Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Toxic avenger

Posted on Wed, Jun 3, 2009 at 4:00 AM

Release Date: 2009-06-03

After a mini-facelift in 2007, the bar formerly known as Iguana Bay has reopened as Retox. I decided to retoxify myself on a Friday night, and invited a few friends to check out Circle of Fifths, a local cover band that plays there on a regular basis.

At first glance, the cleverly named Retox looks like it’s been kidnapped from the St. Mary’s strip and is being forced to live in a Castle Hills strip mall, next door to the Cookie Lady. When I arrived around 11 p.m., the band was well into their first set and singing a surprisingly believable cover of the Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” to a scattered group of locals. I ordered a Sol ($3.75) and took a seat at the bar to take in the scenery. The place wasn’t all that crowded, but there was something unique going on in every corner: girls-night-outers playing touch-screen games over watermelon shots, emo types drunk-texting, bartenders practicing their flair techniques, and several men who haven’t seen the inside of a barber shop for years playing darts along the back wall.

As the band paced through live renditions of songs by the Cure and Pearl Jam, my eyes wandered from the onstage light show to one of the many flat screens replaying highlights of the French Open. This made me realize why this place has such a loyal following. Aside from the fact that it’s one of the only places to go out in Castle Hills, it’s almost like two bars in one. While the loud music, tinted windows, and cement floors give off a gritty, rocker vibe, the abundance of televisions and beer cans make the place feel more like a stylish man-cave.

Finally, my friends Emma and Celeste arrived. Since Celeste was celebrating her birthday, she insisted that we all do tequila shots ($4 each). Bad move. We ended up taking some dorky pictures with what must be Retox’s mascot: a life-size replica of Jack (of Jack in the Box fame) posing with an empty bottle of Jack Daniels.

Overall, Retox has a very casual neighborhood-bar feeling — unpretentious despite the recently added frills (blue-velveteen clamshell booths, an exposed-rock treatment along the bar, monster-sized projection TV), which brought the place up to date while keeping the location’s original priorities in sight: cold beer, televised sports, and rock ’n’ roll, all in the dimly lit corner pocket of a strip mall.

— Bryan Rindfuss

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