically makes them hospitality-industry unicorns. Throughout the pandemic, the crew at The Modernist has offered an impressive to-go menu of mixed cocktails, organized by spirit preference, including a note on which tipples are "stupidly strong." In part, this Editor's Pick earned its accolade for taking at-home craft cocktail enjoyment to a whole new level.

2. The Modernist

3. Blue Box

312 Pearl Parkway

(210) 227-2583

blueboxbar.com

Winner: Thirsty Horse Dance Hall

2335 NW Military Highway

(210) 348-1513

thirstyhorse.net

2. The Lonesome Rose

2114 N. St. Mary's St.

(210) 455-0233

thelonesomerose.com

3. Cooter Brown's Saloon

11881 Bandera Road, Helotes

(210) 263-1852

facebook.com/CooterBrownsSaloon

Winner: The Friendly Spot Ice House

943 S. Alamo St.

(210) 224-2337

thefriendlyspot.com

A good michelada starts with fine Mexican beer, so it makes sense that Friendly Spot scored big with readers for both its expansive brew selection and the quality of its micheladas. Beyond that, a good michelada requires a recipe that honors its key ingredients —  frosty lager plus tomato juice and spice. This one gets the blend right, delivering the right amounts of tomatoey umami and lingering heat. The Southtown favorite's win for best ice house no doubt comes down to its on-site playground, community atmosphere and a giant screen to watch the Spurs.

2. Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

11255 Huebner Road #212

(210) 696-5080

beerknurd.com/locations/san-antonio-flying-saucer

3. Big Hops

Multiple locations

bighops.com

Winner: Bonham Exchange

411 Bonham

(210) 224-9219

bonhamexchange.com

2. Brass Monkey

2702 N. St. Mary's St.

(210) 480-4722

facebook.com/BrassMonkeyTX

3. Heat Nightclub

1500 N. Main Ave.

(210) 227-2600

facebook.com/HEATNightclub

Winner: The Mix

2423 N. St Mary's St.

(210) 735-1313

themixsa.com

Is the Mix really a dive? Many readers made that call, so we won't quibble, even if we can think of plenty of bars that are smaller, seedier and more spartan. Since opening in October 1997, the Mix has remained a constant on the oft-changing North St. Mary's Strip, especially when it comes to presenting live music in an unpretentious setting. Although the venue has changed ownership and management in the last decade, it continues to host a variety of local and touring performers from punk and metal to goth and even a traveling circus act. Throw in affordable drink prices and a chill atmosphere, and it's no wonder the Mix remains a local fave — whether or not it truly qualifies as a dive.

2. Oak Hills Tavern

7920 Fredericksburg Road

(210) 614-8855

oak-hills-tavern.business.site

3. Faust Tavern

517 E. Woodlawn Ave.

(210) 257-0628

facebook.com/TheFaustTavern

Winner: Bar America

723 S. Alamo St.

(210) 223-1285

baramericasatx.com

2. Brass Monkey

2702 N. St. Mary's St.

(210) 480-4722

facebook.com/BrassMonkeyTX

3. Bonham Exchange

411 Bonham

(210) 224-9219

bonhamexchange.com