Old Pal Bar Is an Ode to Old Austin—in Lockhart
Travis Tober opens a honky-tonk serving fried chicken and “the coldest beer in Texas”
By Hannah J. Phillips
Photographs by J Baltierra
Move over, barbecue, there’s a new reason to head to Lockhart. Nickel City owner Travis Tober has teamed up with Rich Reimbolt of Better Half for the honky-tonk collaboration we didn’t know we needed: Old Pal Bar. After a soft opening in mid-May, the dive bar officially opened its doors to the public on May 21, welcoming Lockhart locals and visiting Austinites to boot.
While Tober has curated an agave and whiskey-focused cocktail menu, Reimbolt brings his creative talents to the kitchen as consulting chef. Paul Fusheck of Arts and Recreation is the brains behind branding, interior design and the bar’s iconic sign.
“This is kind of like the Justice League of collaborations,” says Tober, who is also part of the creative team behind Uncle Nicky’s in Austin. Tober stayed busy during the pandemic, opening a second outpost of Nickel City in Fort Worth and dreaming up the concept for Old Pal on his frequent trips to Lockhart.
“I’ve had land out there for a while,” he says, “so I would take people out for barbecue, but I noticed there was nowhere to go for a good drink. And no food that wasn’t barbecue.”
The food menu at OPB features 100 percent organic, free-range fried chicken, mouth-watering burgers and hearty salads. Meanwhile, bottled beer on ice is the cornerstone of the old school bar program, along with eight cocktails to start, including one frozen drink akin to Nickel City’s Frozen Irish. The signature cocktail will play with frozen Dr Pepper, whiskey and amaro—a perfect companion to fried chicken on a hot summer day.
As Austin continues to grow and expand, Tober considers Old Pal a love letter to what the Live Music Capital of the World used to be: a collection of old hippie joints and honky-tonks.
“I’m all for growth and progress,” he says, “but I wanted to write a love letter to Texas and an ode to old Austin—the type of place where you walk in and there just happens to be live music.”