Sam’s Town Point Keeps Honky-Tonk Dreams Alive in South Austin
“You kind of have to get lost to find us," says owner Ramsay Midwood
In deep South Austin exists a place from another era—a time before Austin was a sea of cranes and condos. In 1979, Penny Grossman left Chicago for Austin to fulfill her dream of opening a dance hall. She purchased a rural 4-acre plot near Slaughter and Manchaca, and opened Sam’s Town Point two years later. Best described as the love child of a honky-tonk and a working-class Milwaukee bar, Sam’s is still going strong, despite its secluded locale and ramshackle exterior.
“It’s a challenge to find us; you kind of have to get lost,” says current owner Ramsay Midwood, a songwriter who played his first show at Sam’s in 2002. After nearly two decades as a regular act and talent booker at Sam’s, Midwood purchased the bar from Grossman when she retired in 2017. “She still sits at the corner of the bar every night and gives me her review after every performance,” Midwood says.
Under Midwood’s stewardship, Sam’s has evolved into something of a collective, entirely owned and operated by the very people who helped make it a destination venue. “When Penny decided to step away as owner, the Austin music community and our patrons rallied and made sure Sam’s didn’t go away,” he says. “No other venue in the city is as diverse—we’re not a traditional honky-tonk because we also have Western swing, blues and old-timers like Archie Bell and Roy Head.”
While the interior—a no-frills room dominated by acoustic ceiling panels, rickety chairs and a wooden dance floor—is unchanged, as is the menu (standard burger on industrial bun; cash-only, please), what’s new is a younger generation committed to maintaining Grossman’s vision. Midwood, for his part, couldn’t be more pleased. “People always ask how much I paid for this place, and I say I got it for a song.”