After entertaining throngs of gay Austin locals and visitors since 1990, Oilcan Harry's is still the city's de rigueur queer hangout, although it hasn't changed much since Dubbya was governor of Texas.
The set-up is fairly simple - you'll encounter a big rectangular bar as you enter, behind which is a compact but ear-drum-busting dance area; to you left you'll find a slightly mellower conversation bar with a pool table. The nicest feature is in back - a bi-level covered deck with a central bar. There's a huge video screen back here showing music videos.
Ostensibly, the crowd here is diverse and similar to that of Rain on 4th, a couple of doors down, but Oilcan's has always felt slightly uppity compared with other Austin bars, and despite a resolutely genial bar staff. To be sure, it's still a nice place to hang your hat for a bit, guzzle Shiner Bock, and cruise the legions of UT students and yupsters. You shouldn't miss this place if you're in town, but it's by no means the only fun place around. Spiritually, it feels like a cousin of JR's in Houston, Dallas, and elsewhere.
Oilcan Harry's is in Austin's lively and hip Warehouse District, on the south edge of downtown, at 211 W. 4th Street, 512-320-8823. The bar is open nightly and has an 18-and-over policy Monday through Friday after 10 p.m., and there are drink specials up until 10 p.m. each evening. As is the case for most Austin gay bars, there's generally not a cover charge.