Two days after the Big Star Bar opened in 2008, Hurricane Ike hit Houston. The powerful storm ripped through the Gulf Coast and tossed a large tree through the roof of the bar. The owner fixed the roof quickly but left the tree on the property.
The Heights, like much of the city, had no electricity. But the bar had wood, lots of wood. For months after the lights came back on, Big Star staff burned branches every night on a Sears-purchased fire pit that drew neighbors and became the new joint’s signature.
“It’s kind of the genesis story of this bar,” co-owner Brad Moore said. “If you smell like a campfire, you probably went to Big Star that night.”
A lot has changed on this block in 14 years, but back then the heights had not reached peak levels of gentrification. Big Star’s neighbors, with the exception of Cedar Creek and Hubcap Grill, were rows of industrial warehouses.
Today, the 19th and 20th Street strips are home to Bungalow Heights, a treasured restaurant in a beautiful old house with swing sets on the patio. There’s Drift, one of those massive new multi-level bars with lots of flat-screen TVs. Next door, the owners of Drift are building a similar-sounding bar called Heights Social. Another door down there is the next bar “Welcome to Austin in the Heights”. Soon, the owners of the Clé nightclub will open a concept on the 20th.
Big Star stands out, or rather, it fades into the landscape: a small bright blue structure that you may have driven and not noticed, a dive bar that looks like a dive, creates a community like a dive and full of stories like a dive.
Before Big Star, Moore worked for a long time at Montrose mainstays Rudyard’s and Poison Girl, before opening a few bars himself on Washington Avenue, before it became a “Bud Light wonderland”, he said. declared. Then he came to the heights with his business partner at the time, the late Rich Prater. Today, Prater’s girlfriend, Pam Pellegrino, co-owns the bar with Moore and runs it daily, along with two other bartenders they’ve given shares to over the years, Charlie Fernandez and Arian Owens.