Kung Fu is a neighborhood bar, not a ­nightclub.
Kung Fu is a neighborhood bar, not a ­nightclub.
Larami Serrano

Kung Fu Hustle

The apple cider sake bombs at Kung Fu Saloon (5317 Washington) are far more useful than Jonathon Cidersake, or whoever it was that invented them, could have reasonably anticipated.

They can cure ugliness, known as the "Apple Cider Sake Bomb Pretty, Pretty Princess Phenomenon." They can make you think you're exceptionally tough, as per the "ACSB Law of Conservation of Getting Your Ass Kicked." Shoot, drink enough of them, and you might be able to experience the ultra-rare "ACSB Wait, Wait, Wait, I Punched a Cow Last Night?!" theory of relativity.

And they can also, as Cindy Segovia will tell you, help dull the pain of losing a world-class visionary you never officially met.

Segovia is a manager at an Apple store (computers, not fruit). For the past few weeks, she says, her customers have been telling her about Kung Fu Saloon, this sleek do-everything bar on Washington.

When Segovia heard about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs's death last Wednesday, she and her wife, also an Apple store employee, decided to check Kung Fu out.

"We really like this place," says Segovia, glancing around. She is sitting inside the venue that same Wednesday evening. It's the middle of an otherwise uneventful week, but the 100 or so smiling people wandering in and out of Kung Fu's patio area seem to agree with her, at least in spirit.

"Parking is a little steep [average $10 for the area], but at least it feels safe, so it's worth it," Segovia continues. "Every drink is $5 and under. It's been a lot of fun."

Kung Fu Saloon was basically built up from a dead lot five months ago, assembled to mimic the bar's Austin location. If you've been to the original, you will instantly recognize the new one.

The doors are watched by large, handsome men with nice hair who are obliquely intimidating. They've garnered a reputation for not letting minorities, specifically Asians, enter without a hassle. Tonight, though, the crowd is generally young and professional, and appears to be a fair mix of races.

Kung Fu's interior is open, clean and attractive. High ceilings, polished concrete floors, real wood accents, and a bushel of HD TVs and video games work in unison to hold your attention. The games are mostly retro or almost-retro machines like Big Buck Hunter.

The saloon plays music, an impressive, mostly enjoyable blend of '90s hip-hop and classic-rock dinosaurs, but the tunes are supplemental. It may look like a dance club from outside, but people don't come here to dance – they come here to come here.

Kung Fu wants to be a good, big, nice neighborhood bar rather than a high-profile nightclub, according to a manager who asked not to be directly quoted. That's a big reason why it's easy to enjoy yourself here. The bar is as attractive as almost any venue on the strip – the stand-alone king is still Hughes Hangar (2811 Washington) – but it has replaced glitz with Blitz 2000.

The most obvious line to draw is to Midtown's Barcadia (2600 Travis #103), the only other true video-game bar in the city. But cathode-ray gameplay is the only likeness these two seem to share.

Barcadia serves food, and Kung Fu only serves drinks. Kung Fu is prettier than Barcadia. Barcadia offers free games; Kung Fu only does so on Sundays. Both have crafted their own, distinctly different atmospheres.

Whichever one you connect with is the one that's best. Like an Android and iPhone.

"Tonight we came here to sort of get away from the sadness of Steve Jobs's death today," explains Segovia. "You work for this company and get to know and love the product and you see all the positive ways the products affect the customers and you really start to feel a connection to the company.

"It's like losing a friend."


First, Blitz 2000 is just about the best, most underappreciated football video game of all time. Forget Madden 2012 or whatever, bro. Video games are supposed to be fun. If we wanted to run the Power I six times in a row for three-yard gains at a time, we'd play real football. Give us a game where every play is for 60 yards and the players are 10 feet tall and allowed to break each other's legs after the whistle.

Second, Kung Fu serves that drink that mixes liquor and pickle juice. It ain't pretty but it's effective. Try it.

Third, it's a bummer that the games aren't always set to free play at Kung Fu, but they are in better condition for it. That seems like a fair enough trade-off, although no guy has ever looked cool approaching a female with a pocket full of quarters jangling around. Cool Hand Luke couldn't pull that shit off.


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