Austin Bars & Nightlife
The Side Bar
602 E. 7th St., Downtown
Located a block off of Austin's somewhat infamous "Dirty Sixth" (aka East Sixth Street), which is packed with rowdy nightlife, The Side Bar's crowd still skews young, but it's a decidedly more low-key, sit-down-and-chat destination. A favorite Austin dive bar, locals come to play pool, listen to the jukebox, and hang on the outdoor patio.
The Gingerman (Closed)
301 Lavaca St., Downtown
Beer aficionados will appreciate the vast on-tap selection at The Gingerman, as well as their casual outdoor beer garden. Other locations have sprung up around the country but The Gingerman has been a fixture in Austin since 1994 (although their current location is a block from the original).
The White Horse
500 Comal St., East Cesar Chavez
This east-side music venue is a tried-and-true honky tonk—meaning it’s a great, no-frills, super-social show-bar to go for a good time. The drinks are cheap and the pours are generous, with live music that—even if it can be hit-or-miss depending on the night—is pretty much guaranteed to be a weirdly fun, authentically Austin experience. A little rough around the edges and charmingly, endearingly gritty, you’ll want to come dressed for fun and comfort; we’re talking a flannel shirt, tee-and-jeans, and cowboy boots.
1816 E. 6th St., East Cesar Chavez
Speakeasy vibes meet modern street-art at this cocktail bar, where the tall, vaulted ceilings, stone walls, and rustic-chic decor spill out onto the laid-back patio. Here they serve up a great list of signature cocktails (like their Oaxacan Prayer with mezcal, cocchi rosa, and Spanish citrus liqueur; Bossa Nova with gin, genepy, and coconut milk; and Chapado with barrel-aged cachaça, créme de cacao, and blackberry), as well as all the classics (rum and rye are featured heavily), and a respectable wine list. It’s the perfect balance of well-heeled and unpretentious—hence why their happy hour ($7 for a curated list of classic and creative cocktails) is so popular with the locals.
The Blackheart (Closed)
86 Rainey St., Rainey
The Blackheart Bar is in an 1889 Victorian house on Rainey Street. The backyard area, which is decorated in strings of light, is a popular hangout spot—locals perch on the large picnic tables and even bring their dogs along. The bar is dominated by a large selection of whiskey, but the Moscow Mule is also well-loved, as is the near-nightly live music. You can sometimes see two bands in a night—one inside, one outside—which is a lot for a tiny bar, but draws a very fun dancing crowd.
801 Red River, Downtown
Stubb’s is famous for its barbecue, but maybe even more famous for the live music performances that happen (almost) nightly. Legends like Joan Jett, Willie Nelson, and The Killers are among the many that have entertained here. Be sure to buy tickets in advance for the concerts, as they are likely to sell out early. On Sunday mornings, there’s a live gospel music brunch with a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar.
208 W. 4th St., Downtown
This pre-Prohibition-style, New Orleans-inspired craft cocktail bar is a great option for drinks and light dinner. Though it began as Austin’s first absinthe bar (the infamous green liqueur was legalized in the U.S. in 2007), their dinner menu, curated by executive chef John Lichtenberger, is worth a trip, too. The riffs on French standards like duck confit, bouillabaisse, and escargots are beloved, as are their only-in-Texas specialties, like Texas wild boar with polenta, braised short ribs with duck-fat mashed potatoes, and lamb bourguignon sourced from a nearby ranch. As for the cocktails, the go-tos (besides absinthe, of course) are gin, whiskey, vodka, and rum concoctions—some original, like the Fig Manhattan (rye, sweet vermouth, house cherry vanilla bitters, fig foam), some reinterpretations of tried-and-true favorites, like Sazerac (a New Orleans classic).
77 Rainey St., Rainey
The back patio at Lucille’s is outfitted in twinkling lights—which makes it totally magical. Also on the patio: They’ve converted a former garage into a second bar, where people perch at the open windows. The interior is designed to be reminiscent of the 1920’s without trying too hard; the menu is expertly curated and highlights local, handcrafted liquor (and beer).
200 Lavaca St., Downtown
This four-room bar is located inside the W Austin Hotel. It's a music-focused spot, that mixes trendy and cozy: Plush, red velvet couches face a brightly lit bar, while a fireplace, flanked by bookshelves and desk lamps, roars in another room. Check their calendar to see what's currently on (they bring in DJ's and local bands regularly), and definitely come here if you're in town for Austin City Limits.
Garage Cocktail Bar
503 Colorado St., Downtown
Tucked inside a parking garage at the corner of Sixth and Colorado, this bar usually takes a few extra minutes to find. The interior is surprisingly sleek, and the craft cocktails are artfully designed with small plates to match. Order a signature cocktail, starting with the Indian Paintbrush.