Discover Austin: The Broken Spoke - Episode 17
If you haven't been to the Broken Spoke, you're missing out on an unchanged, Austin staple. And don't worry if you don't know how to Texas Two-Step, lessons are offered each night before the band goes on! Grab your boots and dance partner and head over to The Broken Spoke. If you'd prefer to read about The Broken Spoke, the transcript is available below the video.
James White opened the Broken Spoke in 1964. Widely considered to be the best honky-tonk in Texas, it’s known for great live country music and good Texas cooking. Any business that has been open for more than 50 years is certainly doing something right. As James White says “Give the people cold beer, good food at reasonable prices, and a good time – and you’re going to make it.” To say that the Broken Spoke made it would be an understatement. While much has changed around the dance hall over the years, the Broken Spoke itself remains much the same. A lot of the interior is original and the ceiling is still low enough that some folks will find it necessary to remove their hats. Country music icons like Willie Nelson and George Strait played here before they were famous. In the case of Willie, he is still known to stop by from time to time.
Open Tuesday through Saturday, the restaurant begins serving at 11:00am and there is always live music in the dining room from 6:00 to 8:00.
"The most famous item on the menu is the chicken fried steak. As I say that, I realize a lot of people not familiar with Texas may have no clue what I’m talking about, so we’ll be sure to take that up on another episode of Discover Austin. Anyway, they also have burgers, steaks, bbq, and Mexican so you’ve got other options. This is fantastic…regardless of what a cardiologist says."
The dance hall opens at 7:30 and dance lessons run from 8:00 to 9:00. This is a great opportunity for newcomers to learn the basics of the Texas Two-Step and the Cotton Eye Joe. While these aren’t the only two dances done on the dance floor, it’s a good place to start. When the band begins to play at 9:00, the dance hall really starts to come to life. It’s clear that many of these dances have spent a lot of time on the Broken Spoke dance floor and it’s a treat just watching some of them. There’s always live music and several of the bands perform regularly. Most of the music played is original and not cover music. Of course, there’s always the possibility that famous guest may stop in to play for a set or two. You can always check the calendar on the Broken Spoke website to find out who is playing. Closing time ranges from 11:30 to 1:30 depending upon the night.
In 2013, the land around the dance hall was redeveloped and the gentleman who led the development was a graduate of the University of Texas and had spent time at the Broken Spoke during his college days. He tried to keep the new buildings off a bit from the property line so as to not overpower the Broken Spoke and also mirrored the signage to compliment that of the honky tonk.
In the “Tourist-Trap” section, you can see a variety of country music memorabilia on display. Photos of those who’ve played at the Broken Spoke are found all around. The Broken Spoke has been in a few movies and, of course, has been written about time and time again. So if you’re looking for a hip, trendy place to do some line dancing, well this is not the place for you. But if you’re looking to do some real country dancing to great country music played by a live band in the last of the great Texas dance halls, then grab your boots and come on over. In the words of the owner James White: “The Broken Spoke ain’t fancy, but it sure is country.”
"You haven’t been to Austin until you’ve been to the Broken Spoke. I’m Craig Smyser, thanks for joining me for this episode of Discover Austin."