The plywood walls and rickety shelves are gone, replaced by eggshell-colored paneled siding and sleek black wall mounts holding rows of Southern beer and half-empty liquor bottles. There's a new coat of paint on the outside, though years of chipped layers are still visible under the facelift. The perpetually open garage doors have been closed to keep the cool air from the newly installed AC unit in the building as much as possible, and a large OPEN sign has been hung outside, lest people assume the shuttered doors mean the joint is out of business. But the double-parked cars in the small gravel lot are a sure indication that the place is hopping, and the smell of late-season boiled crawfish and sinus-clearing red beans with sausage is more than enough to lure in any patrons unsure of the bar's status.
It's back, it's open and it's better than ever.
Better is a matter of opinion, of course, since some are bound to see the new and improved Shady Tavern Ice House, now called The Boot, as an unfortunate upgrade from the gritty neighborhood watering hole it once was. The original 1939 structure was so hidden among the towering pecan and oak trees on West 20th that to many it felt like a weather-worn oasis, an escape from the hustle and bustle of Houston and a return to a simpler time when everyone shared a complimentary bowl of peanuts and only classic rock poured forth from the ancient juke box.