You want someplace cool, where you can look across the bar and mistake a stranger who looks nothing like Ryan Gosling for Ryan Gosling. The kind of spot where you might be able to make a few new friends, or at least find three more people to follow your favorite meme account on Instagram. But you also don’t want to go to a bar where it takes 30 minutes and a security detail to get to and from the bathroom. Here are 15 places that have good food and places to sit, but also fun bar areas to get drinks with a date or a newly-single friend.
All restaurants featured on The Infatuation are selected by our editorial team. The Action At The Bar Guide is presented by the American Express ® Gold Card. Click here to learn more about the benefits and rewards you get from paying with the Amex Gold Card while dining out.
Like your mom around the holidays, Uchiko is never not busy. It could be Austin’s first ice/hail/acid rain storm and there would still be a line of people hoping to score a spot at the bar at Uchiko. So, while it’s not the easiest place on this list to get a seat, it’s one of the best. It’s a spot that’s guaranteed to impress, so if you have a client in town, bribe the interns with a drink each to head over early to snag seats. Their Sake Social Happy Hour goes from 5-6:30pm, but you’ll probably end up staying for a long time after, while you reminisce about how long it’s been since you were an intern.
A seat at the bar sometimes means a seat in the back of the restaurant, staring at stacks of beer crates. But a bar seat at Odd Duck means a prime spot in the heart of the action. When you want to get a few friends together, this is the spot - get the ceviche, the nachos with zucchini salsa, or the pretzel with spicy mayo. You can hang out while you wait for a table, but you’ll probably end up waving off the server once you realize you already have the best seat in the house.
You’re already in trouble because you forgot to make a reservation for your anniversary at Suerte, so don’t suggest giving up and going to Takoba. Instead, stand and order a drink at the bar while you wait for space to open up - you won’t have to wait long, most people are just having a drink before heading to their tables. Once you do sit, order a Don Dario to celebrate, then stick to the small plates, like the suadero tacos and sweet corn esquites. The friendly staff will help you forget that you made a mistake, and you’ll also make a reservation before you leave to come back.
Justine’s is a little like finding out one of your favorite shirts is reversible - you were already a fan, but now you found a different way to use it. You’ve had dinner here with friends or maybe your parents when they told you they were feeling old and wanted to be reminded that they’re still cool. But if you skip the table and opt for the bar, you’ll have an entirely different experience. The inside bar is small and romantic, but you can also head to their outdoor bar during the warmer months. The kitchen stays open late, which means you can order the steak frites to share with the friend who outlasted the rest and didn’t make up an excuse about feeding their cat after Happy Hour.
There’s an ’80s tribute band playing at ACL Live, which means the bar at La Condesa will be packed with a lot of neon and high-waisted leotards. But since you’re also wearing things you found at a thrift store, you’ll fit right in. Which means your group can evolve from two friends having some tacos and margaritas to 10 people making heartfelt toasts over one last shot of tequila before the show. If you get there early enough, grab one of the few seats on the bar’s patio and watch the line form while you scope out who you’ll want to add to your new group.
Sometimes your father/father-in-law wants to eat a filet while he relays the shot-by-shot replay of his golf game (from three months ago) to the whole family. Other times, he wants to show you old pictures while he relives his glory days with a martini in hand. Jeffrey’s works for both, but when he’s in the mood to feel young and probably retell the story of how he wooed your mother with his dance moves, sit in the bar area. The drinks are great and go well with some fried oysters, and the blue suede chairs are comfortable and will remind him of that velvet jacket he once owned.
The taxidermy on the walls wearing sombreros is a good indication of how much of a party Ranch 616 is at night. But if you’re looking to maximize your time, grab a seat at the bar in the outdoor area, which is designed to look like you’re inside a giant pistol. It’s the kind of place where you’ll end up becoming best friends with everyone sitting around you and swearing that you’ll all be back the same time next week.
No matter what time or which day you go to Elizabeth Street, it’s going to be busy, but if you head here solo or with a friend, you usually won’t have to wait long for a seat at the bar up front. Get some pho or a banh mi and a cocktail or two. If you make some new friends, try to find a spot on the patio, or just keep your prime seat and play 20 questions with the bartender.
You usually reserve eating at the bar for dinners or Happy Hours, and while Irene’s works great for both of those, it’s also a solid spot to post up at for brunch. The long bar takes up just as much space as the restaurant, so you never have to wait long for a seat. And the food and drinks are casual and affordable, so you won’t leave and wonder how you spent $20 on eggs.
Yes, the bar at Bufalina only has six seats, but if you’re looking for a bar where you can eat some great pizza, learn about and try some interesting wine, and be around a lot of good looking people, this is the spot. Everyone that comes here is looking to have a good time (you’ll see plenty of group dates and birthdays being celebrated), and just like the big communal tables in the dining room, the small bar basically guarantees that you’re going to strike up a conversation with some strangers and learn a little more about them than you intended.
Loro is a seat-yourself place, so if you’re here solo or with one other person, we recommend choosing a seat at the bar. Deciding between the brisket, the smoked bavette, the burger (if you’re there at the right time), and the pork belly can be about as stressful as a serve-yourself frozen yogurt place, except here the move is to get all three, whereas you proved last time that mixing salted caramel, mango, and mint is a bad idea. And since everyone there is probably as into smoked meats as you are, odds are you can find another extrovert who doesn’t think it’s weird to join forces to order the whole menu.
Step one: Arrive and be greeted by a flock of peacocks. Step two: walk into the old house Mattie’s is in and explore a building that could be a movie set from Gone With The Wind 2. Each floor has its own small bar, all of which are separate from the main dining space, so they make for an impressive early on date. The food is pricey and mostly forgettable, so get a few drinks and split some of the smaller plates while you compare your selfies with the peacocks.
When you walk into Lambert’s and see the bar by the front door, you might think they purposely planted all the fun people up front to lure you in. You’ll hear “cheers” yelled about every four minutes, see strangers sharing deviled eggs, and be welcomed into the fray so quickly that you’ll check Facebook to make sure you didn’t forget you went to high school with everyone here. It looks like they’re filming a commercial for Austin, but in reality, it’s just an average night at Lamberts. Snag the seats in the far corner if you can, so you have enough space to order the brisket and a wedge salad.
Lately, date night has involved sitting across from each other in a quiet booth, slowly realizing that you have officially run out of things to talk about. Today’s traffic, meditation apps, and that time you rode the escalator behind Sean Penn - they’ve all been discussed, twice. So change things up by sitting side-by-side at the bar at Launderette. Share the crab and avocado toast, the burrata, and some negronis. At the very least, we can promise you’ll be talking about how great the food is and how you two are “bar people” now.
Emmer & Rye has one of the best wrap-around bars in town, and if you feel like you’ve outgrown going out on Rainey, but still have a soft spot for it, this is the middle ground you need. The bartenders are super friendly, the drinks never disappoint, and you can still get the full menu - including the dim sum section - without sitting in the dining room. On top of that, the waiting area around the bar is always busy without being packed, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to make a friend or two.