Shade Tree Saloon & Grill

Spring Branch, Texas

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

Along one of the state highways traveling into Texas Hill Country in the shadow of San Antonio’s metro area, the Shade Tree Saloon & Grill combines classic Texas roadhouse and dive bar features with updated amenities to create something classic, welcoming and unique. The footprint feels more like a sprawling commune than a bar with a live band every night, providing a seemingly endless string of exploration opportunities, both inside and out.

Field Rating

8

out of 10

You could probably just move in and who would know?

Field Note

The Shade Tree Saloon is a biker bar, a Texas roadhouse, a dive bar, a concert venue and if you told me it was a working farm, I would probably believe you. Set off of one of the state highways that dominates the land just out of reach of San Antonion’s metro area, the Shade Tree Saloon is more a collection of structures rather than a single entity, with a main bar building serving only as the general store on the way to the sizable music shelter a few feet away.

For a state that finds nothing surprising about breaking triple digit degrees for weeks on end, the Shade Tree Saloon is an aggressively open-air affair, from the main building that houses the saloon itself to the open-air, four-pillars-and-a-roof music venue. Though some of the signage around the space is clearly updated and new, the building itself looks as if it could have served as some kind of Old West general store before its current incarnation as a dive bar. Though some of that age is certainly intentional to accentuate the roadhouse vibe, the space pulls it off.

An outdoor dart room extends off the space, exposing patrons to the Texas heat for the privilege of losing a game of cricket.

Inside, two pool tables command the front room, giving way to a short, corrugated metal-style bar up front with the beers you would expect to be available, as well as, on occasion, local homebrew to vary up the mix. An outdoor dart room extends off the space, exposing patrons to the Texas heat for the privilege of losing a game of cricket. A wrap around porch leads back to yet another open-air drinking space (this has to be a ploy to exchange heat for thirst) and then a secondary room that includes a long shuffleboard table.

The real star of the Shade Tree Saloon is the on-site music venue, the V-shaped metal roof supporting a massive Texas state flag on the underside of the corrugated metal. A concrete dance floor extends from well-sized stage area that on this reviewer’s visit hosted a rotating set of local acts. On busy nights, an outdoor bar right off the dance floor eliminates that pesky trip inside for beer, and a handful of fans attempt to make some kind of dent in the Texas heat around the lip of the structure.

The rest of the outdoor space feels a bit like someone’s yard, if that yard was well-appointed with picnic tables and wooden seating to accommodate the ebbs and flows of groups that stop along the highway for a beer. The bar’s Facebook page maybe whimsically and maybe truthfully includes horses as a common form of transportation acceptable for parking on site. A large motorcycle structure tops a portion of the loosely-restrictive wall surrounding the outdoor space, making clear the Shade Tree’s stance on bikers passing through.

This is a welcoming spot that has not only embraced the Texas heat, but the community traveling the highway just off the front door.

And because the space feels more like a compound than a bar with live music, there are countless other seating areas, attractions (did I mention the tetherball) and extended areas to explore, accentuating the feeling that this is a welcoming spot that has not only embraced the Texas heat, but the community traveling the highway just off the front door.

While places like the Shade Tree Saloon walk the line between intentionally building a dive bar or Texas roadhouse along the state highway vibe and letting that vibe grow organically thanks to the history and longevity of the location, Shade Tree walks that line well. There is enough old and dusty mixed in with the new and vibrant to make the overall mixture compelling and classic rather than artificial and forced.

Photos

The Basics

13530 US-281
Spring Branch, TX 78070

Classification:
Texas Roadhouse

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