Third time’s a charm...or so we thought. Well, in all fairness, we were at least half right. On what some may agree can often be the toughest day of the week, aka Hump Day, we continued in our quest to explore as many Upper Valley “dive” bars as our champion livers could withstand.
Not feeling highly social or energized on this particular evening (yes, it happens), we ventured outside of McAllen to visit a couple of talked about yet not overly marketed, local watering holes. Spaugy’s Ice House in Mission, Texas, was our first stop. What a hidden treasure! Not quite sure where we had arrived, and a bit confused by the exterior appearance of the bar, we parked on the gravel covered area in front of the building.
Trisha: Ummm...are we visiting someone’s house?
Gaby: No, I think Google Maps has landed us in front of a party supply store and ice house.
Trisha: Great! You walk in first.
Determined, but somewhat leery, we moseyed on in and were genuinely pleased by what we found. A dimly lit bar full of old school character with a wall mural of Mission, Texas, depicting the hand-pulled ferry and the clock on the wall that marked 5:00 pm at every hour, a delightful bartender who immediately greeted us and friendly, welcoming regulars to complete the scene. Just perfect!
In the middle room of the bar, there was a dartboard on one of the walls and a collection of board games on the back shelf for customers to entertain themselves with if they chose to. We easily found our spot at the bar stools there, directly across from and facing the bar.
“Hi there, little ladies”, said the adorable, elderly gentleman as he walked into the bar and tipped his cowboy hat at us.
Trisha: (grinning from ear to ear and practically squealing) How adorable!
Gaby: Cute. Want to split a cheeseburger basket?
Trisha: Well, duh?! What else should we order and what kind of drinks do they have available?
Turns out the family owned bar offers a variety of domestics and some craft beer, along with wine options for fellow fans of the fermented grape juice. If you prefer distilled spirits, Spaugy’s allows you to take in your own bottle of choice liquor, as long as you purchase your individual setups at the bar. BYOB!
Without wasting another second, we ordered up our cold brews and inquired about the food menu. Kitchen wouldn’t be open for another 30 minutes, so we were offered a freshly popped bag of popcorn with some Louisiana Hot Sauce and lime. Yes, please!
After our food arrived and we swallowed down our delicious, grilled cheeseburger halves with some tasty crinkle cut fries. Our attentive bartender/server cheerfully suggested we stay longer and partake in the fun of Wednesday night karaoke and $1.50 Bud Light. For as much as we wanted to stick around, we had to exert some self-discipline and move on to the next spot to continue our research.
Now, the beauty of dive bars is that they are convenient watering holes for the local folk. However, breaking into this special group might be quite the challenge, as we experienced this past week upon our arrival at Skean Dhu.
Gaby: Are you ready to go in?
Trisha: Do they have carhop cocktail service?
Gaby: Hmmm...no, but there’s an idea!
Before the “No Smoking” ordinance of the city of Mission, Skean Dhu was THE dive that all Sharyland High Schoolers longed to visit. Once a cloud of cigarette smoke with plaid carpets and wooden booths decorated with personalized etchings, this dive bar from yesteryear is now caught in the middle of an identity crisis. Sport and beer pennants hang side-by-side signs displaying the words “Lass” and “Lad”, along the handcrafted wooden bar with two antique swords on its mantel. Neons light the room along with another, now too familiar, Touchtunes.
We made our way over to the last booth in the corner, while passing along a large party of about 10 people who clearly took it upon themselves to put all their tables together. Our first thought was that it was nice to see all these people relaxing and and enjoying themselves. We even ran into one of our favorite bartenders from Bourbon Street who was surprised to see us on “this side of town”.
Ten minutes went by and we still hadn’t been attended. Now, before you judge us and think to yourselves, “You could have just gone up to the bar and ordered,” the norm here was that a server would attend each table. Plus, our server passed our booth about three times before we could say, “Vodka soda, please!”
Our order was taken with a side of rolled eyes.
Trisha: (doing a double take) Did she just…?
Gaby: (exasperated) She sure did!
Trisha: Well alrighty then.
Needless to say, we were not feeling the warm-and-fuzzies at this particular dive. On top of that, we were subjected to what could possibly be the worst vodka soda, if you can even call it that, that we’d ever tasted. Please keep in mind, we are not vodka snobs. We’re totally fine with your standard Taaka and Nikolai vodka commonly used for well drinks, but the so called “soda” used to prepare our drinks with was as flat as tap water. No joke.
Look, we can sympathize with the bar situation regarding previously opened bottles and not wanting to needlessly waste product, but come on now. We gave it a second shot, kindly sent back our drinks, and agreed to have the new round prepared with good ol’ Topo Chico. Fail! Hey, we tried.
Lucky for us, one of the locals who seemed to frequent the bar, came by and told us a somewhat cute but borderline offensive joke and then told the server he’d take care of our tab. Sweet! With a bad taste in our mouths, we were out of there in a flash. Until next time, maybe.
Call ahead to Spaugy’s Ice House at (956) 580-1310, open Sunday- Monday, or simply drop by their location at 815 N. Francisco Ave., Mission, Texas. Visit Spaugy’s FB page @Spaugysicehouse for daily hours of operation, drink specials and updates on events. *Hours are subject to change based on business*
Skean Dhu can be located at 2406 E Griffin Pkwy., Mission, Texas. Call them at (956) 581-2198 and follow them on FB @skean.dhu.9. Open everyday (Sun.-Mon.) from 1:00PM - 2:00AM.
Gaby Jones and Trisha Watts work hand-in-hand with the service industry. Jones is in charge of craft and imported beer for L&F Distributors and Watts is the communications director for Visit McAllen. Each week they will have a new adventure and provide an opinion on various locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley.