The downtown streets of Georgetown, Texas, are a grid of pastel storefronts and Victorian architecture, centering around the domed and columned Williamson County Courthouse (named after the judge known as “Three-Legged Willie”). America’s fastest-growing city looks like a time capsule from the old Southwest. But thirty miles south, Austin — or “Silicon Hills” — is undergoing a tech boom. Microsoft, Musk’s gigafactory and a host of tech startups have unleashed a flood of yuppie commuters into Austin’s surroundings, rapidly transforming not just Georgetown, but what we think of as quintessentially Texan. Rodeos, the Alamo, cowboys and outlaws — will we one day think instead of smartwatches and Bill Gates? I doubt it. The wild, weird Texas will live on so long as it can muster its courage with a stiff drink.
Heading toward Georgetown on I-35, take the last ramp before the historic district and you’ll find a dusty strip plaza where the Office Lounge Nightclub sits alongside an orthodontist and cremation services provider. From the parking lot, the bar looks as unprepossessing as its name. But there’s no catch, no hidden opulence inside the Office Lounge. The wonder of this bar is the feeling that it has snuck under the radar of time.
Some might call the Office Lounge average — but so what? I would say it’s archetypal: everything a Texas bar should be. The drop-ceiling panels and carpeted floors have done all they can to hold in years of cigarette smoke, more of which is added day and night. Plastic ashtrays line the tables and bar as a living symbol of Texan freedom.
The walls are covered in vintage beer advertisements and neon logos. If you’re more of a cocktail guy, Texans won’t judge — I’d recommend Ranch Water, a refreshingly simple drink made with just tequila, lime and Topo Chico.
Southern hospitality is not dead at the Office Lounge, nor is chivalry, for that matter. A Texan gentleman plied my attention with a vodka soda and a pack of Marlboro Golds as he told me about extraterrestrial sightings in the Southwest region. When I expressed my disbelief, two brunette bartenders came to his defense. If there’s anything less believable than the Phoenix Lights, they said, it’s the idea that the government isn’t trying to hide the existence of aliens. All the while, they smiled sweetly, without any trace of irony.
This article was originally published in The Spectator’s October 2023 World edition.