Cocktails, sport bars and dives — San Antonio's got plenty of them. But the amount of bars where you can you partake in some judgment-free day drinking is limited. Whether you're fresh off the late shift, still going from the night before or in need of a morning fix, Make My Day Lounge (12144 Nacogdoches Road, 210-655-6367) might just be the bar for you.
Those parameters might seem strange at first, but the allure of MMD is in its chill drabness. First off, it's entirely dark, so much so that it'll take your eyes' cones and rods a minute to readjust if you're stopping in fresh from your morning commute. The lights never go a hint above faint and most of the lighting comes from classic beer lampshades that hover over bar and billiard tables, along with a pair of electronic dartboards. Don't expect a lot of action on those come morning, but instead, you'll want to cozy up to the bar.
Traffic reports kept us informed of the on-goings of San Antonio as people filed into work, and the weatherman clued us in on what was going to be a balmy September day. If that wasn't enough information coming your way, MMD also keeps an electronic ticker tape with crawling red headlines keeping you up to date with shenanigans in Washington and abroad (though don't mention Obama too loudly, you may get an earful from your bar neighbor).
I took in a $4 bloody mary — extra dirty and spicy — to help with a Downtown Tuesday hangover I was nursing, while my cohorts chose water and coffee (note to self: take bartender friends next time I choose to day-drink in a dingy bar) made fresh from a household coffeepot and a couple bucks per pour. Our fellow bar-goers, on the other hand, took advantage of the inexpensive Bud and full bar options, including a specialty cocktail or two.
Everyone seemed to know each other well enough and all steered closer to Baby Boomer range so I'm betting they've got a good story or two to tell. The service was laid-back, but attentive and country jams poured out of the Internet jukebox people kept pumping dollars into. Sure, we stuck out like sore thumbs, but the small crowd was friendlm, which is always a plus. There was fresh popcorn in a corner of the bar, and an entire buffet line's worth of banquet trays in a faux-kitchenette, and a whole vending machine's worth of snacks, we held out for breakfast tacos from a nearby joint.
Two things to note: Smokers will find a chill little patio to puff on a cig or two, and the bar picks up on weekends when a serious karaoke contingent takes over the mics. More than 100,000 songs are advertised for said crooning, which goes down Thursdays from 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday (an overlapping 7-11 p.m. happy hour probably helps keep things interesting).
Less than $7 dollars later, I was on my way to work — technically the bar visit was work — and ready to take on the day. Trendy, it is not. But it is cool, dark, friendly and cheap, and the karaoke scene is not to be missed.
If you need more options for day-drinkin', consider the following joints:
312 N. Flores St., (210) 222-9442
The antithesis to just about every other downtown bar, Gloria's opens at 7 a.m with cheap Lone Star and chill puro San Anto feel.
Lynda Gay's I Don't Know Yet Lounge
1229 Babcock Road, (210) 735-1276
Tucked away between Babcock and East Glenview Drive, this wee establishment packs in the cold beers in big mugs, a small selection of wines and a laid-back party atmosphere.
Highlander Bar & Grill
5562 Fredericksburg Road, (210) 340-4577
Smack dab in the medical center, you'll find an oasis for nurses and hospital employees getting off the night shift. Grab breakfast from the kitchen and drink specials. At Highlander, "you can drink at 7 a.m., because the Beastie Boys fought for that kind of thing."
Ocho Bar & Restaurant
1015 N. Navarro St., (210) 222-2008
A night out on the town calls for a place where you can drown your sorrows the next morning (or at least fend off that eminent hangover). Find that at Ocho, quite possibly the most posh daytime drinking spot we can think of.
Silver Dollar Saloon
110 2nd Ave. North, (210) 227-2623
Wallet-friendly drinks? Check. An LGBT playground? Yep. Will you find a drag performer nursing a drink or two come morning? Maybe. Just down the road from our beloved Cobalt Club (which also opens at 7 a.m.), the Silver Dollar is a party and a half regardless the time of day.