I woke up to a disturbing phone call a few days ago. It was a friend calling to tell me she had gone to the Roll-N-Saloon over the weekend and, to her dismay, she was informed that it has lost its lease and will be closing its doors for good effective this Saturday.
Located in a strip center at San Felipe and the railroad tracks, the bar opened on December 15, 1969 as the Al Lee Lounge. The owner, Joe Lee Thomas, changed the name to the Roll-N-Saloon in 1972.
I mentioned the Roll-N in my “places to go on Thanksgiving night” piece not only because it was open on turkey night, but also because this quintessential dive bar has been a favorite haunt of mine for many years. When I was home from college and wanted to meet up with old friends over the holidays, Roll-N was always one of our first stops. Now that we are a little older, it's still one of the top picks for drinks when “the marrieds” have a hall pass for a night out.
Yes, it's run down, there are no windows and the décor is reminiscent of an episode of Dukes of Hazard, but this place is a treasure. And not just because the drinks are cheap and stiff, or because the jukebox is full of classic hits to which someone in my party always decides they need to sing along to karaoke-style or accompany with air drums (no names shall be mentioned), but because the people and the atmosphere are so easygoing.
People from all walks are welcome and, although the Roll-N is located on the edge of flashy River Oaks, you can leave the fancy attire behind, show up in your shorts and flip flops and feel right at home. Before the implementation of railroad quiet zones a few years back, it was customary for everyone in the bar to do a $1 “train shot” every time a train passed by and blew its whistle.
I plan on grabbing some friends and hitting the Roll-N for one last hurrah. There may not be a whistle blowing, but we will definitely have a few “train shots” in honor of this fallen landmark.