I didn't know much about College Station, Texas other than it was the home of the Texas A&M Aggies. So, I went to the only place that has all the answers: the internet.
I hit up my old know-it-all friend Google to find other spots to explore around town besides the beloved SEC university. The top result was none other than the Dixie Chicken.
"The Chicken" has been a College Station staple since 1974, making it the oldest bar in the downtown Northgate district. It was exactly the kind of place I was looking for. Historic, unique to the town and where the beer flows like wine. You know, kind of like Aspen.
One look at their website and I knew "The Chicken" was an essential stop for Patrick Pinak and I when we visited for the Texas A&M and Auburn matchup this year. A few seconds is all it took to understand why it's been a mainstay for over four decades.
The Dixie Chicken: A College Station Staple
Patrick and I arrived at the back entrance around 5:45 p.m. on the Friday before the game. The end of the work week and pregame festivities were already in full swing.
Marketing Director Adam Drake was generous enough to dedicate some of his time to talk about the "The Chicken's" history, ring dunk tradition, stories and why it's such a special place to the College Station community.
He then took us on a tour, and the first thing that came to mind was, "This place screams Texas." If the double-swinging doors weren't enough, the outlaw country music, seasoned rustic interior, hanging wagon wheels and live rattlesnake drove it home. Not to mention the first beverage we had was an ice cold Lone Star.
I had researched "The Chicken" online, but seeing the people helped me realize what made the place beloved. There were some who have been regulars since the doors opened over 40 years ago. There were others who were celebrating their 21st birthday and more who were enjoying time with their young families. It became evidently clear that once you came to "The Chicken" you were a patron for life.
The clanking of pool balls were indistinguishable from the clacking of dominoes, which I learned is "The Chicken's" game of choice. Again, players ranging from 6 to 60-plus congregated around specially-made tables taken straight from an old Western.
As Adam continued to show us around, he pointed out engagement pictures on the wall. Yes, engagement pictures. "The Chicken" holds such a sacred place in people's hearts that they wanted it prominently featured as part of their wedding experience. He then highlighted the album cover of Little Feat's 1973 record "Dixie Chicken," the namesake for the establishment. There's probably a 10-minute story behind every item on the wall.
The aroma of juicy burgers and salted fries turned our attention towards the kitchen. We made our way to the back of the line, which ran off the packed back patio. Some people had to set their beers on a ledge near the exit as TABC laws prohibited them from taking alcohol off the premise. Willingly giving up a drink for a few minutes on a Friday night before a gameday told me everything I needed to know. Patrick and I ordered Freddy burgers along with Tijuana fries. We miraculously found two spots at the indoor bar, which is seemingly impossible past 5 p.m., and chowed down.
Dixie Chicken's "Most Beer Per Square Foot" Myth
Drake also addressed if the rumors about serving the most beer per square foot of any bar in the country are true.
Hint: they are. Or at least The Chicken claims them to be true.
"Not a myth. At one point in time — we have not done the math or called Guinness — but at one point in time the Dixie Chicken served more beer per square foot than anywhere else in the United States of America," Drake said.
The only way to see for yourself? Walk through those swinging doors.
Bottle Cap Alley: A True Beer-Drinker's Tradition
Adam directed us towards Bottle Cap Alley after we finished our bottles of Lone Star. Bottle Cap Alley lives up to its name. There are thousands upon thousands of battle caps worn and fresh alike. Some were from getting over heartbreaking losses while others were from celebrating wins over Alabama.
Throughout our time with Adam, he emphasized how everyone is welcome at "The Chicken." Even those who wear burnt orange. We flipped our caps onto the many that had come before us and officially became one-night citizens of Aggieland.
"That's the way we encourage our staff to be towards everybody," Drake said. "We want everybody to leave here having a great time and leave here with those great memories."
"I've been to bars all over the SEC and beyond," Drake said when asked about the best bar in the SEC, "and without a shadow of a doubt — I'm not saying this because of the bird on my chest — it's The Dixie Chicken."
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