Star Brass Lounge
Star Brass’s curving neon sign promises cocktails but there’s no drink list, unless you count the one inside the brain of Eric, the world’s tallest and most hospitable bartender. Tell Eric you want a cocktail, and he leans forward to recite his customary incantation: “Vodka gin tequila rum whiskey bourbon?” Soon Eric’s swinging back with his take on a paloma, made with a grapefruit liqueur and twice as big as you’d expect.
Georgetown isn’t gentrifying exactly, but that main street old-bricked stretch of Airport Way is making room for places like Star Brass, where you can order a $5 shot and a beer or salmon sliders with sriracha slaw, or a well-wrought cocktail made with fresh juice that only runs you $7.50. A company called Star Brass Works forged pressure release valves here for four decades. The bar carried on the name, the cavernous brick walls, and the general disdain for windows. The postworkday crowd represents Georgetown’s industrious nature—school bus drivers and Boeing engineers, chocolate makers and teamsters. Star Brass shares some dimly lit DNA with its sibling, the venerable 9LB Hammer just down the street, and one of the best drinking-food burgers in the city with another sibling, Loretta’s Northwesterner in South Park. Most taps lining the massive wood bar pour something from Georgetown Brewing. The neighborhood may be expanding its imbibing horizons, but some aspects of drinking in this part of town simply aren’t up for discussion. 5813 Airport Way S, no phone
The 9LB’s owner redid the men’s room a few years back. Within three days, it was once again covered in graffiti. Which is to say, the atmosphere isn’t manufactured. The 9LB, dirty and deeply raucous in the best possible way, established Georgetown’s dive bar cred via free pool, endless peanuts, and corners dark enough for latenight congress. ninepoundhammer.com
Slim’s Last Chance Chili Shack
There are pistols on the wall and Shiner Bock on tap, and Guns N’ Roses and Roger Miller take turns on the jukebox. This roadhouse on the neighborhood’s western fringe is totally Texas, but also a perfectly Georgetown mash-up of art and grit. Take the titular chili—four styles, all indisputably better when served over a bed of jalapeño mac and cheese. In warmer months, an old flatbed truck outside becomes a music stage and the crowds take a break from chili to drink summery cocktails outside in mason jars. slimslastchance.com
Walls of pure white, abundant candles, smoky mescal—none of this sounds like Georgetown. But the owners of nearby Fonda La Catrina, whose Mexican food is well worth the wait—turned a former punk club into a marisqueria serving cocktails and seafood snacks to rival anything on Capitol Hill, or anywhere really, though the reasonable prices are unmistakably Georgetown.