The Best Honky Tonks in Texas

The Finish LineTexas is home to, and well known for it's honky tonks. But what is honky tonk and what's it take to be one of the best honky tonks in Texas? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a honky tonk is:

  1. a usually tawdry nightclub or dance hall, especially one that features country music
  2. a district marked by places of cheap entertainment
  3. country music that has a heavy beat and lyrics dealing usually with vice or misfortune

The Urban Dictionary defines a honky tonk as "a loud, rowdy bar that plays 'honky tonk' country music. Typically full of drunken hillbillies having a good ole' time." According to Wikipedia, "before World War II, the music industry began to refer to hillbilly music being played from Texas and Oklahoma to the West Coast as "honky-tonk" music. In the 1950s, honky-tonk entered its golden age, with the popularity of Webb Pierce, Hank Locklin, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Faron Young, George Jones, and Hank Williams. The honky tonk was the predecessor of the present-day cabaret or night club, the principal differences being that the prices were lower and that the former establishment made no pretense of class."

Broken Spoke in AustinIn a recent Texas Monthly article they state that a honky tonk is not a dance hall, not a restaurant, and not a country-themed nightclub. If you're interested in dance halls, check out Texas Outside's list of the Best Texas Dance Halls. Generally speaking honky tonks are newer and younger and only a few have been around for over 50 years and the majority of the honky tonks seemed to morphed into a honky tonk from a re-purposed gas station or some other abandoned structure. Texas Monthly says: "The ceilings are low, the walls cinder block and windowless, the lighting is neon, and the dance floor, when not sticky tile or concrete, is likely made of wood salvaged from an old high school gym." You'll typically find a dance in town and suitable for all ages including kids - that's not the case with honky tonks, they are on the outskirts of town and not real kid friendly! And the core principals of honky tonks are: booze, country music, dancing, and hooking up."

So, if it's a honky tonk you're looking for, here is a list of the best honky tonks in Texas!

Best Texas Honky Tonks

Adair's

Dallas

Deep Ellum's down-and-dirty honky-tonk with knee-slapping country and redneck rock bands, cheap beer, and tables and walls blanketed in graffiti
Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar Saloon

Bandera

Descend down the stairs to a juke box and spit-and-sawdust wood floors and a table where Hank Williams, Sr., carved his name
Broken Spoke

Austin

Texas' most definitive honky tonk has a musical history that dates back to Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys.

Devil's Backbone Tavern

Fischer

For eight decades this honky tonk has offered locals and pilgrims a chance to relax, wet their whistle, listen to good music and ghost stories because this tavern and the rock outcrop its sits on are rumored to be haunted
Adairs Broken SpokeDevils Backbone

Lonesome Rose

San Antonio

It bills itself as the "oldest honky tonk on St. Mary's Strip" - although it opened in 2018 it feels like a classic honky tonk but with a few modern touches and the San Antonio vibe which helps sets it apart

Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon

Houston

The largest LGBTQ country bar with free dance lessons, free popcorn, and a digital jukebox with the intimacy of a pocket sized club

Texas Rose Bar

La Feria

The Rose is one of the last watering holes on what was once a bustling strip of honky tonks - tabs are kept by hand, the juke box and pool table are always alive, beer is kept in a cooler, and wine is served in a plastic cup.

The Finish Line Club

Aledo

A no frills small town honky tonk that attracts all types (bikers, cowboys, dudes with farmer tans, and high haired women) and a lot of fans who like to sing

Texas Stagecoach Saloon

El Paso

Texas Stagecoach was once the Connection, then the Outpost, and then the White Stallion but it's always been a honky tonk
Neon BootsTexas RoseTexas Stagecoach

 

What good is a honky tonk if it doesn't have a jukebox that plays these Texas honky tonk classics - Honky Tonk Blues (by Al Dexter - 1936), Walking the Floor Over You (Ernest Tubb - 1941), Bubbles in My Beer (Bob Wills and the Playboys - 1947), Slippin' Around (Floyd Tilman - 1949), If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time (Lefty Frizzell -1950) The Wild Side of Life (Hank Thompson - 1952), Honky Tonk Man (Johnny Horton - 1956), Crazy Arms (Ray Price - 1956), The Race is On (George Jones - 1964), Whiskey River (Willie Nelson - 1973), and Honky Tonk Heroes (Waylon Jennings - 1973)

 

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