Will you have to pay for the drinks or a bite to eat at most of these places? Yes, but the ambience and entertainment is free. So, before you spend another evening zoning out in front of your pricey cable TV, check out some of these hot spots for a thrifty good time.
Bottom Bracket Social Club
Bottom Bracket Social Club may be the new king of San Antonio dive bars. There is something truly special about the venue, an air of closeness among the regulars that isn’t revealed in “I love you man” drunken rants, but rather in a welcoming smile when you walk through the door, a smart bar list with choices to please both cheapskates and discerning drinkers and games galore. On top of that, Bottom Bracket offers free music and entertainment every first Friday and frequent no-cover live music for the over 21 set. 1603 N Colorado, (210) 267-9160, facebook.com/bottombracketsocialclub.
Since 1997, The Mix has provided SA with fast music, hard drinks and easy company. With 60 beers and a full bar, you’re likely to have your hands full at this one-of-a-kind venue. Not only do they cater to your drinking and listening needs, but they do it without charging a cover. If you’re looking for a place to Mix it up on the cheap this summer, this is the spot. 2423 N St. Mary’s, (210) 735-1313.
The Cove offers free daily live music by some of the biggest local names and talent. The menu, based on sustainable, organic and local ingredients, perfectly complements the laid-back setting. To further nurture the family atmosphere they’ve got a playscape, ping-pong tables, a basketball goal and they’re even puppy friendly. The easygoing atmosphere practically screams summer staycation. Be sure to check the Current’s online music listings before you go. 606 W Cypress, (210) 227-2683, thecove.us.
Tucked away in a busy corner of the River Walk is Barriba Cantina. Don’t let the name fool you; this isn’t some hokey tourist trap. Barriba has an aggressive assortment of drink specials and a food menu for the Mexican food traditionalists and Tex-Mex junkies alike. To accompany the River Walk views, Barriba also offers daily free live music. Two live house bands on Sunday open up the week to an assortment of acts that can please any aural palate. 111 W Crocket, (210) 228-9876, barribacantina.com.
First Friday alumni are probably familiar with Southtown 101. The parties at this hotspot have an ever changing variety of house DJs and bands as well as a very strong offering of beers and cocktails. Best of all, entrance to the party at Southtown 101 is always free. 101 Pereida, (210) 263-9880, southtown101sa.com.
Liberty Bar Accoustic Sessions
They may not be housed in a vertigo-inducing building any longer, but the troop at Liberty Bar still throws down with the best of ’em. Their slogan is “Serious Food” but even for those not looking to please their taste buds there is a serious good time to be had; They don’t call it Liberty Bar for nothing. On Tuesday nights they serve up intimate singer-songwriter performances from artists that rotate monthly. The music is always free and the libations are free flowing. Go for the food, stay for the fun. 1111 S Alamo, (210) 227-1187, liberty-bar.com.
It may be known for excellent acoustics and memorable musical performances, but on the last Monday of the month, your favorite Japanime characters take center stage at 502 Bar. Japanese beers are the special and anime is playing on every screen. Cosplay is welcomed and things really get crazy when the karaoke starts. 502 Bar, 502 Embassy Oaks, (210) 257-8125, 502bar.com.
Hi-Tones Movie Night
With its chamoy shots, drink specials and live music, Hi-Tones has quickly become a go-to for denizens of the St. Mary’s Strip. In the event music and cheap shots aren’t your deal though, Hi-Tones also offers free movie screenings on Wednesday nights. The spacious outdoor patio ensures ample seating and the massive projection screen means there isn’t a bad angle. Did I mention the chamoy shots? 621 E Dewey (210) 785-8777.
Thirsty Horse Saloon
If you’re looking for a saloon with cheap drinks and free music, Thirsty Horse is the watering hole for you. Voted Best Country Bar in San Antonio this year, the bar’s recently refinished dancing track provides ample area for boot-scootin’, but there are pool tables and ample seating for those less two-step inclined. Best of all, for those on a budget, there is never a cover. 2335 NW Military Hwy, (210) 348-1513, thirstyhorse.net.
Alamo Anime Tuesdays
Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes presents Alamo Anime Tuesdays this summer. Since kicking off in 2000, the Drafthouse’s anime events have become highly anticipated among genre connoisseurs. Join other cosplay-loving anime fans for screenings of your favorite films. As always, full food and beverage service is offered and the strict no talking/texting policy means you don’t have to worry about interruption. Alamo Drafthouse Westlakes, 1255 SW Loop 410, (210) 677-8500, drafthouse.com.
PuroSlam Poetry event organizers maintain that it’s the poet’s responsibility to capture the audience’s attention, not the other way around, making this event one to behold. PuroSlam is free to attend and is currently held at Southtown 101. Whether you intend to brave the blasts or heckle the rhymers, bring your A-game. Southtown 101, 101 Pereida, (210) 263-9880, facebook.com/puroslampoetry.
Lone Star Live Summer Concert Series
The Current and other sponsors will host a free, family-friendly live concert series this summer. Starting with the inaugural show on May 22 from 7 to 10 p.m. featuring Creatura, Crown and Lonely Horse, the concerts will take place at civic gem Arneson River Theater and will feature regional musicians and bands. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience free music downtown. Arneson River Theater at La Villita, 418 Villita. –Dustin Dooling
Ranger Creek Brewery Tour
There is an apocryphal quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin that says, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” It’s pretty much been decided that Ole Ben has been misquoted, but that doesn’t mean the saying isn’t true. If you’re a fan of the bittersweet grog, then you owe it to yourself to see how it’s made by one of the finest craft brewers in the area. Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling offers a free, behind-the-scenes tour of their facilities—with samples! See their website for dates and times. Ranger Creek, 4834 Whirlwind Drive, (210) 775-2099, drinkrangercreek.com. —Eric Moreno