Perspective | Dan Gentile

Editor, Thrillist Austin

He may dream of the Emo's of the past, but this documentarian of Austin says the current nightlife scene is more exciting now than ever.

Someone once asked me how you know you’re an Austinite, and I sarcastically replied that it’s when a place you loved is gone. Austin has evolved at such a remarkable rate that if you froze at the bottom of Barton Springs five years ago and woke up today, you might think you were still dreaming.

The nightlife fixture I miss the most is probably the original pre-Transmission Emo’s, where I saw the Impossibles during high school. Or the Whisky Bar, where I double-fisted dollar shots and began to appreciate dance music. Or the Peacock Lounge, the first bar I went to east of the highway.

Despite my nostalgia for these ghosts of Austin’s past, I feel lucky to live in our city as it comes of age. While I matured from a sheltered suburban teen to an adult who can still barely knot a tie, I've seen Austin make similar transformations. It’s developed from a training-wheels town into an internationally known destination, and naturally there have been some growing pains. The silver lining is that during the time that hypothetical old-school Austinite spent sleeping with the salamanders, hundreds of savings-on-their-sleeve entrepreneurs have been building our city’s future from their wildest dreams.

I'm privileged to write about many of these inspiring individuals for the city-guide websiteThrillist. Before I started with the company in 2009, I split my time between menial publishing jobs that mainly involved standing next to a printer and late-night DJ gigs at now-extinct venues like the Austin Moose Lodge and the Beauty Bar. Suddenly I was thrown into the editorial deep end and given the responsibility of writing and photographing stories about new local businesses five days a week.

Over the past four years I’ve published nearly 1,000 articles of quippy dude-prose about food trailer upstarts and bar barons, while sneaking in as much music coverage as my senior editors would allow. It’s a relentless job, but comes with enough perks that I deserve a slap anytime I complain about my daily deadlines. In a testament to the growth of both our city and my site, the two most popular stories I’ve ever written were published this June.

The first was a photo tour of Qui, the eponymous brick-and-mortar from the figurehead of Austin's burgeoning culinary scene. The flavors are adventurous, the space is stunning, and the aesthetic remains good-humored enough to feature a mural by the outer-space punk rocker Peelander-Yellow. Also, there’s the best ice cream sandwich you'll ever eat. And gourmet Cheese Whiz. No, really.

When I started at Thrillist, East Side King had just opened and Paul Qui was still a regular dude, not that dude who won Top Chef. If your palate or pocketbook considers a $150 steak on a menu in East Austin offensive, his $7 Poor Qui buns are the best late-night snack in town, and they’re only a block away, at the Liberty. Although his ambitions accelerated with the help of a national spotlight, he hasn’t lost sight of what the everyday Austinite is looking for on a night out.

The second most popular story featured Rio Rooftop, a glitzy bottle-service rooftop pool that replaced the West Sixth Street blues institution Momo’s. The main reason for the article’s popularity wasn’t the imported Vegas EDM DJs or the price of a bottle of Skyy Vodka—it was because of a ridiculous photo series in which a trio of their bikini-clad waitresses dunked my head in the three-foot pool, then sprayed champagne in my eyes. It stung so good!

In more ways than one, Rio had a big backsplash. Contrary to what the Yelp reviews will have you believe, it’s not a portal into the darkest depths of Los Angeles, but rather an eventual consequence of a city maturing. Musically my DJ crew Flying Turns would never be invited to play there, and I might scoff at the cheesy electro remixes, but in terms of my job at Thrillist I consider Rio as relevant to the identity of Austin's nightlife as Qui, even if it's more akin to the recently shuttered Qua. If you have a complaint I'd say that rather than directing it at a Rio bouncer, you should contact the former Momo’s owner, who just opened a bar in Greenwich Village.

The truth is that despite the collateral damage, Austin's nightlife is more exciting than ever. The Impossibles reunion shows at Mohawk retained the same intensity as at Emo's and that stupid support pole wasn't blocking the view. Places like Cheer Up Charlie’s and Kingdom don’t sell $1 whiskey, but their taste in DJs aims to attract crowds that don't mind bankrolling the impressive sound systems. And the Peacock Lounge has lived on, thanks to its designer’s input on everything from La Condesa to Midnight Cowboy.

In closing, I’d like to (perhaps insensitively) reappropriate a Cesar Chavez quote that graced the East Side stalwart Rabbit’s and now adorns the newly opened Whisler’s: We don’t need a perfect city; we need perfect participation. If you want Austin to stay Austin, go buy a beer at Nasty’s. If you're not patronizing those iconic Austin institutions that define our city’s sense of identity, they will be gone before you know it, and the most familiar thing that defrosted Springs swimmer will have to look forward to will be a few fresh seasons of Friday Night Lights.


Photography by LeAnn Mueller

Related Articles

  • 0f8dfbf1-b6d6-4c56-b842-05d45acda39c.gif
  • image1.JPG
  • Elite 25_300x250.gif
  • unnamed-37.jpg
  • Copenhagen_Feb2015.jpg



  • 1cb151d1-621d-47f9-941e-7259eea04612.gif
  • Subscribe.jpg
Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 2.07.04 PM.png

As the warm weather begins to set in and patio parties hit our calendars, we can’t help but embrace that summertime has returned to Austin. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be celebrating the return of the season with decadent ice cream, healthy smoothies and icy cocktails from your favorite local spots.

For those days when it’s too hot to venture out, we went to Austin’s sweet treat professionals and compiled the ultimate collection of DIY recipes to make from your home. Click through the galleries below to learn how to make everything icy and sweet, from poptails for date night to ice cream sandwiches for a dinner party.


The spring edition of the Renegade Craft Fair returns for its seventh year in Austin May 14-15 at Fair Market. With over 125 makers on the roster, the scene is sure to be bustling with local artisans and DIYers slinging their unique, one-of-a-kind wares. In addition to great shopping, the RCF offers activities, special showcases and plenty of food and drink options for visitors. This year, celebrate your hard work shopping with a snack from Burro Cheese Kitchen and Lucky Lab Coffee Co. before commemorating the afternoon with some snapshots from Magnolia Photo Booth Co. But before...


Inspired by the beautiful outdoor living spaces featured in our May feature The Space Between, we went window shopping and found some great outdoor furniture and accessories to liven up your outdoor patio, porch and pool. Flip through the galleries below to see how you can add a pop of color and style to your outdoor hideaway.



Hundreds of people are moving to Austin each day, and downtown is one of the major hubs of growth for the city. Local real estate expert Jude Galligan discusses smart urban growth and what to expect this year as the skyline continues to evolve.

Your blog keeps Austin updated on the latest news in downtown. What is the most exciting development happening right now?

From my point of view, the most exciting development is the Waller Creek District Master Plan. Decades in the making, this transformative project came to life after designers competed for the contract. It is finally coming to downtown, bringing an imaginative chain of parks,...


As you flip through the pages of our February Love Issue, one thing you’ll notice is the beautiful blooms that pop up throughout the magazine. We got some major googly eyes for the bouquets featured in our "Real Weddings" features, and earmarked the TRIBEZA Wedding Guide for even more Pinterest-worthy petals.

Instead of letting all that inspiration go to waste, we tried our hand at flower arranging to see what we could create. Since we consider ourselves floral design novices, we asked a few top designers...