Below is a paper I did for an English composition class I took this summer. I had a blast in this class; the instructor was a complete goofball, but one of those knowledgeable complete goofballs. Props to Lamar S. C. – Orange; all the instructors I’ve had (even the online ones) have been great.
The assignment was to describe a person, place, or thing. Nearly everyone in the class did a place; it’s just a bit easier to describe. I chose Casino El Camino, on Austin’s famous (infamous?) 6th Street. The place was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Drives, with Guy Fieri. I went in June of 2009, the first major road trip in my ’09 Mustang GT, for the Writers’ League of Texas’s 16th annual Agents Conference. (I’m working on a post about that, and another contest I entered; hopefully it will be finished soon.) I was looking through the pictures stored on my laptop, and came across this one, and it reminded me of the paper, so . . . here it is.
Casino El Camino × 6th Street, Austin, Texas
The sign hanging outside the bar is nothing spectacular— it features a green-blue devil leering at a green-blue woman, tame for 6th Street— but the interior looks like Hell’s waiting room, except that it’s cold. Like most indoor areas in Texas, it could do a decent impression of a meat locker. Once the goose bumps fade from the temperature change (ninety-five outside, versus negative ten inside), a new crop appears, courtesy of the decor.
The lighting’s dim, as in most bars. However, most bars don’t have a statue of a nearly naked man with a head of a hawk mounted in one corner of their counter, high up enough that it appears to be passing judgment on the patrons sipping Shiner Bocks and whiskey sours. Hawkman’s joined by gray gargoyles, colorful tiki faces, and a bright red jukebox.
The jukebox is lit up, but silent; the flat screen television on the wall near the juke is on, Raising Arizona entertaining the clientele. Most of them are dressed casually in T-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops, but there are a few suits and ties to break up the college town monotony.
The floor is dark red, concrete, crowded with round tables and chairs. A path has been cleared to the rear of the bar, to the kitchen-ordering counter, where orders are placed for the Casino El Camino’s specialties: burgers and fresh cut fries. A surly cook, with the ironic nickname of Puppy, grills the orders. The smells coming from the tiny stainless steel kitchen are of grease and fried meat, mouth-watering for the health-unconscious carnivores packing the joint. The long wait for the grub is best spent at the bar.
Small black tiles cover the bar’s surface; the stools are nondescript, a bit out of place. One would expect something from the Charles Manson Home Collection. The bartender is perfectly in keeping with the atmosphere: big, bulky, lots of facial piercings and tattoos, what appear to be links from a metal chain hanging from his ears. When he runs a meaty hand along his close-cropped black hair, it produces a scraping sound. He barely speaks, only nods when the drink order is placed.
Once the food is ready, another trip to the kitchen counter is made to pick it up. The made-to-order burger is covered in homemade Buffalo wing sauce and chunks of blue cheese. The trails of steam from the burger and fries intertwine and rise to the ceiling. The burger is spicy, cooked medium rare, and messy. The bartender slaps down a pile of napkins and a bottle of ketchup.
There is a second-floor, but it’s packed with University of Texas students. The food’s best consumed at the bar anyway, the better to gaze upon the military-neat rows of liquor bottles behind the barkeeper, and to check out the people who walk through the door. The newbies are easy to spot: they stand by the door for a few moments, gauging the likelihood of any of the decorations coming to life and mauling them before proceeding farther.
The burger and fries are consumed, and a deep breath is taken before opening the door and stepping outside into the oven that is Austin in late May.