An imposing corner building in the small Texas town of New Braunfels, the Phoenix Saloon opened for business in 1871. Back in the 19th century, the ground floor held a bar, the basement briefly housed a brewery (a keg of beer cost a princely $2.25), the garden contained an alligator pit and the back room was given over to a café, the proprietor of which is credited with inventing chili powder here in the 1890s. After prohibition put an end to the fun, the building was turned into a small department store, which itself eventually shut in the 1990s.

The bar was revived a few years ago, and former colleagues of ours at Time Out back in London will recognise the owner: yes, that’s our old pal Ross Fortune, who moved to Austin, Texas after vacating the Music Editor’s chair on the magazine in the mid 2000s. Along with Debbie, his Texan wife (they married at Graceland), Ross bought the Phoenix in 2007, and spent two years rescuing it from a state of some dereliction. They’re plainly proud of the results, and with good reason: it’s a splendid, atmospheric room, with 31 beer taps lining the lengthy bar (there were supposed to be 30, but the guy who installed them added one for luck) and a kitchen turning out some quite excellent chili. There’s music, too, of course; and those readers who once worked with Ross may recognise a certain style in the listings on the Phoenix website.

Risen from the ashes, the Phoenix reopened under Ross and Debbie’s watch on 26 February 2010, which would have been Johnny Cash’s 78th birthday. (Needless to say, this was no coincidence.) In the unlikely event that any readers find themselves in central Texas this Saturday evening, the bar’s fifth anniversary is being marked by a rousing set from honky-tonk hero Dale Watson. Scoot to it!

from Lafayette, LA, USA