On South Congress, a former dive bar gets a retro cool makeover
Donna’s, Big Mamou, Blue Bayou, Trophy’s Bar . . . whatever (bourbon-soaked) association you have with the inconspicuous space on South Congress Avenue and Leland Street, you’ve never seen it like C-Boy’s Heart & Soul, the funky, red-lit soul bar from Continental Club owner Steve Wertheimer that opened on New Year’s Eve.
Wertheimer, who owns both Continental Club locations (Austin and Houston) and is part owner in a number of other Austin businesses (including Elizabeth Street Café, Jeffrey’s, and Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar), invested more than half a million dollars and 18 months into flipping the divey Trophy’s into something very different. With the help of designer Jennifer Long, architects Clayton & Little, and Burnish & Plumb Construction, the interior was almost completely stripped and rebuilt to become its current incarnation: a bar and weekends-only soul music venue that feels like stepping into another decade.
Downstairs, C-Boy’s feels like a classic neighborhood bar: no frills, decorated with old-school posters, plenty of records, photos, abundant red accents, and low lights. Upstairs is another story: the lounge-y “Jade Room” is inspired by Japanese GI bars from the 1950s, complete with sake and bottles of Japanese beer.
Equally present are the intentional reminders of Austin’s past, from wall pieces left intact from the Trophy’s days to the bold red-and-white outside awning—a nod to the original 1970s Continental Club facade. Most notably, the name: it pays homage to C-Boy Parks, the beloved cook-turned-music-manager of Austin’s late-1970s restaurant/venue Rome Inn. It’s this eclectic mix that results in C-Boy’s underlying MO: you can’t quite wrap your head around everything that’s going on in there. It’s a funky cocktail of soul, camp, and history that makes it totally different from anyplace else in town. Whatever the interpretation, Wertheimer and company continue to make being totally cool look completely effortless.
C-Boys Heart & Soul is located at 2008 S. Congress Ave. Open seven days a week. More information at facebook.com/CBoysHeartNSoul.