Carousel Lounge

1110 East 52nd Street
Austin, TX 78723
(512) 452-6790
Hours: Tue-Sat, 2:30pm-12am, Sat til 1am
Established: 1963

Written by: Samantha Barrientos

Upon entering this one-of-a-kind Austin watering hole, you’ll immediately be greeted by a giraffe, Matt the bartender, and Carousel’s gang of faithful regulars. For them, seeing newcomers’ reactions to this David Lynchian hideaway is the real prize.

Carousel is to Austin, as Cheers is to Boston—several regulars have been patrons for decades. Legend has it that this was one of Walter Cronkite’s hangouts. Expect nothing short of eccentric and the very best of kitsch: circus murals, red vinyl booths, a wooden telephone booth for “7-Minutes in Heaven”, and a detailed miniature carousel behind the bar. Carousel Lounge also invites you to bring your own liquor and purchase set-ups (glasses + ice + stirrers = set-up) at the bar. This makes up for the bar’s bottled-beer, wine and cash-only policy.

The family-owned lounge opened in March 1963, inspired by a trip to New Orleans. At one time a huge paper-mache elephant topped the roof and a circus tent enveloped the entire interior as Jay Clark and the Velvetones’ crooning forced the crowd to dance. Carousel is still a dance place, a holdover from a by-gone ear when Stella—the hostess with the mostess—was known for flashing her bloomers and fishnets to the bands. Most everything else has stayed the same as well; this is not made to look vintage, it is vintage. As one loyal fan argues: to re-paint Carousel would be like painting over the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Harry (and his cat): “Where else do you go to see circus elephants, and clowns, a giraffe, and a telephone booth made of wood?”