Crossing the whiskey river

On N. Presa, in between Commerce and Market, is Estillo Whiskey River Saloon. The owner, Mark Litton, named the bar after a song that his father-in-law, Johnny Bush, wrote in the early ’70s. Willie Nelson later recorded the song and made it famous. The saloon sits where Club Medusa once was, and you don’t have to look too hard to see the old in the new.

After showing the door guy our IDs, we paid the $5 cover and walked inside. I was immediately taken aback. When we were driving through the downtown area, we’d seen an abundance of beautiful women and wondered where they were all going. We’d found them.

There were good-looking people wall to wall in this ultra-lounge-style bar. Even Jon, who works downtown and knows what to expect on a weekend night, was pleasantly surprised by the crowd.

The manager, Lewis, gave me a quick tour while Jon was trying out some new lines. As it turns out, the lounge that I walked into with the flashing lights, loud Top 40 music, and friendly bar staff was only half of the bar. Down a short hallway and past the first DJ was the big room.

It was very much like walking into a house party. It was packed, and there wasn’t very much room for dancing, but we tried anyway. On the stage, where live bands perform Friday nights, a DJ was spinning hip-hop.

After the tour and a little dancing, I ordered another drink and posted myself up by the bar so that I could soak in the atmosphere. Next to me were the Still brothers, tourists from Philadelphia. All three brothers served in the Marines and loved our city. We stood at the bar and talked about San Antonio. They told me that Philly didn’t compete with the cleanliness and friendliness of SA.

After we talked for a few minutes, I went to look for Jon, who was still in the lounge. It looked as though he hadn’t had much luck meeting his soul mate and was scrolling through the jukebox (which has everything form Bob Wills to Lil’ Wayne). After we finished looking over the selections, I walked back over to my new friends and had another drink before they headed out.

I’m already looking forward to heading back to Estilo. Jazz artist Billy Ray Sheppard makes frequent stops there and on October 1 they’ll host 2010 Battle of the Bands winner December’s End. •

Estilo Whiskey River Saloon
203 N Presa, (210) 224-5635,
Best use: Live DJs Fri & Sat nights (10pm-2am), live music on Fri (7-10pm). Happy Hour: Mon-Fri 7-10pm ($2 well drinks and domestics, $3 wine and imports)
Prices: Wells and domestic beers $4, top shelf cocktails, $9
Hours: 5pm-2am Tue-Sat


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