Big Star's pedigree - its creators are responsible for the Publican
, Violet Hour
and more - creates expectations of all kinds. But, really, here's the story about this honky tonk faux dive bar/taqueria: It's a good bar with good music, good, cheap drinks and good, cheap food.
Big Star is simple and carefully crafted. The minimalist visual design - white walls, naked light bulbs, a small room occupied almost entirely by a four-sided wooden bar - makes way for other elements, like the well-chosen country records (honest-to-goodness records!) that'll keep your feet tapping without overwhelming your conversation.
Country music goes well with whiskey, and Big Star has an affordable, bourbon-heavy list that's several dozen deep. If you'd like to pick a different poison, there's a lengthy tequila list and about 10 specialty cocktails ($7). The beer list, both draft and bottles, consists of craft brews as well as dive bar all-stars. Big Star also makes a mean michelada, a spicy beer cocktail that doesn't often make its way this far north.
And what goes well with drinking? Tacos, that's what. The short menu includes a handful of a la carte tacos and tostadas, queso fundido (melted cheese with chorizo), beans, a salad and guacamole. Like the drinks, it's inexpensive (tacos are $2-$3) and delicious.
Big Star is almost constantly busy; it would be perfect if it were twice as big or, ideally, half as popular. Since neither is going to happen, long waits will continue, so settle for space at the bar or along the ledges on the wall. You could also hit up the open-until-close take-out window or only go when the 123-seat outdoor patio is open (March 30 is the tentative date, weather permitting). Whatever you do, get to an ATM beforehand because it's cash-only.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Alexander Hough