The Compleat Rainey Street: Lustre Pearl

Through the rest of July, I’ll walk through every open door on Rainey Street. See the directory here
Lustre Pearl
97 Rainey St. 512-469-0400,
Hours: 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 07.18.12

They say each one of Bridget Dunlap’s bars on Rainey Street has its own personality. I say they’re TV characters and all the street’s a stage. Lustre Pearl is Zooey Deschanel and Clive Bar is an amalgam of the three guys who live with her on “New Girl.” Bar 96 is the belching belly-scratcher in the Suns hat that nobody invited. Bar Ilegal is Walter White in a haz-mat suit and a bowtie, and Container Bar is the recycled hippie still trying to get his shi ... er, shipping containers ... together.

But really, Lustre Pearl would be the adult daycare where everyone runs screaming into the crushed-granite courtyard at recess for ping-pong and playtime. And juiceboxes. Lots and lots of juiceboxes.

Whatever you call it, Lustre Pearl was there first, the underachiever who’s achieved the most. It seems like the Pearl put in the least amount of effort to transform itself from a musty old house to a young adult playground. A few mildewy parlor rooms in front with patchy plaster and candles give way to a red disco ballroom and a proletariat bar clearly built for speed. There’s a pint-glass drink called a strawberry moonshine ($7) that tastes exactly like a red Starburst candy with a high-proof liquid center. They can speed-pour a host of frat-bar mixed drinks, and all the beer is in cans and bottles. But good cans and bottles, like Brooklyn Lager tallboys and Magic Hat bottles along with the obligatory look-at-me Pearl cans like pimp cups for redneck wannabes.
Out back in the Olympic-size play-yard, a half-drunk lady tries real hard to hula hoop by the glow of white string lights, and some guys are playing self-conscious ping-pong on a table in front of a red wooden fence that says “Welcome Home.” People watch from picnic table bleachers, hungry for any distraction in the absence of big-screen TVs.
If all that posturing makes you hungry, a trailer called Bomb Tacos rolls out grilled-to-order tacos with pork al pastor or a turf version of campechana with fajita and chorizo for $3 each, and breakfast burritos for those late nights when breakfast sounds like a better idea than going home. (See the menu here.) They’re greasy and hot, spilling over with onions and pineapple on grill-toasted flour tortillas. Good enough by daylight standards, even better by flickering candlelight as a “classic” MGMT song shocks you like an electric eel.
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)